Meet the Staff: Clare the accommodation manager

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In today’s post we are happy to introduce you to Clare who works as our Accommodation Manager. Clare works hard to place students into suitable accommodation including home-stays and student houses. Some of our students’ best experiences come from the time they spend with their home-stay families and house-mates, with Clare always trying to arrange a good combination of nationalities and age-groups under the one roof.

Clare, tell us about yourself. Are you originally from Byron Bay?

I grew up in Sydney and then moved down to the South Coast with my husband and daughter when she was 18 months old. She is now 15 and I have another daughter who is 13 and a 10 year old son.
We always holidayed in Byron Bay as a family and 5 years ago decided to move here permanently. My kids love the lifestyle here and so do I.

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One of the BBELS student houses.

How long have you been working at BBELS?

I have been working at BBELS for 18months. I started helping out in the student houses and now I look after all the accommodation at BBELS. Before that I was raising my 3 children and before that I was a primary school teacher in Sydney’s west.

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Inside one of the BBELS student houses.

What do you especially enjoy about working with the students at BBELS?

Because I have teenage daughters I feel that I can be a sort of mum to the younger students when their own is so far away. The most important thing for me is to make sure the students feel comfortable with their accommodation so they can get the most out of their study time at BBELS.

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One of the BBELS home-stay families.

As the accommodation manager, what advice would you give a student who wants to study at BBELS and find a comfortable place to stay?

The most important advice I can give is if they are studying from September to March that they make sure they have booked a suitable amount of accommodation with BBELS. This is the busiest time in Byron Bay and accommodation is not easy to find. If they want to be close to town then the student houses are a great option but if they want to experience living with the locals then homestay is a perfect choice.

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Inside a BBELS student house: kitchen and dining room area.

What are some things you’d recommend students do while they are here in the Byron Bay Region?

Surfing of course and experiencing our beautiful beaches. BBELS provides students with all sorts of wonderful extra-curricular activities that pretty much cover everything this region has to offer.

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Meet the students: Luiz from Brazil

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Please meet Luiz from Brazil! Luiz came to Byron Bay with his family a couple of months ago. His outgoing personality has endeared him to the students and staff at BBELS. In this interview Luiz talks about his time at school, his wife, and his daughter who is attending a local primary school.

Luiz, can you tell us why you decided to come to Australia?

I chose Australia because I’d heard many positive things about the country and the Australian people. The reason I came to Byron Bay is because I was looking for a small and unique town with beautiful beaches and warm weather. Well, I was looking for a paradise and I found it.

Why did you choose BBELS?

When I saw a picture of BBELS on the Internet with many bicycles and the blue balcony I had a good feeling about it. I knew I would love it. Of course, my agent helped me a lot with my decision too.

Can you tell us your impressions of BBELS.

It is a very nice place to study English, to meet people from all over the world and to make new friends. The teachers and staff members are very friendly and helpful. The school building doesn’t look like a school. It has a very funky atmosphere which makes it a great place to meet people and learn English in a very natural and fun way.

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What is it like to travel with your family to another country while also learning English?

It was an old dream that came true. When I was 20, I decided to live for at least one year abroad. 42 years late here I am, with my family. It has been wonderful to have my wife Ana and daughter Julia with me. Ana is a brave, lovely and beautiful woman and Julia takes after her. Julia is going to the primary school in Byron Bay. It’s great to see my daughter growing up and learning English as a second language.

Byron Bay is well known for its natural wonders…which place is your favourite place in Byron?

It’s a difficult question because there are so many amazing places here. But I have to say that Wategos beach, the Lighthouse, Main beach and Tallow’s Beach are amazing.

Luiz, tell us about your life in Brazil. Have you found any similarity between the Australian and Brazilian cultures? Have you found any Australian habits that you think are very different from your culture?

My life in São Paulo was very good. I have many friends there and a good job. But São Paulo is a city of twelve million people. It is very different to Byron Bay. As for the people, I think the Aussies are as friendly as the Brazilians and it makes me feel at home. Beside the language, I haven’t found any great differences between the two cultures.

