Westgate and Colombian students buddy up in Broadstairs English Centre ‘immersion project’

Columbia/Ursuline buddies and teachers outside West Bay Cafe

Broadstairs English Centre has been re-establishing links locally and internationally as it moves ahead with business following the long break due to the pandemic

Throughout the pandemic restrictions and beyond, Principal Chris McDermott and his team have continued to maintain and explore links abroad, offering young students the opportunity to visit the UK, expand their language skills and explore the culture and heritage of the area.

The latest successful link is a three-week ‘immersion’ with Ursuline College Roman Catholic Academy, Westgate, by two separate Roman Catholic secondary girls’ schools in Colombia – Corales School on the north Atlantic coast near Puerto Colombia and Tacuri School on the south Pacific coast near the frontier with Equador. Both are members of the Aspaen Trust that runs 20 different schools.

Already this year the BEC immersion project has seen links re-established with Chatham and Clarendon House Grammar in Ramsgate, Upton Juniors in Broadstairs and Cliftonville Primary, involving students from Sardinia and Forli in Italy, Panama, as well as another group from Colombia.

Mr McDermott said: “Our links with these schools have been hugely successful and we are delighted once again to see our young visitors partnering with their students.”

As part of their experience the visitors are linked with buddy students as they explore life inside British education first hand and close up.

On a seaside trip to West Bay in Westgate for lunch and a get together outside the classroom, Ursuline sixth former Holly said: “We all love it – we have made lots of friends, shared so many thoughts and ideas about our respective cultures, and created strong links. We don’t want it to end.”

Isabella and Holly

Her Colombian buddy Isabella agreed: “It is really interesting and the people we have met are kind and helpful. It is a good way to find out about another school in a different country.”

Zoe Billings, a Vice Principal at Ursuline, added: “The immersion project is brilliant for our pupils. It has truly broadened the horizons of both sets of students and it is an extremely valuable experience both educationally and socially.”

Teachers Diana Patricia De Vivero De La Ossa and Judy Alejandra Calvo Velasquez said: “It is wonderful for our students as it promotes improvements in their learning, they increase their ability to focus on information, pay attention to details and increase their vocabulary.

“They practice listening, writing, speaking and reading. They push themselves to try to become fluent.

“We have learnt a lot and loved the experience of sharing with you and gaining a closer insight of your culture. We hope you can visit our country too.”

Andy Somers, who has experience working with international students around the world, is Immersion School Liaison Officer for the programme. He said: “This is an important and exciting time for Broadstairs English Centre. We have re-established our strong links with local forward-thinking schools and it is clear that the benefits of this partnership are working both ways for each set of students.”

Mr McDermott added: “The overall idea is to immerse our international visitors in our education, culture and heritage. In this way we can broaden the life and learning experiences for children across Europe and in our part of the UK. The immersion project is an integral part of our ethos. Schools in our area and in our partner countries value this programme very highly.”

During their stay in Thanet, the Colombian girls – who stayed in residential accommodation at BEC – shared lessons and activities at Ursuline, as well as enjoying a varied programme of events.

These included trips to Canterbury, London, Whitstable, Oxford and Cambridge as well as activities such as street dance, karaoke, masquerade mask making, martial arts, a coastal walk, a quiz night, making their own movies using computer tablets, drama, and a farewell get-together.

Broadstairs English Centre is still ranked the number one year-round young learners’ school in the UK by the El Gazette, based on their most recent British Council Inspection.