Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Invasion of Eastbourne 2008

My local town of Eastbourne is known worldwide for its excellent language schools. All year round students from the four corners of the globe bring us a welcome touch of colour and culture.
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

4 comments:

  1. Year ago we were a host family a couple of times and enjoyed it very much although it was a lot of extra work. We made trips to show them some of the nice places. One girl made a beautiful book for us with pictures and explanations about her country and culture. Al with all a great experience for the young people and for host families.

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  2. What a wonderful experience this must be for the students, and for those of the locals who choose to let it.

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  3. I can't believe I missed this bit here. This is a fantastic article Keith.

    Missy

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  4. I would welcome this sort of diversity here. When I first came to Kentucky, the college where I worked had a number of Japanese students. We were among folks that these kids stayed with during vacations, since they couldn't afford to go home. I learned much from them, and when that particular program ended, of course, there were no more Japanese or any other nationality at the school. I think it helps the local community to have different perspectives and cultures brought in.

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