 

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Meet the staff: Chris

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In this week’s installment of “meet the staff” we are introducing you to Chris. Chris is popular with the students, teaching in both the General English and Cambridge courses.

Chris, tell us about yourself. Are you originally from this area?

No, I’m not. I’m originally from a great town in New Zealand called Nelson. I first visited Byron Bay in early 2009 for a yoga teacher training course, and fell in love with the place! Three years later, I made the move here and here I am, still!

How long have you been teaching at BBELS?

So far, I’ve had 3 years of great times here at BBELS.

What do you especially enjoy about teaching the students at BBELS?

I love their enthusiasm, open-mindedness, and passion to learn new things and have new experiences!

What other fields did you work in before you started teaching English at BBELS? Has it helped you as a teacher?

I’ve done all kinds of jobs over the years, from bar and restaurant work to ski guiding and photography, gardening and building to surf/snow/skate shop retail. All of them have helped me develop into who I am today. Also, teaching yoga to some very unfit and inflexible people helped me develop the necessary patience to become a better English teacher!

We know you are very engaged with the local community, and you are always keen to engage your students in very special local projects. Could you tell us about it?

One of my true passions is the natural world, and I believe a healthy environment is the single most important thing for our own health and happiness. With this in mind, I work with a local NGO called Positive Change for Marine Life, which seeks to educate people and raise awareness of the massive damage humans are causing to the ocean ecosystem. One thing we do is conduct regular beach cleans, and I’m always happy to have students from BBELS join us with these! It’s also a great opportunity for students to meet and chat to other members of the local community.

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Do you have any tips for the new students who want to improve their English skills?

Yes, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!! Hahaha, I’m just joking! Well, I’m half-joking… You should definitely do any homework your teacher gives you, but more importantly, remember WHY you are learning English: to communicate with people from other countries! So, get out there and spend as much time as possible speaking English to all sorts of people. Your English will improve a lot, AND you’ll make great friends and learn things you have never thought about before!

What are some things you’d recommend students do while they are here in the Byron Bay Region?

Do all the things that really make life great! Spend time with great people, listen to great music, dance like a crazy person, try surfing, watch the sunrise from the lighthouse or top of Mt. Warning, do some yoga, think about life, go snorkelling or diving with the incredible marine life we have here, eat yummy local food and drink a couple of cold, local beers sometimes!

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An interview with Ainara: making grammar fun!

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In today’s post we have an interview conducted by Luiz, one of our very popular and unique Brazilian students. Luiz interviewed one of our long-term students, Ainara, as part of a grammar activity. This type of communicative approach towards grammar is just one of the reasons our students enjoy coming to class each day.

On the BBELS balcony, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ainara, a 22 year old from the Basque country in Spain.

At first I wanted to know about her course. She told me that she had been studying for about seven months and added that she would be finished in eleven weeks. I asked her about her free time and she said that she loved spending time on the beaches of Byron Bay with her friends.

I wondered if her classmates had been helpful and she replied that they had. She added that she’d had a lot of classmates because she’d changed her level and had met a lot of students who had stayed at BBELS for a short time.

I wanted to know about her accommodation and she told me that she had been living with an Australian girl and that had helped her English. When asked about what tips she could give to new students, Ainara said that it is important to be an open person and to participate in class and afterschool activities. Ainara added that visitors to Byron Bay must definitely visit the Lighthouse and watch the sunrise from there.

My next question was what she had learned in Byron apart from English. She said that she felt she had learnt about how to survive on her own and all about her strengths and weaknesses. All of these things have helped her get to know herself. When I asked her to describe in a few words the difference between the girl who arrived in Byron and the girl who will return home she smiled and sat in silence. Finally she said that the girl who is returning has learnt to believe in herself.

