Most students coming to the UK to improve their English head for the big cities and well-known places.
That is great for some students. But others are looking for something different, which is where schools like the Bury Language School are perfect.
Bury St Edmunds is a lovely little market town just 20 minutes from Cambridge and within easy reach of London – yet few people outside England have ever heard of it.
But it is delighting its own students. Patrick Murphy, its director, says that 95 per cent of off-peak visitors come because they have heard good things about the school from other people. Only five per cent are sent by agents, rising to 25 per cent in the summer.
Mr Murphy himself comes from South Africa, and discovered Bury St Edmunds by accident when he was an English teacher in London. “I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t already an English school here, so I started one,” he says.
“The town is exactly how you imagine England must be, without being stuck in the past. The town is part of English history. Charles Dickens wrote The Pickwick Papers in the pub next door to the school, Edmund was really the first English king, and we have a cathedral and the second-oldest theatre in England. But we also have a multiplex cinema.”
Mr Murphy says the school also has fantastic views, looking on to the Abbey gate. “I am obsessive about views since I taught in an underground classroom in London,” he says.
He says there are many advantages for students in studying in Bury. One thing is that they learn fast because there are no other overseas students in the town and so they have to speak English to communicate. Most host families also have lovely houses and are genuinely keen to meet students from other countries.
By Susan Young - firstname.lastname@example.org