International Summer Academy (ISA), a month long intensive language and culture course held in August before the start of the other courses. 6 ETC:s in exchange for 605 euros. Was it worth it?
The obvious pros related to any language course like ISA are that you get to spend an additional month abroad. Since the course takes place before the start of the semester, you are already familiar with the city by then. It is also a great opportunity to make some new friends, and if you choose well, they might stay with you the whole semester. Furthermore, since you already earn 6 ETC before the semester starts, you have to take less courses later. Less stress, more time to travel.
ISA was nicely organized. The compulsory teaching hours were Monday to Friday from 9 to 13.15, but there were additional classes up to 18 o’clock almost daily. If you felt like practicing grammar, writing or speaking, there were plenty of opportunities. They provided additional history and German economy lectures which were worth attending to, given that your language skills were good enough. But if you had plans or were tired, you didn’t have to study any longer than to 13.15, when the compulsory class was over.
Before the start of the academy, we took a placement test online and were assigned to groups based on that, but could switch classes in the beginning. This way, the contents of the course were matched to our skill level. Group sizes were small, restricted to maybe 15 persons, which meant that everybody could – and had to – participate in the discussion. Every group had two teachers, each teaching us a couple of days in the week, but more time was spent with one of them. My teachers differed by their personalities and teaching methods, but both were nice. Overall, the quality of teaching was very good on all of the classes I attended to.
At least at my level (A2.2), the amount of homework was modest. We had assignments from the text book, a couple of longer writing assignments (still 100 words at the most) and one five minute presentation to prepare. We had two exams, one in the middle of the course, and then a bigger exam in the end that consisted of listening and reading comprehension as well as grammar and writing assignments.
Maybe the best part of ISA was that we got many opportunities to attend to all kinds of day trips during the month. Hiking, city tours, a trip to the local beach… I would not have thought to travel to all of the places on my own, especially to locations a few hours away.
The biggest negative side in ISA was that we had to pay extra for almost everything: accommodation and food, but also for the day trips (although they were very affordable). Besides teaching, text book was one of the few things included in the price.
When I planned my exchange, I may have had a limit of 500 euros for the language course. When the price point turned out to be higher, I still took the deal. Would I do it again? Yes. But I might check the alternatives provided by other universities – paying less for the course and staying a longer time in not one, but two different places is worth considering.