November 2011 issue

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Multi-faceted Malta

The Mediterranean island of Malta, and sister isle Gozo, boast a rich history awaiting discovery. Jane Vernon Smith takes a tour.

For many, the Mediterranean island of Malta is synonymous with sun, sand and sea. Students seeking a location where they can combine learning English with afternoons filled with fun in the sun will certainly find what they are looking for.

“There is always a beach party going on somewhere,” comments Pia Zammit, Director of Studies at Skylark School of English in Msida, and other typical activities include days on the beach playing sports and games, kayaking and snorkelling, according to John McCallum, Marketing Executive at Global Village English Centre in St. Paul’s Bay.

“Scuba diving in Malta is fantastic,” enthuses Liz Camilleri, Director of Studies at AClass Academy of English in Pembroke. “It has some of the clearest waters, so visibility is excellent. There are a host of different dives to choose from, and beginners, as well as more advanced students, are catered for,” she enlarges.

“Diving has to be one of the main attractions of this island,” agrees Anna Briffa at Britannia College in Valletta, “with an indented coastline and wrecks everywhere, all in the cleanest sea in the Med”. Other water sports, such as sailing and cruising, are also very popular, she points out.

Boat trips are a popular means of getting to see some of the best local sights, and “for the thrill of a lifetime” Swieqi-based Clubclass Residential Language School’s Katya Lupalenko recommends taking a powerboat to the nearby island of Comino and the Blue Lagoon.

Malta undoubtedly delivers on sun, sand and sea. However, “Many people do not realise that there is more to it than just beaches and sun,” says Camilleri. “Malta is a cultural gem and has a rich history,” she adds.

“You can visit prehistoric temples – which are older than the pyramids or, indeed, Stonehenge – ancient catacombs, prehistoric dwelling caves and a rather impressive number of museums,” notes Zammit. “Visiting the Hypogeum is a must,” she adds. This is an underground cavity of around 500 square metres, in which there are chambers hewn out of the rock.

Moving forward in time, the old, medieval capital city of Mdina is fortified, and features “the most wonderful gothic architecture”, Zammit observes, as well as many tourist sites and museums. The present-day capital, Valletta, is itself a UNESCO World Heritage site. “Just walking along the streets, visitors marvel at so many Baroque palaces,” observes Briffa. Known as the “fortress city”, Valletta was “a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen”, says Lupalenko, “… and the grid of narrow streets houses some of Europe’s finest works of art, churches and palaces.”

It is here in Valletta that Britannia College is located, in a “rather grand” building in the Art Nouveau style, with spacious classrooms, large windows and high ceilings. “We have retained all the wonderful features, such as frescoed ceilings or wooden beams,” recounts Briffa, “but also added all the creature comforts.”

Valletta’s Grand Harbour is one of the island’s major sights. Fortified on all sides by sixteenth century stone bastions, it is, says Briffa, one of the finest natural harbours in the world. Her own, personal favourite attraction is probably the St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, which shows art films and live transmissions of English theatre. Others go for the Gobelin tapestries in the Grand Master’s Palace or the Caravaggios at St. John’s Cathedral, she adds.

Within easy striking distance of the capital are a variety of resorts with a choice of language schools. Sliema is a smart, seaside location with excellent transport links to Valletta and other parts of the island. Full of shops, restaurants, bars and places of interest, it is, says Olga Stanichevskaia at Iels in Sliema and Gozo, very popular with tourists, and its promenade is one of the most popular social meeting places on the island.

Iels’ Sliema school is a spacious, modern, air-conditioned building that is located a short walk from the sea-front and Malta’s most famous shopping areas, Bisazza Street and The Point shopping mall.

Nearby St. Julian’s Bay is home to Sprachcaffe Languages Plus, whose striking, stone building, with echoes of classical Greek and Roman styling, “never fails to impress”, according to Jürgen Tauber at the school. British built in the 1930s, it is, he says, of unique architectural interest. Located in a quiet area of the bay, it is also close to Paceville, the island’s main centre for nightlife.

While students can enjoy a full range of water-based activities in the bay, the school also has its own swimming pool, as well as a volleyball court.

Just minutes away is “the lovely residential area of Pembroke”, where AClass Academy of English is located. A small, family-run school, it is also convenient for both Sliema and St. Julian’s, where all the bars and restaurants are located, as well as the island’s main shopping areas. School spokesperson, Camilleri, points out that Pembroke is only a short bus ride away from some of the island’s best beaches. “Our location is definitely one of the best in Malta, as we are close to all the right places, without all the noise and traffic,” she argues.

Another quiet, residential area not far from St. Julian’s is Swieqi, where Clubclass Residential Language School is based. As spokesperson, Lupalenko, points out, Clubclass offers the convenience of living and learning in the same building, and its residence facilities include both indoor and outdoor pools, sauna, jacuzzi, and a fitness centre, as well as a pub, restaurant and caféteria.

For those looking for a small-to-medium sized school that is also convenient for the pleasures of St Julian’s and Paceville, Skylark School of English is another option. “Skylark is a bright and sunny school situated in a quiet little piazza,” explains Zammit. The school precincts include a fountain/gazebo area with benches and a caféteria that leads on to a citrus garden.

