Meeting some amazing people
I worked for several years at the Brighton offices of EF, the language travel organisation. EF were responsible for bringing thousands of students from other European countries to UK to learn English during the summer holidays and Brighton was one of the most popular centres. The students all used to meet up in Churchill Square in the early evening and were a familiar (and not always popular!) sight around town, with their distinctive blue and white bags.
I had to buy 33 ice creams!
My first job there was as a teacher/local guide and my first group of students came from Italy. We went to play football in Hove Park on the day my University exam results were announced and I was really nervous. I remember sitting on the grass at the far end of the park – it was a lovely, warm, sunny day – and suddenly seeing my boyfriend (now husband) cycling across the park at full speed. I knew he’d come from the campus at Falmer. The brakes on his bike didn’t work very well, so he threw himself off it and shouted “You got a 2:1!” I had to explain what he meant to the students, who then started chanting: “Ci paghi i gelati”, which means “Buy us an ice-cream” – apparently it’s the custom in Italy that if you pass your exams, you treat all your friends. I had to go and buy 33 ice creams from the cafe in the park.
High ratings from the students
Over the summer of 1987 I was the Accommodation and Welfare Officer for the first permanent EF Language College, now located in Sussex Square. I drove all over Brighton and Hove visiting host families and met some amazing people, who really did everything possible to make the students feel welcome – showing them around Brighton, taking them up to London or on outings locally. Things didn’t always work out well – I remember some fraught journeys to collect miserable students from grumpy families – but that was rare. At the end of the summer, the Brighton college recorded the highest percentage of students rating their host families ‘Excellent’. I still think about some of the families when I drive past their houses – a lot of them had children of their own who would be grown up by now. I wonder if any of them remember the students who stayed with them?