by Will Rennie, Academic Manager

About 6 months ago, I realised something about myself for the first time, something I’d always known on some level but had never consciously acknowledged – I was a writer.

I didn’t consider myself ‘a Writer’, so to speak – someone who thinks it’s their dream profession or their calling. I certainly wasn’t a writer at the time – it had been years since I’d written anything creative. Yet, thinking back to adolescence, every creative impulse I’d had was expressed in writing. I’d produced song lyrics, for which I wasn’t able to write music; poems, from those with fairly loose, rambling rhyme schemes to tightly-controlled sonnets; many short stories, most of which I’d completed; and one or two bigger projects I’d always planned to return to. I’d explored other creative avenues as well, like most people, but never with the same feeling that they were a natural outlet.

I thought back to when I’d left writing behind and realised that ultimately it was about halfway through my time at university, though I’d been producing less and less since I left school. Beyond the age of 21 (save for one or two very sporadic pieces), I had only ever tinkered with previous work, rather than completing those which were unfinished or starting anything new.

Still, the realisation was an important one – it was in writing that my creative instincts had felt most naturally expressed. I was a writer! One, granted, who had forgotten how to listen to his own creative impulse, but a writer nonetheless. After this came two questions: how had I forgotten how to listen, and could I get back to where I’d been?

To the first question, I supposed part of it had to do with my degree, a time in which I had to write so much for my course that I was glad to get away from it when I had the chance. Part of it was that, around the same time, I’d chosen to continue with what beginnings I’d made in music by joining a band. A third reason was undoubtedly the pub. But, as I think back, I believe the main reason was simply that I hadn’t identified the channel that my creativity had naturally flowed into in years past. Had I come to that realisation at the time (broader questions about the nature of the education system I was brought up in notwithstanding), had I recognised the writer in me, I might never have fallen out of the habit. In this situation I suspect I’m not alone.

As for whether I could get back to where I’d been, I’ve discovered the answer to be ‘yes, but with difficulty’. I never approached writing with a particular process when I was younger – all I did was sit down in my free time and start writing. Now, though, I need to make time, which is a different proposition at 32 than at 17. To remake a habit of it, I haven’t been able to wait for inspiration to coincide with a free schedule. The results haven’t always been pretty, but they have been results, and I find it far easier to work with what’s on paper than start from scratch.

My last 6 months, then, have been a process of surprising and rewarding rediscovery. I’d recommend making time to think about your more creative self – think on life before work really began, before studying and the pub made their demands on your time, to when the creative spirit spoke to you more clearly. Ask yourself where that spirit led you, when and why it faded and what you need to make happen to hear it once again.



We had a Superhero visitor last week…. Gerald Richards from the Super Power Agency came in to speak to our students about his work in Edinburgh schools.  Gerald and a team of volunteers go into some of Edinburgh’s most deprived schools to run fun writing workshops, then edit and publish students’ work. Two books written by Edinburgh students under the guidance of the SPA are already on the shelves!

Some of these students come from particularly difficult backgrounds where reading and writing is the least of their worries and school can be a huge challenge. SPA want to show these students that they have hidden talent and make writing fun and rewarding. Through their mentorship they deliver hope, boost self-esteem and build higher aspirations as the students see their projects through to completion and publication.

So why did we get Gerald in to talk about his superpowers?!

To continue their work, the SPA need volunteer superheroes – and we think they just got some new ones… from among our own students here at Edinburgh School of English! These new heroes-to-be are about to discover some of their own hidden talents as they help mentor in schools as well as becoming part of an amazing volunteer community in Edinburgh.

We encourage all our students to consider volunteering as an authentic way of participating in the global community, learning life skills and of course, getting the most out of their experience with us!

Go on an adventure with your English!

Scotland is renowned for its natural beauty with dramatic landscapes and lush fields and forests – a paradise for those who like wild nature and …. adventure. For some, visiting misty Loch Ness and impressive stone castles is perfect but for others this isn’t quite enough. We want thrills, we want to experience the natural environment in a different way.

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One of our teachers, Jemima, recently ran a 10k race in Glencoe. It was pouring with rain and had been for days so the ground was a swamp. She’d got almost no sleep in her cold tent the night before, the famous Scottish midges were out and she had 350m of elevation to climb in the first half kilometre of the race. After the excruciating climb she was happy to see some downhill but it was pretty much a river with water coming from above (rain), below (bog) and sides (both). She realised she was in her element, remembering her childhood in Snowdonia, North Wales, and she loved every minute! She came in 2nd fastest female runner and 11th overall – a big surprise for her!

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It was her first race, although she’s been running for years and now she’s hooked. In September she’ll run the West Highland Way (154km) in 3 days. Why?! There’s no prize, no money, no official glory. Because she loves interacting with the land in this way. Experiencing the elements and journeying the landscape with her own body. There are so many ways you can experience Scotland other than taking tours to the famous landmarks and sights. Why not book a few days or a week of hiking in the Highlands based in Aviemore? Or what about doing a rock climbing skills course to learn something new and make new friends? If you are already an experienced hiker you could take your mountain leadership qualification in Scotland or boost your CV with a First Aid/survival skills course. All good ways to put your English into practice and continue learning while you enjoy the great outdoors!


What are you waiting for?! Send us an email or come and talk to us in the office for recommendations and advice.


August in Edinburgh – The Edinburgh Festival

Edinburgh is the world’s leading festival city with amazing festivals taking place all year. Many of these festivals take place in August, which is know as the festival month here. This is when the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh Art Festival and Edinburgh International Book Festival, among others, all happen at the same time in a mass gathering of people from all over the world. On top of all these art festivals, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo also takes place in August. All these events together create the Edinburgh Festival.

