Friday, June 01, 2012 Herald Express..............
AS I WRITE this column, the sun is streaming through my window and the air is suddenly warm. It is worth mentioning because this year the weather so far has been dismal and I can’t remember ever needing the heating on mid May! Sunshine makes such a difference to the collective mood and a blast of bright sparkling sunlight really does tend lift flagging spirits. Beautiful bird song soon after dawn this morning seemed to say it all for they too were celebrating the start of a sunny day in South Devon.
Now one of the lovely things about Torbay at this time of year, in my opinion, is the welcome arrival of numerous foreign students who have chosen the English Riviera as a temporary home while improving their already excellent spoken English. They bring with them an almost electric vibrancy that tends to send the Riviera air ringing with beautiful words like ‘Buon giorno!’, ‘Fantastico!’ and ‘¡Hola!’
But of course they bring more than a much needed breath of fresh air. In this hugely troubled economic time they bring with them a much needed income boost for many local families and the business community. It is all too easy to lose sight of the value of this influx to our community and simply pretend, as many do, that they don’t exist. That ‘willful blindness’ is sadly somewhat endemic among many of the local decision makers locally who still habitually plough the same furrow and quizzically wonder why the outcome is no better than the year before. But don’t get me started on process and outcome! Hmm. In raw basic economic terms, these foreign students provide a potential source of potential disposable income for cash strapped communities in these merciless times. That additional income then becomes part of a local economic upward cycle rather than a hopeless downward spiral. All contributions to the communal coffers will be gratefully accepted!
Let me share a couple of things with you. The first must be about the joy of sharing of your home with new friends from exciting foreign parts. As one young father said to me: “It’s not just about the money. We just love having foreign students in the house because they bring a whole new cultural experience to my young children. “However, having said that, the money is also very welcome and this year we have had a total of 18 already. “They come from all over Europe and seem to love being part of the family. I hope that when my children get older they will want to do the same thing.” Of course it isn’t just the summer, since many local businesses have interns from mainland Europe throughout the year for periods of up to three months. These interns are funded by the European Community and bring a new cultural dimension to local business as well as an extra pair of hands. Once again, this is much needed additional income for the English Riviera as they live with families, shop locally and visit our numerous wonderful tourist attractions. They also meet up in local pubs and clubs, travel by bus and taxi, bringing more than welcome custom where it is much needed.
Ian Smith of the Training Partnership in Torquay (The Training Partnership brings hundreds of language visitors to South Devon every year and provides a first rate service) tells me that the intern places are also available for our young folk in Europe. He says that these are all fully funded work experience positions which means, although unpaid, outgoings are covered, including accommodation, language tuition, local support and transport. How good is that? Sadly, he also says, that it is almost impossible to find local people who want to participate. What a great way to smarten up a CV with overseas work experience in an employment market which is now so highly competitive. If you are interested and still reading this then please give Ian a call.
In passing, years ago I used to teach overseas students to windsurf and remember clearly asking whether they could understand what I was saying. The reply still makes me smile today. “Oh yes,” said Marcus, “But why are you speaking so slowly?” So often we worry that there will be a language problem in dealing with people from overseas, but that isn’t usually the case and anyway, when all is said and, done a winning smile carries the day! So let’s throw open the doors and windows around South Devon allowing new young friends from overseas to boost the energy of the English Riviera.