January 2007 issue

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Northern attraction

Cities that are large student hubs yet next door to wide areas of open countryside characterise the north of England and make it an ideal destination for language students. Bethan Norris visits some of the region's highlights.

The North of England is a treasure for students of English language, with some of the most beautiful places in England to explore and the most friendly and welcoming people," says Lorraine Emmans from The English Language Centre in York, summing up the reasons why language students choose to study in this area of the UK.

With its many large cities, such as Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leeds, York and Sheffield, as well as vast areas of natural beauty, such as the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District in Cumbria, the north of England certainly has much to recommend itself to visitors. However, the area is often overlooked by students and agents who may be more familiar with traditional language study destinations of Brighton, Cambridge, Oxford and London, all located in the south of England. According to Richard Day from English in Chester, this in itself can be an advantage for students. "Students are choosing the area because there are no real concentrations of international students as elsewhere in the country," he says. "The resulting experience is more ‘English'."

New and easier transport links, including a greater selection of low-cost flights to airports in the north from various destinations throughout Europe, are opening up the area to tourists and students, however, and increased promotion efforts are also having an effect, says Day. "I would like to think that the activities of our regional group, English in the North, are making a difference," he says. "Certainly all the agents who have visited the region on one of our familiarisation trips have been surprised and delighted with what they have seen."

Students who have discovered the north of England are usually effusive in their appreciation of the area, according to Helen Crosbie from Manchester Academy of English. "Many students have been recommended by friends, relatives or agents because so many former students have such glowing experiences to retell when they go back home," she relates.

The city of Manchester is a favourite destination for both international and domestic students and is famous for its "cosmopolitan, vibrant sense of culture, sport, shopping and nightlife", relates Crosbie. With its two premiership football clubs, Manchester is probably one of northern England's most well known cities around the world and it is likely to become more popular with football enthusiasts after the UEFA World Cup final, which will be held at Manchester City Stadium in 2008.

The city also has a progressive music scene, world famous nightclubs and reputation for being a 24-hour party city. Crosbie says that most students embrace this side of Manchester with great enthusiasm and take time to "get accustomed to Manchester's social life, ie. pubs and the hangovers that are invoked afterwards!"

Another city that is well known for its lively club and music scene is Liverpool on the north west coast. Leanne Linacre from Liverpool International Language Academy says that the city "buzzes with the creativity and activity which made it famous around the world for music, theatre and sports". She says that Liverpool has become an increasingly appealing city to international students wishing to learn English due to its wealth of cultural and artistic charm, its low cost of living and the availability of cheap air travel. "EasyJet and Ryanair both fly to Liverpool John Lennon Airport from most European cities," she notes.

The city is probably most famous for being the home of the 1960s pop group, the Beatles, and today's students are often fascinated to learn more about this iconic band through trips to the Cavern Club, where they first became popular, and also through class activities. Linacre recalls one interesting class activity: "On a recent Beatles tour, the students were given the lyrics to the Beatles song Eleanor Rigby, as her statue was on the tour," she explains. "They passed a busker and decided to request the song from the busker, who happily obliged. Quite a crowd gathered to watch 40 foreign students accompany the busker through a hilarious rendition of Eleanor Rigby!"

The city is a Unesco World Heritage site, due in part to its fine Georgian and Victorian architecture and newly developed Liverpool Waterfront area. The Albert Docks, which originally played an important role as part of one of the UK's foremost ports, have recently undergone a £100 million (US$191 million) refit with the 19th-century warehouse buildings now housing coffee shops, bars, restaurants, shops, the Tate Liverpool art gallery and the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

A trip across the river on the Mersey Ferry is a must for visitors due to the stunning views afforded of the Three Graces – three buildings (The Liver Building, Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building) that make up Liverpool's distinct skyline.

Over on the other side of the country is York, where students have the chance to explore a different, more Medieval, charm and discover some of the region's rich history. Emmans explains, "York was once the capital of England many centuries ago. The city was a settlement for Romans and Vikings and was very important in Medieval times. You can't escape this colourful past as you walk through the city – it can be seen in the buildings, the narrow streets and the ancient city walls."

York boasts many festivals and celebrations that highlight its historical associations, according to Andrew Hjort from Melton College in York. "York is a city of festivals," he says. "The Festival of Food and Drink finished here recently. We also have festivals for Christmas, a festival celebrating our Viking heritage and a world-famous Early Music Festival. In all, our local tourism bureau lists nearly 50 [such events]."

