Surviving Classes in a Foreign Language

Salut! I’m coming up on the end of my semester in Paris. I’ve got five finals this week, including two in a foreign language. Yikes! Taking classes in French has been challenging, especially my one about the EU, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

That being said, here are my tips for surviving classes in a foreign language.


I know this may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be pretty hard, especially when your classes are three hours long. The ones that don’t let out until 7:30pm are particularly challenging. It can be tempting to doze off or daydream, but trust me, if you stop listening, it’s going to be hard to get back into the lesson and follow along. Then it’s three hours of material that you’ve missed out on. And that sucks.

Write down keywords from the PowerPoint

If your professor has a PowerPoint, take advantage of it. You don’t necessarily have to write down every single word, but make sure you write the key terms. If you’re confused about something–like, say, the French versions of acronyms for various international organizations–then write it down now and look it up on Word Reference later. Right now, your goal is just to get the information down.

Show that you’re paying attention

Don’t start freaking out. I’m not telling you that you constantly have to ask questions or give your opinion. I’m just telling you to not play on your laptop or message your friends during class. Most of the professors want their study abroad students to pass and if they see that you’ve actually been paying attention and making an effort throughout the semester, then they’re a lot more likely to give you that extra boost you might need to pass their class. Not that you should let your grade get down that low, but it’s still good to know.

You’re not alone

This might be the biggest thing to remember. There will be multiple study abroad students in your classes, so you’re hardly going to be the only one who’s taking a class in a foreign language. If you feel overwhelmed, whether with the course material or just the way classes are taught in your current country, remember that you’re not the only one struggling. Just take a deep breath and focus. Plenty of other students have gone through this same process and succeeded. You can do it, too.

Most of this stuff is honestly the same type of stuff you would be doing back home. But trust me when I say that it’s hard to remember that when you’re just trying to keep pace with the lecture. It might take a bit more effort, especially since you’ll have to adjust to new teaching and grading styles. You’ve already done the hardest part, though, by taking classes in a foreign language. Now all that’s left is to prove to yourself that you’ve got what it takes to succeed. (Which you do, by the way.)

It’s time for me to get back to studying for those finals I mentioned. Wish me luck!


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