As many of you will know I live in North Yorkshire, the most northern part of the biggest county in England. It is known as ‘God’s own country’, an epithet which is richly deserved for its beauty and diversity as well as its size, but one that was most likely bestowed upon it by the locals!
Yorkshire is indeed lovely as are the surrounding counties of Northumberland, Durham, Derbyshire, Cheshire, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Cumbria then on northwards into Scotland… can you see where this is going? There is far more to see and do north of Oxford than there is south of it (I exclude Wales, Devon and Cornwall here as they are equally blighted by the concentration of everything EFL on London!). Then there’s Norfolk and Suffolk, and what about the heart of England? There is so much to see, do and experience and guess what – these natives are friendly and they speak English! Just look at a map of the UK and see how much is missing off of the EFL course map!
I have been told at different times over the years by people that supposedly ‘know’ that students ONLY want to go to London and the South East of the UK (this would include Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton and the Southern sea-side towns). These people say that the students HAVE to be within easy reach (1 hour or so?) of Heathrow or Gatwick airports. Now my question is – given that the UK is such a very small land mass – are these ONLYs and HAVE TOs coming from the students or from London-centric EFL organisations who think that the M25 is open countryside?
I find it hard to believe that a 2-hour train journey from London (if indeed Heathrow and Gatwick are the ONLY possible airports to fly to) is such a long way if you are used to countries the size of France, Germany and Spain!
Could it be, actually, that nobody is really being given a choice? Perhaps I’m being paranoid but I do know from friends and colleagues in the EFL industry that there are problems placing all the students wanting to enroll in certain courses in the London area, yet other friends and colleague’s further north are never given consideration as suitable alternatives.
If you are visiting the UK for the first time, then London is a must see/do. I agree there is so much history and culture there.
It is relatively easy to get around and it is a 24-hour city which can be very exciting. However, I feel strongly that not all students want to go to London, especially if they live in a big city themselves or have already experienced London. Are these people being given a wide enough choice of UK venues in which to study? I don’t think so and it isn’t because there aren’t any schools or courses, it is more a matter of lack of knowledge (or too much self-interest?) from our industry.
I have personal experience of lack of knowledge of all points north! When I first moved (back) to North Yorkshire from London years ago, I was bombarded with uneasy comments from my London friends. They asked me questions like:
- Why would you want to go there? Isn’t it all dirty, polluted mill towns? (Er, yeah in the 19th century!)
- Where should we stop over on the way? (Er, it’s only a 4-hour journey by car and 2+ hours by train!)
- Is the weather very cold? (I’m not even going to answer that one!)
- Can we stop off in Durham on the way? (only if you go past us and then come back!)
I know these prejudices happen in many countries, but the north-south divide in the UK is alive and well! I will also lay some blame at the feet of the regional tourist boards for not promoting as much as they perhaps should (this is changing a lot nowadays especially in Yorkshire which attracts lots of amazing events such as the Tour de France a couple of years ago)! It made me think though – if there is that much ignorance on the part of my fellow Britons who live in this beautiful country then how much more difficult must it be for visitors from other countries to get quality information on where to visit and stay anywhere in the UK except London!
I have had two students recently who were undeterred by not being able to fly to Heathrow or Gatwick. One flew to Edinburgh and then took the two-hour train journey through some wonderful countryside to our local town (bearing in mind it will take the better part of an hour to get through to the arrivals hall at either Heathrow and Gatwick and then another hour or so into London itself). The second flew to Amsterdam from her native Milan and then took the short hop over to our local airport (30 minutes’ drive away). Neither felt they had come to the back of beyond nor did they feel that the journey was too onerous.
So, if you are thinking of taking a course in the UK, come north!
I promise we’ll put the woad away (according to the Romans – people in the north of England used to paint themselves blue with woad to scare away their enemies!) and you’ll find us a very warm, friendly bunch of people!
We have great cities, history in abundance, amazing scenery, and lots of space – no crowded roads, streets or shops! What’s more is we have great, friendly people. One of the greatest experiences that you can have as a student enjoying an immersion experience is to spend time relaxing in conversation with the locals. You will find yourself immersed in easy conversation over a pint and a warming and delicious dish of Shepherd’s pie at the pub and will lose all of your English language inhibitions like worrying over your grammar or your accent. This is where the real magic of an English language immersion programme happens! This is where you make your greatest progress, just living life amongst the people.
And that is exactly what we have for you when you come to visit us in the North at Fleetham Lodge. Our home is a warm and inviting place for you to relax and we provide personalised support and instruction to improve your English skills to the utmost. Your every need is seen to; from delicious meals to your cosy room to exciting and inspiring experiences that we know you will enjoy. So, if you think you can handle it, here is my challenge to you: turn your back on Heathrow and Gatwick, look to Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester or Leeds. Set your feet northwards and give us a try! You won’t regret it!