For an English-speaking environment with a good choice of language schools, Malta is an ever-popular choice. Here, in addition to sunny weather, warm and crystal-clear waters, is the chance to explore ancient temples and medieval cities, while enjoying a rich nightlife that is “ideal for any age”, comments Marisa Grixti at AM Language Studio in the town of Sliema.
Close to Sliema is the island capital, Valletta. Covering less than one square kilometre of space, this city “has got it all”, says Grixti, “from the rich St John Co-Cathedral, to the pristine 300-year old Manoel Theatre”, with restaurants, arts, monuments, shops and malls, as well as museums, forts and bastions.
The nearby island of Comino, featuring the Blue Lagoon, with its white sand and crystal blue water is “definitely worth a swim!” Grixti suggests, and Malta is also one of the best places for diving.
Less well known as an English language destination is Cyprus, though here, “English is very much the lingua franca,” comments George Phylactou, Assistant Director at Xenion Education in the town of Paralimni. The island is steeped in history, yet at the same time, is “a thoroughly modern country”, he observes, and one that enjoys among the lowest crime rates in Europe. “Rugged coastline, lofty mountains and superb beaches make Cyprus a perennial favourite with visitors from all over the world,” he says. “People never come here just once.”
Situated on the east coast, between the resorts of Ayia Napa and Protaras, Paralimni offers quick and easy access to both. “The beautiful beaches of Protaras stretch for miles,” Phylactou notes. Most famous of these are Fig Tree Bay and Yianna Marie Beach - renowned for its clean water and pleasant, verdant surroundings.
Napa’s focal point is the square, with its lively and colourful atmosphere and fifteenth-century Venetian monastery where, every evening, “literally thousands of people gather to eat, drink and watch the world go by. The rooftop bars are great for people-watching,” Phylactou advises.
Fethiye, in south-eastern Turkey, with its many UK visitors and permanent British citizens, is known as “Little England”, says Ayşenur Akman of IM Academy based in nearby Oludeniz. Formerly known as Telmossos, it dates back to ancient times, and is immortalised in Greek mythology.
With “a magical environment”, this relatively small village also boasts “marvellous beaches, world [renowned] bays for sailing, and enchanted nature”, he highlights. A boat trip around its peaceful waters is “a must” for visitors.
The area is also home to turtles. “We were pedalling a water-bike on the quiet waters of Oludeniz [in November] at the lunch break,” Akman relates, “and, suddenly, two big turtles appeared just near us. Wow! It was amazing. They...followed us for about five minutes.” Paragliding is a popular local activity, Akman adds, and every year, he says, paragliders come from around the world. “It is a magical show,” he observes, “especially during the sunset.”
The south of France offers destinations of varying character, all sharing some of the typical Mediterranean charms. “The French Riviera is an amazing place,” enthuses Emanuelle Germain, Communications Officer for Formazur in Nice and the Institut Français Riera in Cannes.
Chief of the holiday resorts that stretch along the French Riviera, Nice is famous for its pebble beaches, along the legendary Promenade des Anglais. “The city [also] has an extraordinary architectural heritage,” says Germain. “Nicknamed Nissa la Bella [Nice the Beautiful], it has always attracted many artists, and continues to attract more today.”
Nearby Cannes is renowned for its International Film Festival, but “this city of the stars and luxury”also offers many other tourist and cultural activities”, Germain points out. With the Mediterranean lapping at its feet, Cannes is a great coastal resort. Twenty minutes offshore, the Lerins Islands form an archipelago where, she notes, the “Man in the Iron Mask” was imprisoned at Sainte Marguerite.
Close to the Mediterranean, the university city of Perpignan lies just 30 kilometres from the Spanish border and 85 kilometres from the Pyrenees. As such, student visitors can take a day-trip to Barcelona’s Dali Museum, or (courtesy of the university sports service) to a mountain ski resort, in addition to exploring the historic environs of the city itself.
As Michaela Ragueneau of CUEF at the University of Perpignan highlights, the nearby seaside town of Leucate is well known by wind and kite surfers, and Banyuls offers “an amazing diving destination”. Moreover, “Viticulture and vineyards are very representative of the Perpignan region, and add to the Mediterranean atmosphere all year-round.”
