Your All-in-One Guide to ESL Summer Camps

An ESL summer camp is the best way to have your child practice English and engage with kids her age. Thankfully, you have a lot of options to make this an enriching summer for your child.

International students who plan to attend school in the U.S., but struggle with speaking English can get help through an ESL (English as a Second Language) summer camp. Spending a few weeks in an ESL camp prior to the school year is a good way to practice speaking English. Plus they can make new friends in the process!

Most of the camps are residential and work on an immersion basis, using English as the language of instruction in the classroom as well as during other camp activities and games. This allows students to gain exposure to academic English as well as everyday conversational phrases. ESL Camps are offered by a variety of organizations:

  • Private, college-prep schools, usually boarding schools with dormitory and cafeteria facilities, these camps accept kids in middle or high school, and can run between four to six weeks.

  • Many universities and colleges such as Stanford, Yale, and the University of Massachusetts in Boston offer ESL programs to foreign students who are visiting, incoming full-time students or continuing students who are already enrolled. The programs are meant for high school or older students and can run through the summer up to two months.

  • Private organizations like Horizons USA camps, Julian Krinsky Camps, or ELS Language Centers rent facilities in private boarding schools and colleges to run ESL camps that run from two to four weeks. They accept a range of age-groups from 10 years old through high school students.

Curriculum and Camp Activities

While ESL intensives run by colleges focus on academics and building listening, speaking, reading, writing, formal grammar study and vocabulary in the classroom, camps for school-age students provide opportunities to improve English language skills through a combination of means:

  • Traditional Classroom instruction to hone skills in reading, written and spoken English.

  • Fun group activities like hands-on rocket-building projects, team competitions, dancing, and sports instruction. Nike International sports camps offer the chance for international campers to train alongside American kids at various college venues across the country, while improving their English. They offer training in a variety of sports such as tennis, basketball, running, golf, soccer and more.

  • Students learn about the history and culture of the U.S. through trips to local places of historical importance, local sporting events such as baseball matches, or musical shows and concerts.

  • Everyday activities like shopping trips, learning to do their own laundry and going to the movies gives students an idea about life in the U.S. and improves their conversation skills.

  • Some camps like the Horizons USA camp held at the George School in Newtown, PA, have combined activities with local day campers giving international students an opportunity to interact with and forge friendships with American students. Others like the ESL Camp at the Perkiomen School in Pennsylvania have American student helpers working alongside adult camp counselors.

  • The Horizons USA camp also arranges weekend homestays with American families, facilitating a more complete cultural exposure to American life for campers.

  • Some camps help students to prepare for standardized tests like the SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test used for admission to many private schools in the U.S. and other parts of the world). Others like the American Culture and Language Institute (ACLI) run by the Hun School of Princeton offer help with the TOEFL or the SATs. As a bonus, high school age campers visit the admissions offices of one or more nearby universities.

Benefits

Aside from the obvious benefit of improving language skills, students who attend ESL camps:

  • Interact with students from different cultures across U.S., Asia, Europe, and South America.

  • Build important skills like public speaking, leadership, and cross-cultural communication.

  • Gain experiences that help the college application process, such as college visits and opportunities to get references from camp teachers and counselors.

  • Combine academics or skill-building with enjoyable recreational activities and cultural exposure in a safe school environment.

Expense

ESL camps, especially those run by private schools can be expensive. A five-week course may run upwards of $7,000. This cost includes all meals on campus, lodging, tuition, and cost of activities and field trips.

In most cases, medical insurance and airport transportation is additional. And in all cases, the student’s family bears the additional expense of visas and travel costs. Camps run by private organizations are cheaper — in the range of $4,000 to $5,000.

Resources

If you’re interested in enrolling your child to an international ESL camp, you can contact Schools ‘N More, an organization that helps parents and students locate camps based on their individual needs, and that also helps with the admission process.

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