July 2010 issue

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Irish eyes are smiling

From the remote shores of Donegal in the north to the throbbing capital of Dublin in the east, from the rebellious Cork in the south to bohemian Galway in the west, there is something to stimulate the appetite of any student looking to navigate the emerald isle. Nicola Hancox takes a look.

Take medieval cities, add in lush landscapes and dramatic scenery, mix with cosy pubs and lively cultural festivals, and you have some of the ingredients that have made learning English in Ireland an unforgettable experience,” enthuses Grit Stasik, Marketing Administrator at Atlantic Language Galway.

Indeed, attracting around 7.3 million tourists a year (more than its resident population of 4.2 million), this pocket-sized country certainly packs a punch. Laden with a fascinating history, glorious landmarks, lush vegetation and personable locals, any visit to the Republic of Ireland is sure to be a memorable one.

Originally from Germany, Stasik relates that she joined the Galway-based school as an intern three years ago and was so enamoured with her surroundings she decided to stay indefinitely. “The spirit among staff and students makes it so special to work here,” she says. “There is such a great dynamic. It is great to see how students from so many different backgrounds, countries and religions come together and make friendships for life.”

Nicknamed Ireland’s cultural heart, Galway will certainly impress first-time visitors with its flourishing arts, music and theatre scene. Stasik notes that the Galway Arts Festival – which sees hundreds of writers, artists and performers descend on the coastal town in July – perfectly showcases the city’s cultural fervour. However, she adds there is a “constant line-up of wonderful events to attend”, including the Galway Races in late July and the Galway International Oyster Festival in September. The school also organises several festivals of its own – e.g. the Brazilian Carnival and the Japanese Cherry Blossom Celebration. “Our aim is to celebrate the amazing variety of nationalities and their own culture as well as creating a link between students and Galwegians,” she explains.

As a lively student town – one in four of its inhabitants is a student notes Patrick Creed, Director of the Bridge Mills Galway Language Centre – visitors may feel compelled to get out of the city centre every once in a while. Burren National Park, situated 20 kilometres south of the city, is the perfect antidote to a day of study and, according to Creed, it is a true reflection of rural Irish countryside. Similarly, the Connemara National Park, north of Galway, is a medley of mountains, bogs, heaths, grasslands and forests. Offering regular guided tours – self guiding walks are also available – students will need a decent pair of walking boots to navigate its craggy landscape. He adds, “After a day in either location you can return to Galway and go to the pub and enjoy some traditional Irish music, a pint of Guinness and some great fish for your dinner from local waters.” Meanwhile, Stasik prefers the quiet calm of Coral Beach in the tiny village of Carraroe in the Connemara region. “This beach consists of neither sand nor stone but fine corals. I love to walk barefoot over the corals and through the shallow turquoise water enjoying the amazing view of the bay and the sea,” she regales.

The town of Wexford is located south of the country capital, and is described by Lisa Bartsch of local language school, the Slaney Language Centre, as a personable, friendly place where “students won’t feel bored and where people still have time for each other”. Like Stasik, Ireland also worked its heady charm on Bartsch who first came to the country on a cycling holiday in 1990. “Following this holiday I visited Ireland every year and attended several English language schools…I opened the Slaney Language Centre in 1999 starting with only one teacher and one classroom,” she recalls.

Of the many coastal walks dotted around the green isle, the Wexford Coastal Pathway, which starts at Kilmichael Point on the County Wicklow border, is one of the most scenic. And while walking the entire length (some 200 kilometres) may be slightly ambitious, shorter walks between Wexford’s many beaches are achievable.

Weather permitting, Bartsch notes that the Saltee Islands, a pair of privately owned islands just off the coast of Kilmore Quay in County Wexford, are well worth a visit. Both uninhabited, the larger of the two (Great Saltee) is a haven for seabirds, puffins, gulls and a growing population of grey seals. “Far away from the major tourist attractions the islands provide a spirit of nature and wilderness,” enthuses Bartsch.

Just before students make a beeline for the lively capital, Liam Ó Cuinneagáin from Oideas Gael suggests visitors familiarise themselves with a more rural Ireland. Located in the tiny hamlet of Gleann Cholm Cille in County Donegal in the north, the school offers courses in Irish language and culture. Typical social activities include learning how to play the Irish harp or the bodhrán [a type of handheld drum] tapestry weaving and digital photography. Slieve League (or Sliabh Liag in Irish) – reputed to be some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe – are close by and afford some great photo opportunities.

“Dublin has a population of over one million people and has become a lively, vibrant city with a hectic nightlife,” comments Gareth Butler from Delfin English School in the city. With so much to see and do students may not know where to begin, so the school provides students with a customised guidebook on arrival says Butler. “[This] advises them of not only the things to do but everything they need to know about living in Ireland,” he explains.