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New Course: English + High Performance Surfing

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BBELS is proud to announce its newest English Plus program:

 English + High Performance Surfing

This course is a result of collaboration between BBELS and the Hurley Surfing Australia High Performance Centre (HPC).

The Hurley Surfing Australia High Performance Centre (HPC) is the world’s first facility dedicated to the development of all surfers.

The HPC is not just for elite surfers – it is for any surfer who would like to improve their surfing ability.

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All year round the HPC offers programmes for international surfers looking to dramatically improve and reach their full potential under the constant guidance of HPC coaches.

We offer three different programmes for BBELS students who want to learn English and maximize their surfing skills:

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English + Surf Coaching 1:

First: study English at BBELS

Then: move to the Casuarina area for surf coaching. The HPC programme would include surf coaching, accommodation (onsite or local host family) meals and transport. Duration of surf coaching programme: 2-4 weeks.

English + Surf Coaching 2:

First: study English at BBELS

Then: move to the Casuarina area for surf coaching. The HPC programme would include a surf camp, onsite accommodation, and meals. Duration of the surf camp: 1-5 days.

English + Surf Coaching 3:

English studies at BBELS from Monday to Friday, then travel to the HPC for surf coaching on the weekends.

If students decide to book this package, they’ll be living in Byron Bay during the duration of the English language course and surf coaching, and will also have to organize their own transport to Kingscliff.

This course is subject to availability at the HPC, and it is more suitable to students enrolled in English part-time courses.

All HPC surf coaching programmes include:

  • Expert coaching from experienced HPC coaches
  • Surfing sessions with video analysis
  • Streetboardz sessions to practice technique
  • Access to a test quiver of 35 DHD and Mayhem surfboards and FCS test drive centre

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HPC coaches are recognised world-wide for their programs which have been fine-tuned while working with Team Australia, WCT surfers and hundreds of high profile junior surfers.

Would you like to get more information?

Send us an e-mail to info@bbels.com.au

 

 

 

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Meet the students: Mojahid from Saudi Arabia

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Continuing our series of “Meet the students” we are happy to introduce Mojahid from Saudia Arabia. Mojahid has enjoyed the beautiful natural experiences in Byron Bay, developing his surfing skills while also preparing for the IELTS exam.

Why did you decide to come to Australia?

Well, actually this is my 3rd time in Australia! The first time I was in Sydney. The second time I went to Noosa. For this third time, I was looking for a small town close to the beach. But the location wasn’t the only decisive factor. I also wanted to find a place where I could have a great time and improve my English. I was talking to some friends and they had told me there weren’t many Middle Eastern students in Byron Bay, so I decided to come over and have a look. I loved the place and the fact that there weren’t many students speaking Arabic was very positive, so I had to speak English all the time, which is great. In my opinion, Byron Bay is the perfect destination to learn English and enjoy the outdoors, especially for students from my age group.
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Mojahid enjoying a cooking lesson with his IELTS class.

Why did you choose BBELS?

This time I wanted to study hard to prepare myself for the IELTS exam. During my research for English Schools in Byron Bay, I found some students’ testimonials saying that BBELS have a very strong IELTS preparation course. I also heard from other students that at BBELS students have a very good social life. That’s very important when you are in a distant country learning a second language, because that’s the way you make new friends. BBELS have 2 dedicated people organising activities and travel exclusively for students. Oh yes, and there is the school café (Café Oska) and the school parties! Both are great to relax and catch up with people from all over the world.

Tell us your impressions about BBELS.

The nationality mix at school is very good and it allows me to interact and make friends from many different countries. I’ve been learning a few words in other languages and also interesting things from other cultures

The BBELS staff is very friendly, and my teacher is great. She is very in tune with the official IELTS exam. She knows so much about the English Language and also about the IELTS exam, that by sharing her knowledge with us, she has given me confidence and I really feell ready for the official exam.

Byron Bay is well known for its natural wonders…where is your favourite place in Byron?

