May 2002 issue

Travel News
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Golden Malta

Agent viewpoint

'Malta is a great country in the Mediterranean and students choose to study there mainly [because they can] learn English and enjoy the sun and the sea at the same time. Another very important reason for choosing Malta as a study destination is that it is very easy for Russian students to get a visa for Malta. Malta [is also attractive to students because of] its mild climate, safe environment and very friendly local Maltese people. In addition, the price of Maltese educational institutions is relatively low in comparison with institutions in the UK, USA and other English-speaking countries. Students enjoy staying with Maltese host families because the rooms are spacious and the food is substantial and healthy. Maltese cuisine has much in common with Malta's Sicilian neighbours and it is very tasty.'

Larissa Evdokimova, Ekaterinburg Centre Education Abroad, Russia

'Our clients generally choose to study in Malta because, having been to England several times, they want to discover something new in sunny weather. We represent a school in Gzira, and generally our clients enjoy the good weather and the beaches. The quality of language schools in Malta is good, the lessons are serious and there is a good timetable for social activities.'

Marie Christine Mangeret, CCL, France

'The students who choose Malta as a destination are normally young adults and they do like mixing language [learning] with sun and fun. The enjoy the Mediterranean beaches and the culture of going out to bars and discos. There is the typical family [of students] too, where the parents attend an adult school and the children participate in a junior programme. In any case, Malta is a destination where leisure has a lot to say.'

Jose Antonio Murua, Spanish Heritage, Spain

Malta is a fusion of past and present, with its abundance of historic sites and popular beach resorts. Gillian Evans takes a look at Malta's island experiences.

Malta – which is made up of the islands of Malta, Gozo and tiny Comino – is certainly beautiful. Clusters of golden stone houses form towns and villages above the deep blue sea, while the coastline rises up from picturesque coves and inlets to form rugged cliffs. The influence of the many different civilisations that have made Malta their home over the millennia is evident all over the country, with prehistoric temples, baroque and renaissance churches, and the medieval capital, Mdina, to name just a few of its historical treasures.

But Malta's other face is that of a lively tourist destination, with great watersports opportunities and a fun nightclub scene. It also attracts many English language students each year who want to learn English in a Mediterranean destination.

Geos Malta Language Centre is situated in Sliema, one of Malta's main resorts, where shops and open-air cafés line the beach promenade. 'Students can sunbathe or swim literally within minutes of leaving class from May to early November,' says Kenneth Camilleri, the school's Director of Studies. To maximise students' English language learning while getting to know the country, Geos organises an interesting mix of practical learning situations.

'Activities include on-site lessons at places of interest, with students [who have prepared information about the places] acting as guides; speaking exercises involving students doing vox-pops or surveys with the very friendly locals; and the publication of a students' newspaper for which the students have to do all the practical research, interviews and editing,' relates Camilleri.

On the Berlitz Language Centre's business English course, students are also taken into real-life situations. 'Business people can benefit from an extensive business programme which [includes] visiting local firms to get hands-on experience,' explains Elton Stivala, General Manager and Academic Director at the school. Berlitz Language Centre is situated in Paceville, 'Malta's prime location for entertainment and less than five minutes away from the sea', says Stivala.

Camilleri adds, 'Paceville [features] some of the biggest discos in the Mediterranean, state-of-the-art cinemas, Europe's biggest Imax [cinema] screen, restaurants and much more to keep the young and young at heart up until the small hours of the morning.'

For those looking for more traditional cultural pursuits, there are classical and jazz concerts, theatres and opera. Throughout the year, villages and towns host traditional festivals, such as the lively carnival celebrations in Valetta, where colourful processions and people in fancy-dress costumes snake their way through the streets. 'The students are always very impressed by excursions to local village feasts and 'fenkata' nights organised by the school and attended by various members of our staff [where the traditional Maltese rabbit dish is eaten at restaurants],' says Ian Causon at Sprachcaffe. By participating at these events, he adds, '[Students] not only gain insight into our local traditions but also have a lot of fun.'

Sprachcaffe, which is in Pembrook, a 10-mintue walk from the lively resort town of St Julians, is a self-contained 'club village', open to both international students and the Maltese. 'The school offers a bar and restaurant, and [self-catering] apartments,' says Causon. 'Students of all ages love using the pool and volleyball court.'

Diving is another popular pastime in Malta, for both beginners and experts. Many language schools, such as Sprachcaffe, offer students the chance to combine their language learning with diving lessons. The islands of Gozo and Comino also offer great opportunities for students to try out other water-based activities, such as snorkelling, diving and windsurfing.

For language learners in search of a quiet Maltese experience, the smaller island of Gozo beckons. 'Gozo is a third of the size of Malta but greener, quieter, cleaner and more rural,' says Donna Sciberras, School Administrator at Kalypso Academy, which is situated on Gozo. 'It is full of lovely beaches [and] life here moves at a leisurely pace. It is an island where time seems to have stood still.'

Village life centres on fishing and agriculture, which has also influenced Maltese food. 'One of the greatest pleasures when visiting our country is its local cuisine,' confirms Sciberras. 'In Gozo, this is particularly enjoyable because everything that is sold in the markets or served in its restaurants is fresh from the fields or the sea.'

Like most other schools in Malta, Kalypso packs the student timetable with plenty of after-class activities, such as free excursions to historical sites and places of interest in Malta and Gozo, and transport to a different beach every afternoon after lessons. And even if students choose to study on the quieter island of Gozo, it does not mean that they have to forego the lively nightclub scene on the island of Malta. For example, at Kalypso, each student is given tickets for the La Grotto disco, with the school providing transport there and back.

'In Malta there is something for everyone - and all within easy reach under a glorious blue canopy all year round,' concludes Camilleri. 'Students love it here and some keep on coming back.'