A pioneering project by Broadstairs English Centre to encourage students from around the world to work together to forge cultural and educational links is going from strength to strength.
BEC, together with partner schools and colleges in Thanet and abroad, has seen its innovative immersion programme grow in stature since its launch in 2017.
In April the latest visitors – a group of 29 students aged between 14 and 16 from the Maria Virgen secondary school in Madrid – partnered up with ‘buddy’ pupils at Dane Court Grammar School in Broadstairs.
The international group has taken part in a variety of lessons and also shared lunch with their counterparts as they experienced life inside British education first hand and close up.
The Madrid party leaders Mayte and Antonio said: “It was a fantastic experience that our students will treasure forever. It was rewarding and enriching and created magical memories – for many of them it was their first trip to the UK and their first international friendships.
“They took part in lessons with students of a similar age and were taken to lunch with their buddies, had a hot meal and sampled English food that they said was really tasty.
“They were looked after so well by the BEC and their host families which made the experience even more pleasurable.”
During their visit, the Spanish contingent also visited important heritage sites in Canterbury and Cambridge; enjoyed evening activities including creating their own i-pad short films, street dance, martial arts and a quiz. They also kept a diary of their visit with prizes awarded at the end of the stay for the best work.
The students also enjoyed exploring Broadstairs town, beach and harbour, interested by the heritage of the area in particular its strong links with Victorian novelist Charles Dickens.
Andy Somers, who has experience working with international students around the world, is the Schools Liaison Officer for the immersion programme. He said: “The young people benefit greatly in their speaking and listening skills through this project, and all Thanet participating schools report that their own students’ experience is just as culturally rewarding.
“This initiative is extremely popular and the BEC link is well and truly established with many schools in the area. It very clearly improves students’ language and communication skills which in turn underpins their self-confidence.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for our children to meet others of similar age from different countries such as China, Thailand, Spain, and Italy. It gives them an enriched understanding of each other’s lives. More immersion trips are planned through this year – they are very popular.”
Mr Somers paid tribute to the staff and students at Dane Court Grammar School. He said: “They were extremely welcoming and friendly, and great efforts were made to ensure the visit ran smoothly and was well organised. The host families and the BEC team were also fantastic once again.”
BEC directors Chris and Alex McDermott said: “The immersion project is an integral part of our ethos.
“Schools in our area and in our partner countries value this programme very highly. It is an ongoing project and is another facet of our educational provision that takes international schools and students to another level.
“Students across Europe and beyond are very keen to spend time in our education system – and Broadstairs English Centre with our partner schools is providing just that experience.”