For many of you thinking of coming to learn English in Cape Town for a few weeks/months, your main focus will be about the quality of English lessons you will be receiving, and where you will stay (your accommodation). And yes, these are obvious priorities in choosing the right language school for you, but what are you going to do when class is over or on the weekends? A language school’s social programmes will usually try to encompass a range of activities to suit different budgets, offer some more tourist/cultural/learning experiences, some socialising opportunities, sport/active things, relaxing etc. At the UCT English Language Centre we try to offer 3 activities per week which don’t interfere with class times so that everyone has the chance to join. These activities will usually offer at least 1 cheap or even free activity, and/or something sporty (a hike, football), as well as something a little more adventurous, expensive, unusual, etc. We really want our students to make use of this service, so we encourage their feedback and suggestions as much as possible. If students spot something or do something they really enjoyed, then we encourage them to tell us about it so we can make sure to offer it to others. After all, the social programme is for the students, so they need to be the one’s enjoying it.
And, a good social programme is just as important for your language learning experience, and here’s why:
1. It helps your English!
Doing your homework is great. Watching TV, listening to the radio, reading (in English) are also great. But how are you going to improve your English speaking skills if you are not giving yourself the opportunity to learn about and use the language in context – in real life? Social programmes will provide you with this opportunity where you can speak to other students of other nationalities in English, as well as your social programme coordinator. You will need to order your food and drinks in a restaurant, buy your tickets at a museum, etc. These are all the situations that you are going to have to learn to use your English in, and this is the perfect time!
2. It helps you to make new contacts/friends and learn about other cultures.
Being away from family and friends for an extended period of time can get very hard. You may sometimes feel lonely, and need some company. The social programme will enable you to meet students from the rest of the school, who you may not get to meet because they are based in a different class or part of campus. This is the perfect time to meet people in a relaxed and social environment and make some new friends. No woman/man is an island! In addition, it will give the opportunity to meet people from different linguistic, cultural and religious backgrounds and learn about things that are very different from you know and and are familiar with.
3. It offers you the opportunity to explore the city and see things you may not have done or known about.
You may do some of the more popular touristy things like go up Table Mountain or visit the Waterfront shopping mall. But, would you be brave enough to join a sunset boat cruise alone, or try out the new Moroccan restaurant everyone is talking about? How about grabbing a picnic and watching the sunset from Signal Hill, or even hiking up Lion’s Head first thing in the morning in the dark to watch the sun rise over the city? And, it’s impossible to play soccer alone, or go to a night club! These are all the things you will be able to explore about your new city when you join in the social programme. And once you have established your friend base, you will probably attend the activities on offer by the school less, but it will afford you the opportunity to make that new circle of friends at the beginning of your trip.
4. It allows you to share your experiences with people going through the same/similar situation.
It can get a little lonely, frustrating or scary being in a new city and a new place for the first time. It can also be exciting and incredibly overwhelming. Sharing these feelings with people back home may not quite be the same because either they have never experienced those feelings before, or are not with you in the moment. But sharing it with others who are probably going through the same thing as you, or have gone through the same thing will be far easier, and they will provide their tips for pushing on or sharing in your delight and excitement about something. Remember that you are not alone on this journey!
5. It helps you to have the best time and create new memories.
Sharing a photo of Table Mountain back home is great, but it’s better if you are in the photo, no? And it’s even better if you are with your new friends in the photo and are able to share that beautiful moment with others. Being with others on the social programme allows you to start creating, storing and sharing memories that you will keeping close to you for a very long time.
6. It helps with the work/study balance that you need to maintain.
We all know that too much of anything can be bad for you. Obviously, too much work means not enough of ‘down time’, or ‘me time’. This is extremely important for people to rest their bodies and brains and stay focused. The social programme allows you to properly organise some social ‘downtime’ and to just give your brain a small rest from your studies. It’s commonly accepted today that to lead a happy and healthy life, you need to balance all the things in your life appropriately. You need to devote time to work/study, devote time to rest and relaxation, sport, socialising/friends/family, etc. The social programme caters for a lot of these things.
In conclusion, when deciding to go somewhere to study, we strongly encourage you to find out more about social programmes of the school you are looking at joining. This forms an important part of your language discovery, learning and improvement and we strongly suggest you join when/if you can.
If you would like to see more photos of our social programme or keep up with what we offer during the week, you can head over to our Facebook page or you can check out some of the photos in our gallery.