||Given its close proximity to London, its seaside locale and truly breathtaking landscape nearby, the city of Brighton & Hove has long been a popular destination choice among Britons and the foreign student fraternity for day trips, weekend breaks and international study experiences.
Chain school operator, EC, recently opened a brand new study centre in the city, located just off the seafront opposite Brighton’s iconic Palace Pier. The new facility has “been designed to give the students maximum comfort in a stylish and welcoming environment surrounded by all the necessary amenities in the heart of this wonderful seaside destination that is often called ‘London-by-the-sea’”, relates the school’s Jes Camilleri.
Despite being granted city status alongside Hove in 2000, Brighton has managed to avoid taking on many of the characteristics often associated with big urban settlements, with Brightonites said to be extremely warm and hospitable. “Local people are accustomed to enjoying visitors from all over the world in our city, who help them socially, culturally and economically,” affirms Julia Browning, Student Services Administrator at Regent Brighton Language School. With several language schools and two universities to speak of, Brighton, she says, is, “cosmopolitan, lively and welcoming”.
Owing to its geographical compactness, Brighton is extremely easy to navigate on foot, notes Camilleri, and he adds that a collection of narrow passageways makes for one of the most unique shopping areas in the whole of the UK: The Lanes. Covering an area less than one square mile, this shopping district is “dotted with small boutique shops selling items that are not to be found in other shops in the country”, observes Camilleri. The Lanes is a hotchpotch of jewellers, vintage clothes shops, designer boutiques and antiques dealers (some specialising in ancient weaponry!), while Brighton also has the shabby chic of the North Laines, with its brightly coloured shopfronts crammed full of vendors selling paintings, ceramics, glassware, sculptures and even vegetarian-friendly shoes!
If shopping leaves students feeling a little peckish, Julia Sandiford, Sales and Marketing Administrator at the English Language Centre, recommends students try out the legendary cream teas at the Mock Turtle, a Victorian-esque tearoom that comes complete with chintzy tablecloths, cake stands and assorted teapots; or Bill’s Café which serves up fresh, organic food. In fact, expounds Niall Chafey, Principal of the Brighton branch of St Giles International, there are “hundreds of restaurants to suit all tastes”, some of them award-winning, offers Browning. Chafey muses that many of the gastro pubs serve authentic British grub like meaty roast dinners and shepherd’s pie, “…often made from local Sussex produce,” he relates. Those with a sweet tooth shouldn’t return home without sampling a stick of rock a hard, stick-shaped sweet traditionally flavoured with peppermint. Nor should they leave without a portion of fish & chips, “served the traditional way in newspaper!” says Camilleri.
Students will find the city’s extensive bus service to the surrounding area easy to master. Sandiford notes that their students often comment on the friendliness of fellow commuters, with everyone saying ‘thank you’ to the bus driver. A network of three bus services, called ‘Breeze up to the Downs’, links the city with popular countryside destinations such as Ditchling Beacon, Stanmer Park and Devil’s Dyke. The latter is an historic beauty spot in the South Downs, perfect for hill walking, bike riding and kite flying.Sandiford also suggests students visit Rottingdean, a small seaside town; Lewes, the county capital of Sussex; and Arundel, a stunning market town dominated by a Norman castle and gothic cathedral. All are accessible by bus. Meanwhile, London is just 50 minutes away by train, making it the perfect destination for an impromptu day trip, adds Browning.
If students prefer to stay local then the Royal Pavilion is perfect for an afternoon visit. Hard to miss, this parody of the Taj Mahal was built at various stages throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and was a former royal residence. Welcoming around 400,000 visitors a year, admission price for students is around UK£8 (US$13).
Located in the city’s cultural quarter (the pavilion’s gardens), Chafey advises students visit the Brighton Museum and Gallery. Admission is free, and Chafey says, “[It is] right next to the school…located in the heart of the city surrounded by interesting places to eat and shop.”
Another landmark of note is the aforementioned Palace Pier. Literally a theme park above water, students can waste entire afternoons playing games in the arcade, going on a fairground ride or two, eating candyfloss, and even having their fortune told!
The city’s social calendar is jam-packed with exciting festivals and concerts, most notably the Brighton Fringe Festival, which takes place every May. In 2010, musician Brian Eno was honorary artistic director and Camilleri explains that the event seeks to “bring together artists and performances from all over the world to perform in various venues across the city”. Chafey marvels that it is the second biggest arts festival after the Edinburgh Fringe.
Meanwhile, Browning reels off a whole catalogue of other events including Brighton Live (a five-day music festival showcasing Brighton’s up-and-coming local music scene), the Sussex Beer Festival, celebrating local beer, wine and cider, and the Brighton Comedy Festival (promising three weeks of stomach-clutching laughter) to name but a few. However, the Brighton Summer Pride festival in August is, says Camilleri, when Brighton really comes alive. A week-long celebration of everything gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, the festival culminates in a parade to Preston Park. “The city explodes into one big party, but then again any excuse will do for the people of Brighton to throw a party!” he says.
“It is a small, safe and fun city to be in. Students’ main objective is usually to improve their English level but for them the fun part is also important and Brighton offers them so many things to do that they will never get bored. With a great choice of nightlife, an amazing seafront, a great number of beautiful parks, some great shopping and of course the fun Brighton Pier, there is always something to do. I think they find quite fascinating the mix of cultures that merge in one small town. They love spending time on the beach, it does not matter how bad or good the weather is…they also love to go to one of the hundreds of pubs, bars and nightclubs that the city has. They enjoy spending time in the Marina, playing some bowling or just going to the cinema. I just love it all, but probably the seafront was my favourite part of the city, it is so beautiful, and full of cafés, restaurants, pubs and many more things to enjoy yourself.”
Julian M. Gonzalez, Babel Studies, Colombia
“I have to admit, Brighton & Hove are two of my favourite destinations in the UK (a) because I personally love the buzz and (b) because a cousin of mine lives there, so I visit often! I recommend it to those who I know would enjoy the cosmopolitan atmosphere there, the great nationality mix, the clubs, cafés, bars, theatres, cinemas and so on.”
Sandy Bopp, New Language Instit., Switzerland
“It’s big enough but not so big, it’s along the coast but is just one hour from London. Students do not expect the city to be so lively! [They enjoy] the Pavilion, the beach, The Lanes. Many students just walk a lot along the beach, they rent bikes, they travel around Brighton, and, when the weather is fine, they enjoy the life on the beach. Personally, I like the light, the sky, and the international but still very British atmosphere.”
Paolo Barilari, Lingue nel Mondo, Italy