Introduction by Sarah Tomlinson:

Every Student at Isca has their own story to tell about their experience at our Language School.  I have asked our students if they wil

l tell you their stories and

I look forward to sharing these with you in our blog.

This is Eli ‘s story. She came to study English with us for three summers (including the one when it rained every single day!) and it is always lovely to see her smiling face when she comes back to visit us.

We saw her grow up and become the young woman she is today and reading her story it makes me so proud to see that she feels we helped her on her way.

Thank you so much Eli for writing this story for our blog:

This is Eli’s experience of the Isca School:

When I think about th

e times at the Isca School of English in Exeter, there are numerous things that come to my mind immediately:

  • the people I met there: the friends I made in different countries all over the world, my lovely host family, all the members of the Tomlinson family, the teachers
  • the lessons at school: the most fun and efficient way to study English
  • the excursions: all the beautiful places in Devon that we visited
  • the activities: canoeing, little bike trips or just a coffee on the Cathedral Green

It is now more than ten years ago that I first went to study at Isca. Then, I was a 14-year-old girl from Germany, very shy and on my first trip alone to a foreign country. Without a smartphone I was supposed to meet a member of the school at London Heathrow and very nervous. But as soon as I found the guy with the Isca School sign waiting for me in the arrivals hall I started to feel a lot better. After getting to know the other students who arrived the same day, we travelled to Exeter to meet our host families. Little did I know that my host parents would become very important people in my live that I am still in touch with and whom I visited even after I was too old to be an Isca student.

Being at the school is obviously about improving your English. But even though it is called school and there are teachers and classes, it is still fun. And it works! I learned new vocabulary, got more secure about English grammar and, probably most importantly, overall a lot more confident to write and talk in this foreign language. This has not only been helpful in school, but also later in university, during my first jobs and of course also when traveling.

Apart from the classes there are many other things organised by the school and which are in a way also learning opportunities. During sports activities or while going on a trip to nearby places, surrounded by people from different countries, speaking English comes naturally. I particularly remember playing “rounders” at the sports evening, the canoeing tours and my favourite trips were to Sidmouth, Exmouth, and Bath.

In hindsight, it was definitely a good idea to always go alone, because that way I was really forced to speak English only and among all the international students there is a friend for everyone! Some people I am still in touch with today and despite the distance we accompanied each other growing up, arranged video calls and every once in a while, we will go and visit. I, for example, have been to different places in Italy and Spain and welcomed many friends at my parents’ house but also later in my own student apartment.

One other thing I need to mention here is the Tomlinson family. Every single member working at the school is always present. They will know your name within seconds, recognise you when you are coming back and care about you like you are a beloved family member or a close friend. During one of my stays I caught the flu and while I was determined to go to school in the morning, by midday the only thing I wanted was a hot drink and a bed. This was when I came to sit in Jo Tomlinson’s kitchen with tea and was afterwards packed into a cosy, quiet room to sleep. Whatever the problem is – I am sure they will find a solution!

After I have studied at Isca for three years, my little sisters went to follow my footsteps. I returned to Exeter regularly and multiple times to visit my dear host family. And of course, I would always walk past the school to say hello and share a coffee.

Today I am about to finish my master’s degree in business administration and will probably go on working in sustainability reporting. I still cherish all my Isca memories and wouldn’t want to miss any of them. I have benefited from staying there not only professionally, but also personally. I am writing this during the global Corona pandemic, so right now I am staying at home but I am looking forward to traveling again – to visit my host family and the Tomlinsons in Exeter and my Isca friends all over Europe.