As a language teacher in Cork, Ireland, I’m used to living in a comparatively small city. My students are all eager to move to London or New York some day, and when asked why, they say that they hope to find their dream job there. When asked about the best places to study, however, their answer is often quite different. For the most part, they are perfectly happy with their choice to move to a smaller city for their studies, rather than some scary, sprawling metropolis. Here are some of the reasons why learning English in small places is a great idea:
Finding your feet
Even if you’re excited to move abroad, homesickness and the language barrier can often be tough obstacles at first. It’s a good idea to start out somewhere smaller and friendlier, where you can acclimatise more quickly. The majority of my students come from South America, and moving to Ireland or the UK is often their first time away from their home country. While some of them have also studied in London or Dublin, they often prefer smaller cities for their friendly atmosphere. When moving to an entirely new country, learning English in small places can be much less daunting, allowing you more time and confidence to focus on your studies.
There’s no way around it – you’ll have a much better chance of improving your English if you are not surrounded by other students who speak your language. Learning English in smaller places means there’s less of a chance that you will encounter large groups of students from your own country. Don’t worry, you won’t be on your own. Foreign students often stick together, and what’s more, it’s easier to get to know the locals in a smaller city. This doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to strike up conversations with random people in the pub, though! Try sites like Meetup to meet like-minded people – this site is great for making friends and pursuing interests in English, from marathon training to mindfulness classes.
Students often find that the cost of living in the UK and Ireland is considerably higher than at home. For this reason, learning English in small places can make much more sense financially. Rents are generally cheaper in smaller cities, even when looking for student accommodation in the city centre. Instead of considering capital cities, why not look at places like Oxford, Brighton or Liverpool? There’s still plenty to see, and day trips to London are still very affordable if you plan your journey strategically.
Getting to know your new home
How many times have you heard that Paris isn’t the real France, or that Rio de Janeiro only shows a fraction of what Brazil is all about? Well, the same goes for learning English in smaller places. Some of the most prestigious buildings, beautiful architecture and fantastic food can be found in smaller places. There’s also the benefit of exposing your ear to regional accents. Forget about the BBC English you expected to find abroad, and ultimately you’ll notice a huge benefit to your accent (and your collection of slang!)