Spain’s own Mediterranean region is another magnet for international students, again offering a range of different types of experience. Valencia, on the Spanish mainland, abuts the Mediterranean’s western edge. A historic city, dating back to Roman times, modern Valencia is characterised by its mild weather, active lifestyle and passion for sport, notes Mariló Estevan of Caxton College, an English boarding school in the city.
Playing host to many international sporting events, Valencia also facilitates many outdoor activities, she points out, providing cycle paths, jogging tracks, football and rugby pitches, and athletics tracks. Furthermore, the beautiful Turia River Gardens incorporate outdoor gyms and other sporting facilities.
Festivals are another feature of Valencia life, and in March visitors can enjoy Fallas, when, she says, the streets of the city are taken over by giant papier mâché sculptures, colourful lights and fireworks. July brings the annual fair, with shows and open-air concerts, not forgetting, the Battle of the Flowers.
Approximately 79 kilometres off the Spanish coast, Ibiza, by contrast, is a small island destination. Distances are short, attractions are close, and it is a very safe place, according to Daniel Bertole, Director General at the Instituto de Idiomas Ibiza.
Despite an image as a clubbers’ island, this remains “a rural paradise”, Bertole emphasises, since the clubs are concentrated outside the city itself. Moreover, he says, “It offers the nicest beaches in the Mediterranean” 56 of them within 30 minutes’ travel time, as well as the good weather in which to enjoy them all year-round. Bertole especially recommends “the beautiful white beach” at Las Salinas national park. Also not to be missed, he suggests, are the spectacular views from the island’s Unesco World Heritage site, and the sunset at Café del Mar, which located on the rocks at San Antonio bay was the birthplace of “chill-out” music.
Those who are fascinated by ancient Greek legend can perhaps, find no better destination than Sicily. This, the largest of the Mediterranean islands, was the setting for many of the tales in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, and much of its considerable historical and artistic heritage is still very much intact today.
“The art and history heritage of Sicily is...huge”, confirms Alessandro Adorno, Director at the Taormina-based Babilonia Centro Studi Italiani. The Greek temple in Segesta is among his top recommendations, for “the magic feelings” it conveys. The cathedral in Monreale, with its blend of Arab and Norman architecture, is also a key sight, “for the richness of its golden mosaics”. Taormina itself, a historic town sitting high on the rocks, offers spellbinding views of Mount Etna from its ancient amphitheatre, while giving easy access to the local beach via cable-car.
As you would expect, Sicily has great beaches and coastline. The Baia dei Turchi (Bay of the Turks) is a particular highlight for Adorno, who picks out “the blinding white light of its rocks crashing against the shining blue of the sea and the sky”. Meanwhile, Isola Bella, the Bay of Mazzaro, Giardini Naxos and Spisone all count among the most famous beaches in Italy.
“The most important point when choosing a destination in the Mediterranean is for sure the warm and nice weather. Students are interested in high-level high schools with good academic standards, but at the same time to stay at a place which is warm and sunny, and mostly by the seaside... [Our German students] are often telling us that due to the weather, they are in a significant good mood, more motivated to work, and in general very happy.”
Vivian Hachmann, KulturLife, Germany
“Our students choose Ibiza because it has all that the Russian people like: warm climate, beautiful nature, amazing beaches, friendly people and, of course, the famous Ibiza nightlife! There are a lot of parties, festivals and fiestas on Ibiza every day, but this doesn’t prevent our students from learning the language, on the contrary, it even helps their studies! It is very easy to meet new people and make friends, so the students practise the language not only at school, but also in their [spare] time.”
Katerina Serikova, MasterSpain, Russia
“As we don’t have the sea in our country, it really attracts us to go and study in the Mediterranean. [Our students] like the mix of study and leisure. It is the atmosphere and the culture of the Mediterranean, culinary and cultural trips and hard studying at professional centres with international students.”
Claudio Cesarano, globo-study Sprachreisen, Switzerland