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September 2008 issue

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Having fun down under

Most students are attracted to Australia by the lure of a relaxed beach lifestyle. And with 60,000 kilometres of coastline there is certainly no shortage of beaches to visit! Bethan Norris talks to language schools in Australia about what they have to offer students.

With most of Australia’s major cities located on the coast it would be hard to visit Australia without experiencing some of the country’s famed laid-back beach oriented lifestyle. And for some language school employees, the same factors that attract students from all over the world to study at their school have also been fundamental for them when choosing where to live and work.

Becky Cantor, Director of Studies at GV Noosa, QLD, says, “I moved to Australia many years ago and looked to continue my teaching career in ESL. I worked in the migrant sector in Brisbane for around 15 years, but the lure of the beach and the Noosa lifestyle was too much. The nicest thing about working in Noosa [is that] we see our students out everywhere – at the beach, out for dinner, at the shops. There is a sense of community here that you just don’t get in the city.”

The sense of community and friendliness of the local people is something that most visitors to Australia pick up on wherever they are and in some of the more isolated areas, such as in Australia’s smallest state capital Darwin, this is particularly evident. Tatiana Porter, Centre Manager of ACL Darwin English Centre, NT, says that she first moved to Darwin to experience something different. “I was born in Australia and have lived in regional and urban areas across the country and nothing is like Darwin,” she says. “It is the kind of place that wouldn’t appeal to everyone – it is small, it is hot and it is hard to be anonymous. But for those who want something different, want to meet locals and relax a little, Darwin is perfect.”

An idyllic location is one reason why Kim Edwards at Sea English Academy in Maroochydore, QLD, set up her language school in 2003. “I founded Sea English Academy on the Sunshine Coast because I really believe that this is one of Australia’s most beautiful places to live and offers the best of everything for any student wanting to study in Australia,” she relates. “We have several world famous tourist attractions, including the Australia Zoo, the Big Pineapple and Underwater World, within a few minutes drive from our campus. My personal favourite place is Mooloolaba Beach. It is a special place to visit. You can enjoy a barbecue on the beach or simply enjoy a long walk at sunset. Of course, it is perfect for swimming and surfing as well.”

Even in Australia’s biggest cities, the beach is never far away and students at Sydney English Academy, NSW, are particularly fortunate in that one of Sydney’s most famous beaches is a one-minute walk from the school’s front door. “We obviously think Manly is a great place to study,” says Mick Edwards, Owner of the school. “Shelly Beach is my favourite place. It’s a 10-minute walk from the school along the waterfront. There is a beautiful secluded beach there with barbecues, a small café and a picnic area. If you like snorkelling, the whole area is a marine park so you will see many different types of fish and even a stingray. The school often has barbecues there and the students often stay long into the evening.”

Manly, which is a 25-minute ferry ride across Sydney’s spectacular harbour from the city centre, is the start of a chain of beaches that make up the 30 kilometre-long stretch known as the Northern Beaches. Amanda Henry, Marketing Director of IH Sydney, also located in Manly, says that this area consists of “one beautiful beach – and famous surf breaks as well – after another”. She adds, “In my opinion, the Northern Beaches is the best place in Sydney and it is a part of Sydney which many tourists never actually visit. North Head, just up the hill from IH, is a fantastic area of national park, with an abundance of flora and fauna, untouched by development and construction. North Head has the most spectacular view of the city and the eastern suburbs of Sydney and it is also a great picnic spot during the day or at sunset.”

North Head has a fascinating history, which is exploited by IH Sydney through its Quarantine Ghost Tour run for students over the age of 16 years. “The Quarantine Station at North Head was previously the holding station for those migrants suspected of having diseases who came in on ships from 1834 until the 1900s,” says Henry. “Many people died here so there are supposedly the spirits of these dead souls still around. This whole North Head area was also the home for the native Aboriginal Garrigal people so it is also a sacred Aboriginal burial site. Many aboriginals today will not go anywhere near this area as they are so fearful of it.”
One new school to recently open a branch in Sydney is Eurocentres and Jackie Margarson, Acting Centre Manager at the school, says that the city expertly “combines beach and city life”. She adds, “The location of the school is very central, it is easy to get to all areas of the city being within two minutes walk from the station and has many cafés, restaurants and pubs as well as a park with sports facilities and a pool across the road.”

