July 2012 issue

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Magical Malta

Boasting thousands of years of heritage, Mediterranean beaches, glorious sunshine and a friendly welcome, Malta has much to offer, writes Matthew Knott.

The island is an idyllic destination – sea and sun contribute heavily to this, it is safe, the cost of living is reasonable and the people welcome you heartedly,” enthuses Michelle Gialanze at International Vocational College in St Julian’s. “Malta is located at the heart of the Mediterranean Ocean with over 7,000 years of history,” advises Yujun Ying at St. Martin’s Institute of IT, a multi-faculty tertiary provider and affiliate centre of the University of London. “Every year it has over 300 sunny days,” she adds, underlining one of Malta’s other great benefits. Indeed, as Anna Portelli Norris at NSTS English Language Institute observes, Malta was “voted as having the best climate in the world and the best place to live by the International Living Magazine in 2011”.

“Malta is enriched with history that goes back even further than the pyramids of Egypt,” considers Debbie Vella at English Domain. “This enables us to provide our students with a lot more than just an education in English, but also culture and history.” Malta is one of the world’s smallest states, but Alberta Stivala at Linguatime School of English provides some numbers to show how much is crammed into the islands: nine Unesco World Heritage sites, 359 catholic churches and 38 beaches.

St. Julian’s was a small fishing village until the 1800s. “Now the area is alive with some of Malta’s most popular restaurants, bars, hotels and shopping areas,” says Tara McCallum at EC Malta, adding that the school is located in the heart of Paceville, Malta’s lively entertainment district. Paul Fenech from Magister Academy relates, “St. Julian’s is the quality tourism centre of the island boasting some of the best five star hotels and restaurants. The school is in a quiet residential area that is a two-minute walk from the promenade. The exclusive school residence is a five-minute walk from the school and a one-minute walk from the nearest sandy beach.” It is an area, he adds, where “one finds everything within a stones throw day and night”. Clubclass English Language School is located in a quiet residential area of St. Julian’s and Alex Fenech praises the easy connectivity, “The lovely beaches in the north of the island are all a short bus ride away, as are Sliema, Valletta and Mdina.”

Maltalingua is one of St. Julian’s newest schools and Anne-Lina Treuheit outlines some key sights, “Picturesque Spinola Bay is still used by fisherman whose traditional boats are housed just below the restaurants. The bay is particularly attractive at night and as a venue for open-air dining.” She continues, “The elegant Spinola Palace, built in 1658, is the landmark historic building on the bay.”

Louiseanne Mercieca of the English Language Academy (ELA) in nearby Sliema notes the historical development of the town. “Sliema was originally a small fishing village and got its name from a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which served as a reference point to the few fisherman who lived in the area. Sliem is the Maltese word for peace.” The town developed in the 19th century with elegant villas and town houses built as summer residences by wealthy Valletta residents.

The magnificent views across the bay to the capital, Valletta, are a highlight for Olga Stanichevskaia of Iels LAL Language Centre. “The area is full with shops, bars, restaurants and cafés and buzzing with life.” She adds that the rocky beaches are a hot spot for tourists and locals, and that the promenade is one of Malta’s most popular meeting places. Maryse Gatt from inlingua Malta concurs, and says, “Within seconds reach from the inlingua doorstep one can acquire any imaginable item or service be it fashion, outdoor dining, coffee shops, money matters or meeting points for sea and land excursions. The Sliema seafront with miles of rocky coastline and beaches lies five minutes away.”

Iels LAL also offers an altogether more sedate experience away from the mainland on the island of Gozo. “IELS’ school in Gozo is located in Ghanjnsielem, a tranquil and picturesque village within walking distance from a rocky beach and Mgarr Harbour,” explains Stanichevskaia. Gozo, greener and smaller than the main island with its own distinct character, is “the perfect choice for students looking for a relaxed and stress free environment”, she attests. “There are a number of iconic places to visit in Gozo,” Stanichevskaia explains. “We recommend to start with visiting the old fortified capital of Gozo – Cittadella; it is a must to visit the spectacular Azure Window [a natural table-like arch over the sea], Fungus Rock [a small islet] and the Inland Sea, Calypso’s Cave and Ir-Ramla red sandy beach, Neolithic temples of Xaghra, Basillica of Ta’Pinu, and Xlendi and Masalforn fishing villages.”

Back on the main island, McCallum says, “Mdina, the medieval capital, also known as the ‘Silent City’, is well worth a visit. Perched on top of a plateau, the city offers excellent views and is home to some of the island’s oldest architecture, including well preserved churches, elegant palaces and refined edifices.” Ancient history is something Malta possesses in abundance; Hagar Qim, one of the megalithic temples of Malta, is among the oldest religious sites on Earth and is thought to be the world’s oldest standing structure. “Did you know,” asks McCallum, “Malta was once home to dwarf elephants and hippos? Malta’s Archaeological Museum exhibits an array of fossils and art and structures that give visitors a glimpse into Malta’s prehistoric past.”