Further along the island’s north coast, you come to St. Paul’s Bay, where Global Village’s Malta school stands by the waterfront. Here students can take advantage of the bay’s crystal-clear, unpolluted waters, and the sandy beaches of Mellieha Bay are also within easy reach. The school itself is a converted villa, “with vast amounts of charm and character”, says McCallum. Small and family-run, it has “a lovely atmosphere, something you notice the second you walk in the door”.

To escape the hustle and bustle, Gozo offers a tempting combination of countryside and coast. As Stanichevskaia explains, “Gozo is greener, more rural and smaller than Malta, and has its own distinct character and relaxed atmosphere.” Iels has “a beautiful boutique school” here, she adds, which it recommends for business and executive clients. It has, she says, “a special, peaceful, stress-free environment and very family-like atmosphere”.

Wherever in the Maltese islands they decide to make their base, students will never be far away from a colourful festa – an annual celebration held by each village to celebrate its patron saint. Incorporating marching bands, processions, street parties and fireworks, “Maltese festas are quite unique,” affirms Stanichevskaia. “The individual villages have taken the competitive element of them to dizzying levels,” adds Zammit. “This year, the little village of Mqabba broke the world record for the largest Catherine wheel.”

Agent viewpoint

““We mostly send adults there but also some juniors. I think it’s easier for parents to convince a reticent teen to go to Malta rather than to a more academic destination such as England. Our students usually leave excellent feedback, telling us that they met many people, participated in many activities, discovered wonderful landscapes, while improving their English. Malta is definitely one of our cheapest destinations and life there is really economical. This is an important selling point for price sensitive students such as long-term or MEC students.”
Elinor Zucchet, Language School Worldwide, Spain

“Malta is considered the best value-for-money destination and the most visa-friendly of all English-speaking countries. Prices for English courses and accommodation in Malta offered by top language schools like Iels are significantly less than in the UK or Ireland – especially for long-term bookings. Everything is very close here. Local people are very friendly and relaxed.”
Mikhail Kudryavtsev, Study Flight, Russia

“There are several reasons Russian students choose Malta – you can combine studying English with enjoying the sea and the sun. Another attractive thing is the prices... Rich historical heritage is [another of Malta’s] benefits. The mild climate also attracts Russian students, especially if they travel to Malta in autumn or winter. [Our students] mention safety and tranquillity of Maltese life, good nature of local people, cheap prices in restaurants.”
Elena Akimova, Global Link Education Center, Russia

Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Study Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.






English Australia  
English UK North  
Feltom Malta  
Ialc International  
International House World Organisation  
Languages Canada / Langues Canada  
Quality English  

Cambridge Esol  

Dr. Walter GmbH  

LTM Digital  
Your World On Monday  

Malta Tourism Authority  

St Giles International  
Twin Group  

Pasantias Argentinas  

Ability Education  
Bond University  
Carrick Institute of Education  
English Australia  
English Language & Foundation Studies Centre  
English Language Company  
Impact English College  
Language Studies International  
Lexis Engilsh  
Melbourne Language Centre  
Pacific Gateway International College  
Shafston International College  
Southbank Institute of TAFE  
Think: Education Group  
University of New South Wales  
University of Tasmania  

Bics (Business & Intl Communication School)  
Fast Forward Language Training-Portuguese Lang.Pro  

CERAN Lingua International  

Access International English Language Centre   
Apex Language & Career College   
Bond International College/ Bond Language Centre  
Cornerstone Academic College   
East Coast School of Languages  
English School of Canada  
Eurocentres Canada  
Fanshawe College  
GEOS International Schools North America  
ILSC - International Language Schools of Canada  
International Language School of the YMCAs Quebec  
Luther College High School  
LSC Language Studies Canada  
Language Studies International  
North Island College  
Ottawa International Student Programmes (OISP)  
Queen's School of English  
Saint Mary's University  
University Of Victoria  
Vancouver English Centre  

Mandarin House  

ATC International  
Cambridge Education Group - HO  
Camp Beaumont  
English UK North  
English UK  
Ialc International  
INTO University Partnerships  
Kaplan International Colleges  
King's Colleges  
Language UK  
Link School  
Liverpool International Language Academy  
London School of Business & Finance  
London School of English  
Malvern House College London  
Mont Rose College of Management & Sciences  
Queen Ethelburga's College  
Speakeasy School of English  
Spinnaker College  
St Giles International  
Study Group  
Twin Group  
United International College  
University of Essex - International Academy  

inlingua Berlin  

ATC Language & Travel   
Galway Cultural Institute  

Capital Education  

Clubclass Residential Language School  
EC English Language Centre  
English Language Academy  
Feltom Malta  
Malta Tourism Authority  

See Learning Centre  
Cial - Centro de Linguas  

EC Cape Town  
Eurocentres Cape Town  
Good Hope Studies  
inlingua Language Training Centre Cape Town  
Interlink School of Languages  
Jeffrey's Bay Language School  
Kurus English CC  
LAL Cape Town  

Babylon Idiomas  
International House - Sevilla CLIC  
Inturjoven Spanish Courses   
Malaca Instituto - Club Hispanico SL  

EF Language Colleges Ltd  

University of California San Diego  
Zoni Language Centers  

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