British Studies Web Pages
Postcard from Bournemouth
Ewa Ullman was one of the winners of the British Studies web pages ‘Identity’ competition in the summer of 2001. Her prize was a course at the Westbourne Academy in Bournemouth. This is how she remembers her time there.
More than a nine-day wonder
You lucky swot! I heard you are going to the UK! It's Westbourne Academy in Bournemouth, isn’t it? This is how my teenage brother, Janek, congratulated me on winning the second prize, a language course in England, in a competition organised by the British Council in Poland.
And where is that, by the way?, he kept inquiring.
I knew Bournemouth was somewhere on the south coast of England, near the Isle of Wight, but I wanted to sound more professional, so I went to check it in my beloved Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture. When I read out the short definition of “Bournemouth”, Janek exclaimed:
Sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it? Especially that bit: “ (Bournemouth) [...] a popular place for people to go and live after they have stopped working”: a euphemism for a town full of geriatric Englishmen, don’t you think?
Oh, thanks. You always know how to put someone off something, I replied, and changed the subject.
Now, a couple of months later, having been to Bournemouth, I can admit how unjust both of us were in our first judgement and how little the dictionary definition of Bournemouth tells of what makes up the real spirit of the town.
To prove my point I would like you to have a look at some photos I took during my stay in Bournemouth, as well as some postcards I sent to my family and friends.
4th July 2001
Dear Mum and Dad,
I have been here for 3 days now. I am staying with an English family in a lovely detached house. Vicky, Mrs and Mr Gerry’s daughter, is almost my age, so, although I am still a bit shy, I find it quite easy to talk to her. She is crazy about Winnie the Pooh and her room looks as if taken from Milne’s story.
My room, cute and cosy, is upstairs and has a wonderful view of the neighbourhood: hundreds of typical English terraced houses, everything so quiet and clean; white, yellow and green dominate – just like the towns I used to build of Lego bricks when I was a kid.
Don’t forget, however, that this part of Bournemouth where I am staying is almost in the suburbs. The centre of the town looks so much different! You should see the shopping street, or the little square in the town centre in the middle of which there’s a huge balloon one can get into and rise to the height of about 20 meters! The panorama is breathtaking! The centre is only about 15 minutes’ walk from my school – Westbourne Academy.
My first day was a great surprise. Everyone seems so friendly and open, quite different from the English “stiff-upper-lip” stereotype. All the new students were given a test to assess their level of English and assigned to appropriate classes. There are ten students in my class, ten people from various parts of the world! I have already made friends with Aylin, an 18-year-old girl from Germany and Toma, a Swiss teenager. During my first lunch break I learned about one of the school’s most important rules: we have to speak English at all times, as any student heard speaking any other language is asked to pay 10 pence. This money goes to charity. I do like this policy: it makes us speak English, but at the same time I find it sometimes tempting to use Polish when I talk to Agnieszka, my new friend from Torun.
Well, I have to run now. We have an international table tennis match at 5 p.m. in the recreation room.
I miss you lots!
11th July 2001
I’m sorry I haven’t written earlier. I was quite busy as you can imagine, both with school and sightseeing. Bournemouth is amazing: a whole range of international restaurants, classic English pubs, shopping centres! Of course, what everyone loves here most are the sandy beaches (just one kilometre from the town centre)! Paradise on Earth exists! I don’t have much time during the week to take the Bournemouth Cliff walk or, simply, to bask in the sun, but when the weekend comes – that’s a different story!
I have already made so many friends here: Agnieszka, Aylin, Osman, Toma, Njaka, Nizar, Tae... There are people from 22 countries from all over the world in Westbourne Academy (you should see some of the really cute guys from Switzerland, Italy and Turkey, but don’t tell Glyn about that!). During the week, after classes, we play beachball, tenpin bowling or spend time playing pool or darts in our favourite pub. Therefore, be prepared! I’m sure I’ll finally beat you at billiards!
Still waters run deep and one thing I would never have expected coming to Bournemouth is the nightlife it offers. There are, at least, ten huge discos in the centre. Most of them are multi-storey, offer a whole variety of music (starting with chill-out, and ending with salsa) and are open everyday. If it wasn’t for school, most of the students here would happily spend their time at never-ending parties with the best DJs from London.
I need to finish now, tomorrow will be a busy day. We are going to Oxford and it is a full day excursion.
18th July 2001
You have no idea how much I have missed you. My course in Westbourne Academy is about to finish, so it’s not long before I see you again.
I haven’t had much time to write to you as I was busy studying and visiting places. I went on trips to London (and fulfilled one of my little dreams: I was on a red double-decker), Oxford (and felt the spirit of the learned), Salisbury (I now know that Salisbury Cathedral has got the highest spire of all the cathedrals in Britain).
I have enjoyed the time I have spent in Bournemouth immensely. This has not only been an excellent lesson of English, but, what is most important, a lesson for life. I have got to know so many incredible people, experienced so many different cultures, encountered so many new customs. I am sure the friends I have made here, in Westbourne Academy, will stay my friends forever, no matter whether in Tokyo, Ankara or Torun. This is a wonder that will last more than nine days.
Although I can’t wait to see you, I am sure I will miss everyone I have met in Bournemouth: my lovely host family, inspiring teachers, fellow students, and the town itself.
See you soon!