||The south of England has drawn international students to learn English for many years, and its magnetic charms are as strong as ever today. “[We have] some of the most beautiful coastline and countryside in the UK,” claims Charlotte Fisher at Europa School of English in Bournemouth. “There are some beautiful old villages and the Jurassic coast is England’s only natural Unesco world heritage site.”
Anya Jones from International House Torquay, adds, “Language students come [here] to enjoy the quieter pace of life, the beautiful countryside, the moors and, of course, the beaches.”
With such a varied landscape and coastline on their doorstep, many language schools are keen to provide students with much more than a classroom experience. “[This] is an area of outstanding natural beauty with a dramatic coastline, sheltered river valleys, quaint towns and villages, and barren moorland,” comments Dean Jones at LAL Torbay in Paignton. “The natural advantages of the area mean that, in addition to their studies and to visiting famous sightseeing destinations, students are able to take full advantage of outdoor activities, from cycling on Dartmoor to canoeing down rivers [and] other water sports such as diving and sailing.”
In addition to an abundance of natural attributes, the south coast has a rich historical legacy. The popular resort of Hastings, for example, is famous for the Battle of Hastings, which took place after William the Conqueror landed on English soil in 1066. “We are very proud of Hastings with all its history,” states Norma Cooksley at Charles Eaton College of English Language in Hastings. Sightseeing opportunities are plentiful around this area. There is Bexhill-on-Sea, the “birthplace of British motor racing”, which holds a Festival of Motoring each year; Bodiam Castle, which dates back 700 years; and Battle, home to the famous Abbey.
Another popular English resort town is Ramsgate in Kent, a county known as the “Garden of England” because of its many apple and cherry orchards, green fields and rolling hills. “This picturesque seaside town has many fine, old buildings and the colourful Royal Harbour,” says Karen McIntyre at Churchill House School of English Language in Ramsgate.
Another great location with a “relaxed lifestyle, good shopping and some of the most beautiful countryside in England” is Eastbourne, according to Paul Clark at GEOS-LTC International College there. “From May to September you can take a fantastic boat trip to look at the Beachy Head Cliffs, which are taller than the cliffs at Dover,” he relates. Eastbourne also lays claim to being one of the sunniest places in England thanks to the South Downs hills that give the town its own micro-climate.
Chris Bray from Exsportise, which runs camps for students at boarding schools in Chichester and Salisbury, says that both schools are surrounded by beautiful countryside. “The South Downs hills provide us with ideal conditions for mountain biking and horse riding and it is hard to find a better place for golf courses.”
Torbay in Devon, which is made up of the three towns of Paignton, Brixham and Torquay, is known for its mild weather. “[The] mild winter climate and summer sunshine combined with flourishing palm trees and breathtaking panoramas have given Torbay the title of ‘The English Riviera’,” reports Chris Thorndyke, Principal of St Hilary School of English in Paignton. He adds, “Paignton has excellent sports and amusement facilities together with spectacular walkways alongside its long sandy beaches.”
In fact, Torbay boasts 22 miles of breathtaking coastline, which incorporates cliffs, sandy beaches and palm trees, and according to Jones, the area has more Blue Flag [clean] beaches than any other resort in the UK. He says, “Together with waterside cafés and restaurants, we offer a Mediterranean-style experience and are less than an hour from Dartmoor National Park with its dramatic landscapes, and Cornwall, a surfer’s paradise and land of legend.”
Judith Hands, Managing Director of Torquay International School, says that students are often surprised by the local landscape. “[Students] are stunned by Dartmoor, in particular, and the contrast of the sea and the moors,” she says.
Ella Tyler at Mountlands Language School in Exmouth adds that Devon has a reputation for being a friendly place to stay. “Students return year after year because the town is safe, and the people who live here are all so friendly,” she says.
The people are also welcoming in Bournemouth, says Danielle Watts at King’s School of English. “Bournemouth residents are said to be some of the happiest people in England,” she claims. “Bournemouth is a great location for students,” she continues. “It is most famous for its long sandy beach and lovely public gardens but the town also offers a buzzing town centre with excellent shopping and a good selection of cafés, bars and restaurants.”
Located away from the south coast, the city of Bristol promises students much in the way of nightlife, while also being close enough for them to visit some of the area’s natural attractions. John Duncan, Principal of ELC Bristol, says, “Bristol is the cultural centre of the West of England, famous for its theatres, shopping, nightlife and music scene. It’s also a lively university city with 50,000 students. So, there is always a lot going on!”
For a big-city experience on the south coast, students could head for Plymouth. “As the biggest city in the area, Plymouth is an extraordinary blend of vibrant modern city and historic seafaring port, contrasting both modern and ancient,” relates Emma Blackhurst from Tellus Group in Plymouth. “You are able to visit world famous heritage sites like Plymouth Hoe and Mayflower Steps. In the Barbican, you can enjoy centuries of maritime tradition. Or you can take to the sea yourself with a choice of boat trips, fishing, windsurfing, scuba diving and water skiing.”
Given the high density of language schools in this area of England, there is plenty of choice for students when it comes to school location and choice of programme. EC Brighton’s latest innovation is the Club 50+ programme, specifically aimed at the more mature language learner. “The programme includes a general English course in a small group of six students, a leisure programme specifically created for discovering the English culture and the local area, and accommodation in one of our host families,” relates Jes Camilleri at EC. Brighton itself is one of the most popular language travel destinations in the UK, and the reasons why it continues to attract so many students and tourists each year are clear. “Brighton is possibly the most culturally diverse city in the UK,” asserts Camilleri. “with something always going on to suit all ages and tastes. It is trendy, multicultural and cosmopolitan, combining city style with laid-back beach life.”
“The south coast destinations to which we send students include Canterbury, Folkestone, Brighton, Bournemouth, Exeter and Torquay. Students generally like the shops, pubs, restaurants and the student life of Canterbury; in Brighton, they enjoy the fast and easy access [from London], the old town, the beach front, the [great] variety of things to do and the nightlife; the appeal of Bournemouth is the international feel, the beach, pubs and discos; Exeter is attractive because of the cultural activities, and its central location for trips to the southwest; and Torquay appeals because of the climate, the coastline, beach and harbour area, and it’s a good starting point for trips to Cornwall. Our students are most surprised at how easy-going and helpful everybody is, and that the weather and the food is much better than they expected.”
Max Wey, Boa Lingua, Switzerland
“We send students to Southampton, Bournemouth, Exeter, Torquay, Paignton, Plymouth, Sidmouth, Totnes and Bristol. The most popular places that we send students to in the south of England are probably Bournemouth and Bristol because, being reasonably big cities, students find more things to do [there]. They like the scenery, the sea and the nearby towns and cities.”
Jose Antonio Murua, SHE Travelling Consultants, Spain
“Our clients generally go to Bath, Torquay, Brighton and Bristol. They like the high quality of the schools in these areas, the safety, historical attractions and the fact that they are all destinations where you do not find too many Brazilians. Most students mention the beauty of the nature in these places, especially in Devon and Cornwall. They also mention the amazingly beautiful accent of the people who live in these areas. In the past, most Brazilians would think of going to London to learn English and to enjoy the cultural attractions of this large and rich city. Going to the countryside they are exposed to the real English way of living and understand the amazing culture more profoundly. Safety is another positive aspect.”
Fernando Boeira, Cultura Inglesa, Brazil