For the average college student, the summer is a welcome vacation from classes, intellectual discourse, and homework. This is likely true for international students, as well, though the extended break may come with unwelcome anxiety, as the downtime can serve as a disruption in building or improving your English language skills.
While you may not be engaged in academic activities over the course of the summer, that does not mean that you cannot continue to improve your English. The following activities are a great way to blend language learning with summertime relaxation:
1. Walking tours
Whether you live in a city or a rural area, there is a very good chance that you are close to a museum, library, or historical society. These groups often offer presentations and historical tours at little or no cost. Tours can be a great way to explore your temporary home, while also practicing your language skills with native speakers.
If there is a particular subject that interests you, do an online search for groups or organizations in your area that focus on that subject. For example, if you live in Boston, you might search for “historic house tours.” You will have the opportunity to get outside, get some exercise, and still ask questions and speak with others.
2. Community events
If walking tours do not sound enjoyable, those same groups may offer many other activities that are less physical, but no less educational. If, for example, you looked up the monthly schedule for your local library or bookstore, you would no doubt find a variety of events like reading groups, author presentations, or other events that could help you further develop your conversational skills.
One of the best ways to improve your conversational English (and most other language) skills is to get regular practice in real world environments, with native speakers. Given that, exploring the low-cost or no-cost events in your community is a great way to expand your abilities, while also meeting new people and having fun.
For some international students, the idea of volunteering might seem intimidating, particularly if you are not confident in your language skills. This is entirely understandable, but not all volunteering requires extensive verbal communication. For instance, if there is a charitable organization that you want to support, you could ask if they have any administrative work that you could volunteer to do. This puts you in a social environment wherein you can practice your English, but it also gives you the chance to contribute to your community and support a cause that you feel is deserving.
4. Goal setting
The previous recommendations have focused on social activities that can help improve your language skills, but there are other activities that can be just as effective, like setting reading and writing goals. If you have a schedule set up for yourself over the summer, consider scheduling an hour of reading and/or writing English each day. These activities can include items like writing 800 words each day or reading a certain number of books over the course of the summer. Whatever the activity, it will help you gain more experience with English beyond what you might get just by conversing with native speakers.
5. Group activities
For some people, casual interaction is too informal to be of much use in expanding your language skills. If this describes you, there are other options that are more formal and structured, including summer language classes and study groups. Because you would be joining these groups outside of the usual school year, there is a good chance that there is flexibility when it comes to where and when they are held. For example, if you wanted to join a group for people interested in improving their English grammar and writing, it could be a group that meets at a restaurant or public park to share work or give feedback on writing.
In this case, you would be getting the best of both worlds: improving your language skills and enjoying the summer with new friends.
David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world's largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.