But in the summer months, the youth population explodes as foreign exchange students flock to the town in their thousands – in excess of 30,000 will stay here for an average of two weeks each during this month and next. To put this in context, the last census recorded a residential population of just 93,631, so you can see how this sudden influx of students changes the local dynamic. And while I’m squirting out numbers, here’s a good one! The total benefit to the town of this annual invasion, is a little over £30 million (give or take $60million)
So what about the impact? Any visitor to the town centre will notice large splashes of colour as groups of students gather outside McDonalds, in the shopping mall and along the seafront. The volume of noise increases – they tend to be more outgoing and vocal than the local kids. And they annoy the hell out of the elderly people who find their presence something of an intrusion. Every week there are letters printed in the local paper about their refusal to form orderly British style queues. Letters about their lack of good manners and complaints that they fill up the local buses.
On the positive side, accommodation has to be provided by host families who find the generous payments a welcome boost during the summer. There are even stories of people moving their own beds into their garage for a couple of months to free up an extra room inside the house for a few more foreigners! With a large enough home it is possible to make a considerable amount of money. The organisations that bring us our students also employ a lot of local assistants.
Walking through the Arndale Centre (our central shopping mall) yesterday and saw kids of countless nationalities. Most are from Europe – Germany, France, Spain and Italy in particular, but there are also groups from Japan, Canada, Africa and Scandinavia. It seems that the demand for places in Eastbourne is growing, mainly because it has the reputation of being the safest place in the UK for young visitors from overseas.
I would say the locals are pretty well split equally on their feelings toward this annual phenomenon. Some resent their being here at all, many simply tolerate them, and others welcome them with open arms. It should be said however that the Eastbourne kids are not too keen. The extra boyfriend/girlfriend competition can be a trifle difficult for them! As for me, I think the town would be a poorer place without them.
photos google images