Students studying in York are also in a good position to visit the nearby Yorkshire Dales and its many natural and cultural attractions. "Popular excursions include Haworth, the village where the Brontë sisters lived and a visit to their house which is now a museum," says Emmans. "We have also taken students to Stump Cross Caverns, a series of underground caves in the Yorkshire Dales. Students have the opportunity to walk through these amazing caves and see the magnificent rock formations that have formed over thousands of years under the beautiful Yorkshire countryside."

Nearby in Scarborough, which is a 45-minute train journey from York, Sarah Wall from Anglolang Academy of English says that the area has one attribute that often comes as a surprise for their students. "[Scarborough] is one of the top destinations for surfing in the UK," she says. A popular holiday resort, Scarborough also boasts a castle and old Victorian town as well as 1,000-year-old harbour.

For students wanting to take part in unusual sports or for those with an interest in English literature, ILS Nottingham offers a variety of English plus courses. "[We offer] English and Tae kwon-do, English and Watersports and English and Literature based on Lord Byron, whose home is Newstead Abbey in Nottingham," says Anna Dragun at the school.

Nottingham's other famous historical resident is Robin Hood and students studying at a certain time of year get the opportunity to experience the city's remembrance of this famous character. "The Robin Hood Festival lasts two days and includes Robin Hood and his Merry Men coming to blows with the Sheriff's men in the jousting finale," says Dragun. "You can wander round the Medieval village with jesters, jugglers, knights, outlaws and fire eaters!"

The north of England offers an exciting language learning experience for students with its many busy cities and distinctive cultural and historical associations. According to Crosbie, the students' obvious appreciation of the area, combined with the low cost of living, proves to be a winning combination. "The north boasts lower living costs than London and the south coast," she says. "Student find this favourable, meaning they can extend their courses and stay longer than in other places."

Agent viewpoint

"Students want to go to England to learn English and to meet the real English people – not just other language students – and enjoy the English way of life. The English Language Centre in York offers just that: high quality courses in a friendly, family run school right in the centre of the beautiful city of York. There are so many things to do in York: theatre, opera house, cinema, museums, riverboat trips, ghost walks, street performers, restaurants, pubs, cafés and shops. There is something for everyone. Within a two hour radius by car or a short trip by rail the area around York is also beautiful and varied – the coast, the Dales, the Lake District, quaint villages, market towns, miles of open countryside and large vibrant cosmopolitan cities such as Leeds, Manchester and Bradford. Each of these cities offer excellent opportunities to theatre lovers, music enthusiasts or dedicated shoppers. Yorkshire is still very English – last time I was in London I only met one person who was English and that was the taxi driver! What is the point of practising your English as a language student with others who may speak even less English than you?"
Louise Vester, Englischservice.de, Germany

"I have been bringing Icelandic students to the north of England ever since 2000. To begin with I brought them to a school in Scarborough but since 2003 they have attended a very good school in York. When asking them what they enjoy about their visit they mention the following things: York itself is a fantastic place, like a village in a town, not much traffic, fantastic shops, beautiful buildings with lots of history, lively pubs and very friendly people who seem to be interested in speaking with them. At weekends they go on excursions and they adore the countryside. They enjoy visiting the lovely little villages and the beautiful castles and stately homes."
Erla Aradóttir, English for all, Iceland

"The north of England is more original and typically English. The courses, schools and cities are not so overun as in the south. Host families in the north are also happy to welcome their guests and do not see them as a source to earn money. Students choose to study in Sheffield because it is an attractive destination and a good starting place for exploring the surroundings. In their spare time students go to football matches, go ice skating, and go to the theatre or the pub. It is a good starting point for exploring the surrounding area."
Mirjam Auweiler, CDC Sprachreisen, Intertraining and Consult, Germany

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Australian Council
       for Private
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       Zealand Trust
English Australia
English UK
Quality English

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Delta School District
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Richmond School
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Mandarin House

Bell International
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Berlitz Manchester
Camp Beaumont
English Studio
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Malvern House
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Tellus Group

Espace Langues,
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Inlingua Berlin
Lichtenberg Kolleg
Prolog- International
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Alpha College of
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High Schools
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Dilit - International

EC - English
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EF Language
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ALCC - American
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University of Illinois
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Zoni Language


University of

University of Stirling