Daria is an aspiring medic from Switzerland who joined us on the Octorial Programme

My name is Daria, I am 19 and I come from Switzerland. I came to Folkestone to improve my English language.

I chose to come to SES because I think it is important to practise my English in an English speaking country, and I want to develop an English accent. I think learning languages is important in general – but English is especially important. A lot of people speak English. Eventually I want to be a doctor and I need to be able to understand all the patients.

My father studied at this school, and he recommended it to me. I researched different options, but I decided I wanted to be here. Folkestone is a small town, which is good because I want to focus on my studies. I think the school has changed a lot since when my father was here. There are not such big classes, and there are more modern technologies used in class, such as iPads.

The Octorial Experience


For me the best way to learn English is to have a lot of lessons every day, so I booked the full Octorial course. I have classes all day, starting with plenary in the morning at 8.45. In plenary we take turns to give a presentation – classes are small so we each do a presentation once a week.

In lessons the teacher encourages class discussion. We can act naturally, it is not such a strict teacher to pupil situation. We are in groups for most classes, except at the end of the day when I have a one to one tutorial. When I do one to one tutorials there is more pressure in a way, because I put pressure on myself. I think this extra pressure is good and helps me focus at the end of the day.

Recently we have been studying Shakespeare because this year is the 400th anniversary of his death. We are learning short pieces of text by Shakespeare to perform, and I am learning his 18th sonnet.

I think it is really important when learning a language to study poetry. I like to learn about poems when they grip me, and this one is really good. I feel I can understand him, why he wrote these lines.

It is exciting to read because it is so old yet still exists. Shakespeare’s aim was for people to remember the girl in the poem – for her to be kept alive by people reading about her hundreds of years later. He succeeded because we read it today. We all want to be remembered and Shakespeare is remembered, and so is the girl he writes about in the sonnet through the lines of the poem.

"have really improved my reading, I can understand the context more quickly. Writing is also easier now."

At the end of my stay in Folkestone I am taking my IELTS exam. I think since I have been practising specifically for my exams I have really improved my reading, I can understand the context more quickly. Writing is also easier now, I understand the structure of the language better which makes it easier to write.

In English class in Switzerland I was doing well but I didn’t have the confidence to talk. At SES I have focused on talking all the time. My host family saying my English was good gave me a lot of confidence. Having self-confidence is very important when speaking a foreign language. I talk to everyone now, talking is the best way to learn. Even if you just learn two new words and can find the confidence to use them in a sentence that is a really good thing. The best approach is to take small steps every day.

Here at SES I feel in the right place to improve my English. When I leave I will remember how everyone here encouraged me to speak English, and spoke to me like a friend.

Talking to people in shops and general day to day experiences in English are getting easier, although sometimes I still stop and ask for a word here and there to be repeated. But I don’t feel nervous like I used to. I met some local people in Folkestone, through my host family, who had to learn German and it was really fun exchanging languages with them. They also taught me about cricket. After meeting them we did a lesson about cricket.

I like learning about English sport and culture in class. I like to watch ice-hockey and the World Championships the other day were in English. Now I can watch it and understand it.

At SES we do a Mentored Dissertation where we research a topic of our choice in English. For the first two or three weeks I just did pieces of work about Switzerland. More recently I have started to look at diseases which is interesting because I want to study medicine. Doing a topic I am interested in makes me motivated to do research. Doing this work in English and researching in English is useful for improving my language skills, while continuing to encourage my interest in medicine.

The teacher helps a lot with brainstorming ideas and direction, as well as helping me to find the right language and giving feedback. My main piece of work has been a paper about the NHS, rather than a presentation, because it is such a big subject. It has been helpful to practise the words that come up a lot with medicine and to become comfortable with them. I have definitely learned new specific vocabulary as well.

I think after this I will study medicine in Switzerland, or in the UK if I can. But in the summer I am going travelling with a friend to Iceland. We don’t speak Icelandic, so I think we will speak English when we are there. My friend speaks quite good English from studying at school, but I have stronger practical skills than him from having this experience in England.

I am a little bit worried about losing some of my English when I go back to Switzerland, but I will do my best to keep it up, watching films in English and speaking it when I can. I think there will be occasions for me to speak it. I think my main development in the last few weeks is that I have become much more comfortable with English, it is now part of me. I dream in English and I think in English.

"I have become much more comfortable with English, it is now part of me. I dream in English and I think in English."