Of more modern attractions, McCallum highlights St. James Cavalier, “the artistic hub of Malta that boasts a theatre exhibiting original plays and theatrical acts, a movie theatre playing film-fest favourites, a large exhibition space for artwork and a café”. Malta is also prominent on the silver screen. “Many well-known and critically acclaimed films have been produced in Malta, which include Gladiator, Troy, The Count of Monte Cristo and Clash of the Titans,” observes Vella. A forthcoming zombie film starring Brad Pitt – World War Z – has also been made here.

Schools generally offer a range of activities and tours to introduce Malta’s charms, and as an island nation naturally many of these are water-based. Fenech details some of Magister’s activities as including boat trips to Gozo and the Blue Lagoon on the island of Comino, beach barbeques, diving, sailing and windsurfing. Portelli Norris advises, “There are a few sites off the beaten track [that] would be amazing for international students to experience, but one different and unusual thing to do is take a traditional boat from Senglea or Vittoriosa to Valletta and enjoy the beauty of the majestic Grand Harbour and the Three Cities.” Gatt, meanwhile, informs, “Malta ranks [highly] as a diving destination, and a combination of English language and diving comes highly recommended.” Indeed, Stivala notes an unusual diving spot in the shape of the Bristol Beaufighter, a sunken World War II fighter plane near Sliema. “With only sand around her it is a natural meeting point for marine life and seems to be some sort of breeding station for morays.”

A plethora of events, carnivals and festivals will also keep students engaged. “Malta has been hosting the Isle of MTV since 2008,” advises Stivala. “This free concert is enjoyed by all Maltese and tourists.” Previous artists include Lady Gaga, Enrique Iglesias and the Black Eyed Peas. McCallum recommends the Malta Arts Festival, “a collection of theatrical performances, dance, music and art”, as well as Birgufest, a celebration of Birgu’s past and architecture. Treuheit enthuses about Malta’s fireworks, with each town having a festival to celebrate its patron saint. “The festival of St. Julian’s takes place each summer. It is a crazy cacophony firework display launched from a floating barge in the bay.”

On top of all these attractions is the friendly welcome that international students receive. “The Maltese people have forever welcomed foreigners to their islands. Maltese people are kind and friendly by nature and students will fit very easily into our community,” observes Mercieca. “It is very family orientated and although it is small in size, it has such a diversity of people,” notes Gialanze.

Agent viewpoint

“Malta is one of the favourite destinations of the youngest Spanish students. The climate, very similar to ours; the Maltese people, open minded and very friendly; the social nightlife and the economic standard of living makes Malta the perfect destination for studying English in the summer. However, the Mediterranean island is ideal for adults too. In winter the cold is softer than in other English-speaking countries, the trip by plane is very short from Spain, and the island offers lots of beaches, cultural places and pretty villages in a very short distance to discover. Malta is perfect for all ages; you only have to choose what kind of experience you prefer and the season for it.” 
María Carbonell, Grupo Viajar y Estudiar, Spain

“Malta is one of the most popular English language destinations for Swiss students... equally for adults, juniors and [for] 50 plus [clients]. One of the biggest advantages of Malta is its size. On 316 square kilometres, this island offers such an incredible variety of attractions and possibilities that are all in very easy access. The short distances make Malta the ideal combination-destination: [studying] in the morning and cultural sightseeing or sunbathing in the afternoon [are all stress-free activities]. The culture and history of the island is well-known. as one can see by the Unesco world heritage. Students like the party section of St. Julians, Paceville, the sandy beaches of Golden Bay, all the different sport possibilities, the nice Mediterranean food and their caring host families.”
Claudio Cesarano, Globo-study Sprachreisen, Switzerland

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English Australia  
MEI - Marketing English in Ireland  
Perth Education City  
Study Gold Coast  
English in Chester  
Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart  

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Perth Education City  
Study Gold Coast  

Bow Valley College  
Braemar College  
Centennial College  
College of New Caledonia  
Connect School of Languages  
Georgian College  
Hansa Language Centre of Toronto  
Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced  
Omnicom School of Languages  
Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology  
St James Assiniboia   
York University English Language Institute  
iMandarin Language Training Institute  

Camp Beaumont  

English in Chester  
Embassy CES   
International House London  
INTO University Partnerships  
Kaplan International Colleges  
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Queen Ethelburga's College  
Stafford House   
St Giles International  
University of Essex - International Academy  
Wimbledon School of English  
Alphe Conferences  

Cambridge Esol  

Trinity College London  
TOEFL Educational Testing Service  
Active Language Learning  

Centre of English Studies  
Clare Language Centre  
English Language Academy ELA  
Galway Cultural Institute  
Galway Language Centre  
Language College Ireland  
University College Cork Language Centre  
Clubclass Residential Language School  

Malta Tourism Authority  
Maltalingua Ltd.  
CNN International Language School  

EIEN Power  
Global Standard  
MDL Cebu Language School  
Paradise English  
International House - Sevilla CLIC  

Xul Comunicación Social  
EF International Language Centers  

Eurocentres International  
Malta Tourism Authority  

California State University San Marcos  

ELS Language Centers  
Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart  
University of California San Diego  
Zoni Language Centers  

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