Wategos beach! Wategos is my favourite place because I started surfing there. The waves there are perfect for beginners and it never gets too crowded. The beach is stunning and very well preserved. Surfing at Wategos is a beautiful experience. I love the afternoons at Wategos, because dolphins always come very close to the beach, and watching the sunset there, with the lighthouse blinking just before dusk, its magical.
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Saudi Arabian culture is different to Australian culture in many ways…is there any Australian habit that you think is very different from your culture?

Yes! In Australian they eat kangaroo meat. At the beginning it sounds very weird to me, but I tried kangaroo meat, and I love it!

How do you expect the English you have been learning in Australia to help you when you get back to your country?

I am not going back to my country for long. I’m going to Shanghai next year, because I will start a Master in Business. That’s the main goal and the reason why I’m studying English. I need a good score in the IETLS test and also all my classes will be administrated in English.

At BBELS, everyone should….?

Use your English skill that you learn at school to engage yourself into the local community. That’s a great way to improve your vocabulary and also help others.

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Meet the Teachers: Katherina, Cambridge exam co-ordinator.

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In today’s post we have the pleasure of introducing you to Katherina. Katherina is the Cambridge Exam Co-ordinator at BBELS.  Specialising in teaching the Advanced Cambridge Exam classes Katherina also enjoys teaching the General English courses.

What do you especially enjoy about teaching the students at BBELS?

Of course the diversity of cultural backgrounds and ages makes every day an interesting experience. But what I most enjoy is getting to know my students in the classroom through the interaction that unfolds as the course progresses. In any group situation each individual contributes something important to the whole and I appreciate the opportunity of seeing how individual students develop not only academically but also as an important part of the class. The teaching is always mutual; I learn lots from students too!

What other fields did you work in before you started teaching English at BBELS? Has it helped you as a teacher?

I’ve worked in adult education now for about 15 years; 7 at BBELS, 5 in schools overseas (ESL teaching) and a couple of years in evening colleges in Sydney (mostly as a guest lecturer in herbal medicine).

As well as my ESL teaching qualifications,  I completed a 4 year Diploma in Naturopathy and then worked for several years in clinics in Sydney and Byron Bay helping patients with diet, lifestyle and counselling. Although I opted for teaching in the end, this experience has taught me a lot about how to live a healthy life and how to encourage others to move forward in a positive way. The skills I learnt as a practitioner have been very useful as a teacher.

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As the Cambridge coordinator what advice would you give a student who wants to enter the Cambridge courses at BBELS?

The exam preparation courses are intensive courses run over a 10-12 week period and you need an overall grade of 60% to pass. So these courses require a high level of dedication (yes homework!) and commitment both in terms of class attendance (minimum 90%) and classroom participation. But if you think it’s for you, it’s well worth the effort.

When you arrive, you’ll do a placement test to determine which level exam course (FCE, CAE or CPE) is a realistic choice for you.

Ideally if you choose an exam course, you have a clear goal and are prepared to work towards it. Your Cambridge teacher is here to help you prepare for the exam to the best of your ability.

Be prepared for homework assignments, weekly tests and class presentations. You should plan on putting aside several  hours of home study a week outside class time. Your progress will be monitored on an ongoing basis and your teacher will work with you to maximise your strengths and improve any weaknesses.

But you can also be prepared for a bit of fun too. That’s one of the benefits of studying within the the relaxed and friendly environment of BBELS!

What are some things you’d recommend students do while they are here in the Byron Bay Region?

There are so many things to try and the school activities programme will certainly give you loads of great ideas. We fill the school day with lots of productive work but there’s still plenty of time to enjoy what this region offers. My personal favourite is sunrise at any of Byron’s beaches or the Lighthouse if you can make it up there in time, followed by a morning swim (you might see dolphins!) and a breakfast barbecue with friends. Or go to the Byron Farmers’ Market to meet some of the locals and enjoy the beautiful fresh food grown in and around Byron. Take the opportunity to experience and enjoy the stunning natural environment we are blessed with here.

 

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