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A trip down memory lane

We recently had a visit from a group who studied at Bell in the 70s, and having become good friends, they continue to regularly meet up. They returned to Bell to celebrate 40 years since they studied in Cambridge.

Students outside Bell Cambridge

We spoke to Almy from Holland, Ursula and her husband (who met at Bell) from France, and Helene from Sweden to hear their memories of Bell, as well as any advice they had for those looking to study English in the UK

Let’s begin by hearing about your memories of Bell in the 1970s.

Almy: ‘I remember coming here and there was a very welcoming atmosphere [even though] we were all strangers. I remember coming into the lunch room and the first question, would be ‘where are you from?’, and that’s how you made friends. We would instantly get on and make plans to do things.

There were always lots of activities to do. Our friends and I did an end of term concert, we sang and did sketches, so it was great fun and the teachers were lovely. We learnt so much.’

Helene: ‘I knew I wanted to come here as my sister had come here. I came after Christmas, and I just walked in and felt at home. I was fortunate to be with this fantastic group of people, and we’ve stayed in contact ever since. I stayed with this lovely couple, and my sisters also stayed with them.’

Did your sisters study at Bell as well?

H: ‘Yes, my sister came and then my two sisters came, and also a lot of friends from Sweden.’

‘I had the same feeling at my boarding school – your parents would have been there, and children; it’s the same feeling here, like a big family. It was a lovely time and we had very good teachers.’

Ursula: It was one of the best years of my life and [I have] very nice memories and I met interesting people. It’s where I met my husband, and we are still together. We have a daughter who came to Bell in 2010, she followed the Foundation Programme, and she loved it. She went on to follow a University programme taught in English in Grenoble.’

Students outside Bell Cambridge

How has Bell changed?

A: There was a music room, and we had literature in the East Room. The language lab was quite a novel thing then. You had these ear phones and you would speak into the microphone and listen to yourself. Everyone was always making music, there was a piano in the terrace room and people with guitars - we would sit on the lawn and sing songs. It was absolutely magical for all of us, and that’s why we still have such a strong bond.

U: The changes are obvious – there are a lot more buildings today. It’s really different, the rooms are modern now, the rooms were very classic at the time. There were sofas we could sit and have tea, it was a different time, it was very quiet; we enjoyed our time here and met some lovely people. Good memories.

Such lovely memories. So, how do you think studying at Bell has helped you?

U: A lot. I think for me it was the first time I had freedom.

A: Having two languages has really helped. English is very important nowadays and I’ve lived in South Africa and England. The friendships throughout the world have formed me as well – we still meet up all the time. We have people from Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Norway and Sweden.

Do you have any advice for people thinking about studying in the UK?

A: Just do it. It’s so welcoming here that it’s not a problem making friends, [in fact] it’s a great way of making friends.

U: I think use the programmes on offer, they are really very good, otherwise we wouldn’t have sent our daughter. She fell in love immediately with the surroundings and I think for a young person who just leaves her family home it is the perfect place and a serious education.

Thank you all so much for sharing your memories, we hope to see you back at Bell for another reunion.

Students outside Bell Cambridge