Honing language skills in Eastbourne

Dominik Goldmann
10. February 2020

As part of the commercial apprenticeship, apprentices in their second or third year can choose to take a trip abroad for the purpose of improving their language skills. The trip lasts for two weeks and always takes place during Winterthur's autumn holidays. Apprentices can choose to visit England or France.

I decided to go to Eastbourne in England, because we'd already completed our English studies at the end of the second year of the apprenticeship. Because I attend bilingual lessons, the final examination was not the Business English Certificate (BEC) but the First Certificate in English (FCE), which is one language level higher and is also internationally recognised.

Before embarking on the trip, all participants must complete a grading test. Based on the results of this test, they are then divided up into different classes according to their level of proficiency.

The trip began at Zurich airport on a Sunday morning during the autumn holidays. My friend and I dropped off our luggage together, because we're in the same class and were both going on the trip. Just after we'd done this, we moved to the side to pack our tickets – but my friend realised that she had lost hers. Fortunately, the staff member at the luggage counter took the situation with humour and printed out a new one, since we couldn't find it anywhere in the stretch of 15 or so metres that separated us. While we were at the gate, we discovered that another pupil had found the ticket on the floor right after we had dropped off our luggage and asked in the group chat whether anyone had lost it. That explains why we didn't find it once we had realised that it was gone.

At any rate, we made it to England, where all the pupils on the trip were gathered together for the first time. We then went to the coach stop as a group of around 50 people. Because there were too many of us for one coach, around 8 of us had to take a minibus instead. My friend and I decided to travel in the minibus. When we arrived in Eastbourne after a one-and-a-half hour journey, the coach was nowhere to be seen. It turned out that there had been an accident on the motorway behind us, meaning that the coach got stuck in traffic and arrived about two hours after we did. The decision was then made that everyone from our small group would travel to their host families, because we were all staying in single rooms.

My host family gave me a warm welcome and was very friendly. My room was sparsely furnished and was relatively large for a room in an old English house.

The next day was the first day of school at the ELC. We were first told who was in which class, and shown around the school building. Classes were held from 9 a.m. to 3.30 p.m., with an hour for lunch. Our morning sessions were focused on grammar lessons and learning about English culture. In the afternoons, we practised our speaking and listening skills. Our two teachers were great. They answered our questions very precisely and were interested in Swiss culture too.

There was also a programme of afternoon activities after the school day had ended, such as a tour of the town or a round of mini golf.

At the business school in Winterthur, we also had a programme run jointly with the ELC. On the Friday afternoon of the first week, we went to Brighton, where we were given a tour of 'The Lanes' (a shopping district with lots of small, independent stores) and the pier. At the end of the tour, we went to have a look at the Royal Pavilion. For the rest of the day, we were free to make our own way around Brighton.

On the next day, we took a trip to London. Once we got there, we were given a choice between going off on our own or staying in a group first of all to visit Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the National Art Gallery. Four supervisors and four of us pupils took the tour, after which we went off to explore London by ourselves. While my friend and I were in a shop, we accidentally got caught up in an anti-Brexit march and had to take a detour so that the police and the protesters could continue on their route. The day was different to how we planned, but very interesting nonetheless.

The second week was less exciting, but was very useful for improving my English. Another highlight of our trip was visiting Beachy Head, from where we could enjoy breathtaking views of the landscape.

On the Saturday of the second week, it was time to return to Switzerland. In the morning, we were all picked up from outside our respective front doors and taken to the train station – apart from my friend. I told the group leader about this and it turned out that the taxi driver had crossed off two names when picking up the first person. Fortunately, the rest of the return journey went smoothly.

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