Sydney city centre is a tourist attraction in itself and the many museums, markets and historic areas appeal to visiting students. It is also within easy reach of the Blue Mountains, which are a particularly favoured destination for Stefan Hofmann at Sydney College of English.

“[The Blue Mountains] are a short drive from Sydney but they are a major change from city life,” he explains. “There are a number of well known tourist areas but there are also many hidden gems such as Wentworth Falls, Six Foot Track, the Everglades and Sublime Point. The Blue Mountains offer a great mix of nature as well as a number of very pleasant, clean towns.”

When it comes to getting away from it all, Perth – on the west coast of Australia – offers a different experience from the busy towns and cities of the east coast. Leanne Everett, Finance and Marketing Manager at Language Links in Perth, WA, says that the city is a particularly good place for students to come to when travelling overseas for the first time. “It makes the transition period a lot easier as Perth is a small city with friendly, welcoming people,” she says. “It helps students adjust to a new culture and country. Also, with Perth being a smaller city than most major cities, the accommodation is often very close to the city centre and the college, making it easier for students to travel to and from college and to access surrounding facilities.”

The city is also a good base to explore other highlights in the state of Western Australia, including the Margaret River wine regions further south and, for those with a bit more time to spare, Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth in the north, where it is possible to swim with whale sharks – the largest fish in the world. Luisa Maestri from Eurocentres in Perth says that the annual street arts festival, which is held in Fremantle every year, is also popular with students, while the City of Perth Festival features “theatre dance, visual arts, music, talks and family activities”.

Festivals and outdoor events feature heavily in Australia’s calendar and Melissa Patrick, Marketing Manager at Eurocentres Brisbane, QLD, says that a particular favourite among students is the Royal Queensland Show, also known as the Ekka. “At the Ekka, farmers bring their livestock and produce to the city for showing and to be judged,” she says. “In addition, there are fairground rides and amusements. The Ekka is held every year in August and is truly a cultural event.”

Porter says that Darwin holds many festivals and outdoor events in the dry season. A favourite place to visit at this time is the Mindil Beach Markets, she says. “These are held twice a week in the late afternoon/evening. Being held on the foreshore guarantees a spectacular sunset every time.”

With so much to see and do in Australia, language schools in any location can be the base for further trips to the surrounding area. Patrick says that Brisbane is an ideal place to study because of its sub-tropical climate and the fact that it is a central base from which to explore other parts of the country. “The Gold and Sunshine Coasts, which lie either side of Brisbane, are must-see destinations. The clean white sand and surf beaches are beautiful,” she explains. “I usually advise our students to visit Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala sanctuary, which is the biggest koala sanctuary in the world. At Lone Pine, students can have the opportunity to hold a koala and to feed kangaroos and emus.”

In Cairns, QLD, Sun Pacific College provides the ideal location for exploring the nearby Great Barrier Reef and tropical rainforest, according to Barbara Guise, Teacher at the school. “The Great Barrier Reef is my favourite place in Cairns,” she says. “I love snorkelling and swimming and the water temperature here is wonderful. Many students go diving and snorkelling on the reef. It is a must for all visitors to Cairns. We also recommend rafting, bungee jumping and sky-diving, aboriginal cultural experiences and driving up to Atherton Tablelands or the city of Port Douglas and Mossman Gorge.”

Studying in Australia is not all about having fun all the time, however, and Guise points out another attraction for students of the city of Cairns. “There are many opportunities for students to work in Cairns,” she says. “Cairns is a tourist based economy and the students have an important role to play. Because tourists come from many different countries, students with the ability to speak another language are welcomed and needed.”

However, the most important part of any trip to Australia is experiencing some of the country’s truly unique offerings. In Darwin, Porter says that the city has a distinctive flavour that is very different from the rest of Australia. “Darwin is closer to Jakarta and Singapore than it is to other Australian capital cities so there is a bond to southeast Asia and this is reflected in the foods available and the weekend markets,” she says. The city is also within easy reach of Kakadu National Park and the Adelaide River, which is home to an abundance of wildlife, including crocodiles.

