August 2012 issue

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Eastern England

England’s eastern counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex are steeped in history and offer international students a traditionally British way of life. Bethan Norris finds out more.

With Roman remains in Colchester and a cathedral in Ely that has links with St Etheldra who was born in 630, the eastern counties of England are home to a range of historic artefacts. Hanna Furre at the Norwich Institute for Language Education (Nile) in Norwich says that the small city has much to offer international students, all with a historic backdrop. “Norwich is not too big and not too small and has a fascinating combination of architecture, from Medieval to truly modern,” she says. “Inside the city walls, you’ll find the Norman castle and the magnificent cathedral as well as a range of interesting museums, and at the University of East Anglia (UEA) you can enjoy concerts, open lectures and the Sainsburys Centre for Visual Arts.”

Jonathan Matthews at International Colleagues School of English in Norwich agrees that there is lots for students to see and do in the city. “Norwich is a beautiful historic city that, as a thriving commercial centre, also has great shops and very up-to-date facilities. This combination of old and new has very wide appeal,” he says, adding, “Because it is a bit of a hidden treasure, little known overseas, it is not crowded out with foreign visitors so it really gives students the chance to speak English. The new Riverside complex is particularly popular at night with its clubs, pubs and restaurants, plus multiplex cinema and tenpin bowling.”

The Norfolk Broads, a collection of 200 square kilometres of navigable rivers and lakes, are the region’s key attraction and are popular with visitors holidaying on narrow boats. A boat trip is an excellent way to see the countryside, mainly because the area is famously flat and offers tremendous views of the fenlands. Furre says Nile offers “free excursions to the coast, Cambridge and London and facilitates other days out in East Anglia such as visits to the Norfolk Broads and Sandringham, the Queen’s country retreat”. She adds, “Legend has it that Norwich has a pub for every day of the year and a church for every Sunday. Whereas some traditional pubs and churches have closed down, many of them have been converted into clubs, restaurants or other cultural hubs, resulting in an even wider choice of entertainment.”

Football fans can also indulge their passion in Norwich, informs Furre. “We are frequently able to secure tickets for participants when Norwich City Football Club plays other premiership teams,” she says. For those that want to actually get involved in sports, “Nile students all have access to the world-class facilities at Sportspark, UEA.”

Colchester offers a different but no less memorable experience. Sarah Greatorex of Colchester English Study Centre says that as the only language school in town, the local people are very friendly and helpful to students. “We have a speaking activity club with local native speakers who come into the school voluntarily,” she says. “Colchester is a Roman town with lots of history,” she says. “It has a truly beautiful park in the middle of the town where the students spend a lot of time, particularly in the summer.”

With its world-renowned reputation for academia, Cambridge is popular with overseas students. Tara McCallum of EC English, says, “Cambridge is a student city so there is an abundance of evening entertainment including bars, clubs and theatre as well as an array of free concerts throughout the year. ADC theatre has plays and musicals run by local and international theatre groups. Popular art galleries include Kettle’s Yard, a house with a unique collection of 20th Century art and gallery exhibiting contemporary and modern art.”

Charles Reader at Cambridge Academy agrees that entertainment options abound due to “the enormous spin-off from being the home of one of the world’s most famous universities”. He adds, “For a settlement of only 120,000 people the number of first class pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and live music venues is breathtaking. The range of science, drama, film, food and live music festivals means that there is always some kind of major event going on – and in a delightful historical setting.”

Cambridge’s university and ancient college buildings provide many unique experiences. “Visiting the colleges of the University of Cambridge proves popular and students can also experience evensong at the famous King’s College chapel,” says Heidi Sladen at ABC Languages in Cambridge. Another must-do activity in Cambridge is punting on the River Cam and Sladen explains that there are lots of opportunities to tour the city. “There are many sightseeing tours on offer, including guided walking tours or chauffeured punting on the River Cam, and parks, gardens and galleries to explore.”

Cambridge is also a good base for exploring the east coast and London. “The surrounding countryside and east coast is very accessible by train or bus,” says Sladen. “Students can visit some very impressive stately homes, historic properties and enjoy outdoor pursuits on the Norfolk Broads and the beautiful Norfolk and Suffolk coasts.”

Beautiful surroundings can also found in Bury St Edmunds, which Andrew Whitfield from BLS English admits, is a small place not well-known outside of England. “The students add a huge amount to the local economy both financially and actually by putting Bury St Edmunds on the map,” he says. Despite its small size, the town boasts some unique features. “The Nutshell pub, the smallest in England, is a popular haunt as is the LP Bar and disco,” says Whitfield. The small town feel can also be appealing to students. “Whether the sun is shining or the odd day of rain, Bury St Edmunds holds an air of magnificent delight with the grand history and nationally renowned historical buildings,” says Whitfield. “With the mix of new – Arc shopping centre – and old sitting side by side, the historical grid has everything a visiting student may desire as a home from home.”

Advisor viewpoint

“About 20 per cent of our students are studying in the east of England at the moment. The east of England is interesting [as it has] better food based on fishing and the beautiful seaside with seagulls and a flavour of Dickens novels. Our students love sports like swimming or horse riding. Theme parks are popular attractions as well as shopping malls. The local people are usually nice.”
Daniela Pavoni, Mirunette International Education, Romania

“Cambridge and Canterbury are in the top five of the most liked destinations by our junior students. Not only for the historical and natural beauty that is typical of this area but also for the local attractions. Canterbury Cathedral and King’s College are surely the most impressive destinations for visitors. Students appreciate going to the east of England because of the hospitality of the local people who demonstrate kindness and attention. The campuses are beautiful and all the students remember their studying and living experience very positively.”
Silivia Mussa, Study Tours International, Italy

“The east of England is very popular as it is known to be very traditional with a lot of interesting and historic sites as well as some of the best universities. Students like to study in a university town and they like the very British way of living with a typical host family. They like the bicycle tradition and the easy access in the mostly very historic old parts of the towns. The east of England is absolutely a top destination to get to stay at a traditional English house and with a typical British family. The hosts are not only just host families but welcome the students as if they were part of the family and some of our best host reports come from this area.”
Claudio Cesarano, Managing Director, Globo-study, Switzerland

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