Excursions include a trip to Ireland’s oldest university, Trinity College and Butler recommends students attend the Old Library and the Book of Kells exhibition in particular. This magnificent eighteenth century library is filled with over 200,000 of the college’s oldest books, including the ninth century gospel manuscript, the Book of Kells.

Another fine tourist attraction is the Guinness Storehouse complex where international students can learn about Ireland’s most famous export, the popular Irish stout, Guinness. Swotting up on all that history can be thirsty work, however, so it’s just as well there’s a complimentary pint of the stuff at the end of the tour!

Butler relates that their social programme is one of their strongest selling points and many of the weekly activities are free. Recent events included a visit to the Grand Canal Theatre to listen to traditional Irish folk music, an excursion to Leinster House – home to the national parliament – and a tag rugby match. “I think our tag rugby team stands out as something that most students wouldn’t have seen or had a chance to play before. It is open to both male and females and is a non-contact sport and the students meet Irish people when playing,” he says.

The medieval town of Drogheda is just 20 minutes north of Dublin Airport and according to Danielle Wall at nearby Edgewater College it is “the ideal location for students to learn English and explore the beautiful country known as the Emerald Isle”.

The town features a number of archaeological monuments, some dating back to the Neolithic era. The tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth – ancient burial chambers that form part of the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site are popular all year-round. “Constructed over 5,000 years ago, [it is] older than Stonehenge in England and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt,” notes Wall.

Working in association with Seapoint Golf Course, which boasts some wonderful views of the Mourne Mountains in neighbouring Northern Ireland, Edgewater students can opt to enrol on their English plus golf programme. “Golfers should experience this impressive course on a stunning stretch of coastal land,” relates Wall. She also details a series of cultural events that take place throughout the year, in particular, the Samba Festival in late June. A three-day celebration of Samba, Latin and African music and dance, it includes workshops, a colourful parade and energetic song.

Agent viewpoint

 “In Spain there is a general belief that Irish families are very hospitable people. That is our main selling point for Ireland. I recommend Wexford as it is a mixture of city and village, close to Dublin, where there are plenty of options for leisure, and not many Spanish people. Spanish students are usually more attracted to big cities, like Dublin or London, but we invite them to discover smaller towns. Wexford is really a perfect place to study and live for a period. It has a lot of advantages as a destination for a student.”
Elena Tejedor, Aula Ingles, Spain

 “Ireland enjoys a very positive image here in Germany. Some students will ask for schools in rural or small town surroundings like Wexford, others are happy to stay in Dublin and nip out to the Wicklow Mountains at the weekend or take a boat to the Arran Islands from Galway. But invariably they take an interest in Ireland’s natural beauty. The scenery, the proverbially friendly natives, music – and Irish stout beer – score highly with our students. They also enjoy learning about the country’s rich history.”
Wolfgang Stein, English in Britain, Germany

“Yes we send students to Ireland, mainly for language travel. They like the destination especially during the summer as it is a way to avoid overcrowded British destinations. They enjoy activities, the people and occasion to go out. In the last two years, however, Ireland has gone down in volume of bookings compared with the UK for example. But this may change as the euro is getting lower in respect to the UK pound so they may choose Ireland again for cost of travel, staying and lifestyle.”
Antonella Crisafulli, New Lands, Italy

Contact any advertiser in this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.





Britannia Student

English Australia  
MEI Ireland  

Alphe Conferences  

Pearson Education  

Dr. Walter GmbH  

LTM Digital  

Malta Tourism

Bond University  
Carrick Institute
      of Education  
English Australia  
La Trobe University  
Language Studies
Pacific Gateway
      International College  
      College (Shafston
      House College)
Universal English
College (Global
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University of
University of
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University of
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Global Village 
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Saint Mary's

Ordex Cultural
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Vida Verde - Green
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Bell International  
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      Education Group  
Kaplan Aspect  
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LAL Language
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      Germany, Ireland,
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London Metropolitan
Malvern House
      College London  
Prime Education
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Spinnaker College  
St Clare's Oxford  
St Giles Colleges 
      (Canada, UK, USA) 
Study Group 
      (Australia, Canada,
      England, France,
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Queen Ethelburga's
Twin Group  
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University of Essex-
Wickham Court

Home Language
      (Australia, Brazil,
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International House
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Academia de
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Delfin English
Language College
MEI Ireland  

      Language School  

      Residential Language
NSTS English
      Language Institute  

Habla Ya
      Language Center  

EF Language
      Colleges Ltd
      (Australia, Canada,
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Ecuador, England,
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ELS Language
International House
      San Diego  
University of
Zoni Language
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