“I personally like Mataranka Springs,” explains Porter. “I think it is magical – you can float down this perfectly clear waterway with colourful birds and enormous dragonflies flying alongside you. The first time is always apprehensive because you can’t enter the water in the Northern Territory without thinking about crocodiles, but after that it is bliss.”

Agent viewpoint

Francois Ville, Frogs Down Under, Australia
“Australia has replaced the USA as the dream destination. The pulling power of Australia can’t be denied so much so that students sometimes forget what their primary goal was. Students definitely like the cleanliness of the place and safety and tolerance follow shortly after. Especially the overall support any student would get if lost or in need of attention. Out of 15 students who lost their wallet in Perth, 14 were returned to me – my business card was in their wallet – by dutiful citizens. Cafés, art galleries and museums add a lot to the atmosphere of the area.”

 Theresa Baumann, Castles, Switzerland
“Australia is usually chosen by younger students (20-to-25 years) who have got lots of time to do some travelling after their studies and who want to flee the Swiss winter. It is more for students taking General English courses rather than Cambridge exam courses. Everybody likes the country and its people – anything is bigger than Switzerland. So it is mainly the size of the country and the openness of the inhabitants they admire.”

 Claudio Cesarano, Globo-Study Sprachreiesen, Switzerland
“Australia is the most popular English destination in Switzerland because the red continent offers not only quality language schools but is also ideal to travel around after the student’s studies. So, students can actually practise their English immediately after their course, which is fantastic. Most of the students also like to stay in a mild warm climate for a long time and therefore choose Australia rather than a European destination. Students really like that Australia is a very safe and secure place and the Swiss love it that Australians are so easy going and extremely friendly. They like the fact that there is so much space all over as we are living in a tiny country and not used to having so much air to breathe. The Swiss like the beach life, surfing and of course the international mixture of the schools.”

 Karina Mills, Australian Studies Advice, Australia
“Students choose to study in Australia because it has low levels of violence and crime, wonderful beaches, a high standard of education, pleasant weather, high quality of life, friendly and hospitable people, the cost of living is lower than the USA and UK and international students are allowed to work up to 20 hours a week. The majority of students who come to the Gold Coast, Byron Bay, the Sunshine Coast or Cairns love the beaches and quality of life.”

 Ursel Rutz, Surprise Reisen AG, Switzerland
“Australia is a very popular destination for young Swiss students because it is so completely different from everything they have at home. They thoroughly enjoy what the Red Continent is known for: beaches, surfing, wildlife, outback, scuba diving etc. Language study is important to them, and they have ambitious goals, but at the same time they experience and come to appreciate the laid-back Aussie lifestyle which is quite unlike their own clock-work thinking. Australia offers good value for money, and not even the long flight times discourage them from embarking on what they expect to become their once-in-a-lifetime adventure.”

 Jacques Fayolle, Agent Immobilier et Coordinatrice Services Clientele, Australia
“Students are attracted to Australia and the Sunshine Coast in particular because of its international reputation as a pristine natural environment where the more relaxed beach lifestyle proves to be a wonderful backdrop to the more hectic and stressful pace of their university and study programmes. Students from New Caledonia and Vanuatu love the fact that Australia is so close to their countries. The lower costs of living and accommodation are a big draw card for our students. Australia’s reputation for friendliness and helpfulness, together with Australia’s lower crime rates, are also seen as making the Sunshine Coast a very favourable study destination. Students fall in love with the wonderful blue skies and the warm climate. Students just love how clean and green everything is and how much there is to see and do. Students are stunned and delighted to discover the large family of kangaroos and other Australian fauna living on the campus at the University of the Sunshine Coast. In the Sunshine Coast, students learn to surf, jet-ski and mountain bike in some of Australia’s most beautiful national parks. They also go off-track driving, join in beach volleyball and enjoy the laid-back beach lifestyle.”

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





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