Welcome to your English life

Helping students adjust to an all-English learning environment

December 6, 2021

One of the most challenging aspects of life as an RIT Croatia student can be adapting to our all-English learning environment. For most students, it’s the first time they have been asked to read, write, speak and even think in a foreign language, every day. While all our students have studied English for many years in school, they quickly discover that there is a big difference between studying a language as a school subject two or three hours per week, and actually using that language to study and communicate every day.

RIT Croatia’s "English, Please” policy means that communication with faculty and staff, whether in the classroom, at the reception, or through email is expected to be conducted in English. This policy not only encourages our students to practice their English skills in everyday communication, it also ensures that our international students, who don’t always speak Croatian, are also included in the conversation.

Of course, in their free time, on breaks and between classes, students socialize and converse in any language they like. But class time and college activities are conducted in English. Even students who earned high marks in their high school English classes can find the transition challenging.

"Most of our students start college with a strong knowledge of English, but many of them are not accustomed to actually using English in their daily communication. They are shy, and perhaps worried about making a mistake in front of their colleagues or instructors,” said faculty member Rebecca Charry Roje, who has been teaching English composition and literature at the Dubrovnik campus for nearly 20 years. "Sometimes, they have great ideas in their minds, but struggle to find the exact words to express them, especially in writing.”

"At first, many students are still thinking in their native language. I can see them working to mentally translate each word, and of course, that’s very frustrating for them. However, with time and practice, they overcome this barrier and start thinking naturally in English. Some of this change happens naturally, simply as a result of being immersed in an all-English environment. But often students also need to work actively at improving their English. For those students, we have a wide variety of tools available to help, from day one.”

Help with English begins in the first semester of freshmen year, with Introduction to Academic English, a course that helps solidify the basics of English expression for students who need it. Individual attention in a relaxed, small group environment is just what most students need to build their vocabulary, grammar, and most importantly, their confidence.

In addition, students can get individual assistance with any paper from faculty instructors at the Writing Lab, where one-on-one coaching helps students identify and correct their own mistakes, and revise and improve their work for any class before submitting it for a grade.

"One of the best ways to learn is from your own mistakes,” said Dubrovnik Writing Lab instructor Zrinka Friganović Sain. "But students also need a professional instructor to help them understand why they’ve made a mistake, and how to correct it. Writing Lab is a place for active, hands-on, individualized learning, coaching and practice. Students can make remarkable progress this way, and it’s a pleasure to see them improve.”

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