Edinburgh Festival

A street performer on the Royal Mile

The Edinburgh International Festival is an annual festival of performing arts – it brings over top class performers of music (especially classical music), opera, theatre and dance from all around the world. The International Festival presents events which cannot easily be achieved by any other UK arts organisation through innovative programming and a commitment to new work. These shows are guaranteed to be of high quality!

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival – last year it featured over 50,000 performances of 3,400 shows! It is an open access festival, meaning that anyone can participate with any type of performance. The official Fringe Programme categorises shows into sections for theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events – the largest section of these is comedy.

The Edinburgh Art Festival is a visual arts festival, and the largest one of its kind in the United Kingdom. It comprises over 45 exhibitions across more than 30 venues. It includes partner exhibitions and pop-up events by contemporary and modern artists from the UK and beyond.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival takes place in Charlotte Square and is the largest festival of it’s kind in the world. Every year it brings around 1000 writers and thinkers from across the planet together with readers for inspiration, entertainment and discussion. The performers are novelists, poets, scientists, philosophers, sportsmen, illustrators, comic creators, historians, musicians, biographers, environmentalists, economists, Nobel and Booker prize-winners and many more besides.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an iconic Edinburgh institution and it sells out year after year. It is a global gathering which showcases the talents of musicians and performers from every corner of the globe. Every year the tattoo has a different theme, which all the performances are built around. More than 14 million people have attended the Tattoo, with an annual audience of around 220,000. In addition, around 100 million people see the Tattoo each year on TV. Fun fact: not a single performance has ever been cancelled since its first official performance in 1950.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2017

The best way to get the most out of the Edinburgh Festival is to walk around the city and be spontaneous – the city is covered in posters, the streets are filled with people handing out flyers (especially the Royal Mile) and there are performance venues all over the city. There are also plenty of street performers and buskers on the Royal Mile.

The Edinburgh Festival is a celebration of all forms of art – you never know what’s around the corner and that is the best part of it! Nothing shocks an Edinburgh-local during August, we’ve seen it all!

Rafael Student Story


Seven years ago the vibrant Rafael joined us at Edinburgh School of English. Since then his English has allowed him to make lifelong friendships as well as a vast career change. Now a professional Cheese Expert on the panel of the ‘World Cheese Awards’ he came by to visit his old school and do a cheese tasting session for all our current students. It was a fantastic evening and Rafael is definitely inspirational in is approach to language learning, “no time to waste being shy or ashamed.”

Below he kindly spoke to us about his experiences learning English in Edinburgh.

What inspired you to come to Edinburgh to study English?
I had always wanted to have a good level of English, so, when I finished my first engineering career, I knew it was my only chance to learn English before I started working. The fact that I decided to learn it in Edinburgh it was just to be a bit different from all my friends that went always to England to learn English. For that reason, I thought that Scotland would be the best place to go to. Also, my homeland Tenerife and Scotland share the same flag, so I guess, everything was settled even before the time I was already born ;).

What excited you the most about learning English?
Being capable to meet people from all around the world and to find a job as an engineer abroad in case I’d ever need it.
What were some of the greatest challenges you faced?
The first challenge was to be myself, to interact with others, to have a normal conversation… All of this, because I was barely capable to speak in English (I was A2).
The second one was to learn fast, because I was coming here only for 4 weeks (though I ended up staying 12 weeks).
The third one was to hold my tears every Friday when my friends were leaving the school to go back home for good.
The fourth was to understand the Scottish accent and try to sound Scottish.
The fifth was to get C1 (unfortunately I got 57 points and I needed 60 out of 100, but not bad ^_^ ) in my last 6 weeks when the course for C1 was, if I remember well, between 12-16 weeks.
The sixth was to say good bye to those friends that remained, to the amazing teachers I had and to come back to the reality after living such a hell of a dream experience.
At Edinburgh school of English we believe that confidence is one of the most important factors to being a good communicator- you have plenty of it- what helped you the most to gain confidence in English?
The respect that the teachers always showed and my own personality were key to be opened, to understand that you’ll always commit mistakes and that no one is perfect. Apart from that, I was in a rush to learning English, so I had no time to waste in being shy or ashamed. Therefore, I was always participating and talking so the teachers could see my weakest points and correct me in order to improve day by day.

How did your success at the School of English influence your personal and professional life?
I became more independent and secure. It gave me the opportunity to make friends from all around the world. It opend my mind and made me more tolerant. It made me understand that people from different countries and cultures can get along very well just sharing one thing in common, the aim to learn English. But, because getting along with people has never been enough for me and Edinburgh School of English is special, and it always brings amazing and wonderful people from all around the world together, I made friends for life that after 7 years, we still meet or skype every now and then.
Professionally speaking I can say that it allowed me to be part of the Super Jury of the World Cheese Awards and ever since that moment, my future in the cheese industry began.
Anything else you want to add?
Thank you so much for trusting me and giving me the chance to do the first cheese tasting at the School!



Edinburgh School of English Student Conference

It was a mixture of the sparkling sunshine, excited nerves and looming departure of some close friends that made the atmosphere in the Common Room so special yesterday morning. Students have been working hard for their moment to deliver to the school  presentations on aspects of health they feel passionately about. Determination to succeed was already apparent by the constant conversations this week about conference topics, everyone collecting vocabulary to add to their persuasive arsenal.
The huge variety of topics engaged our School completely as we were astounded by everything from Rafael’s terrifying food trade facts to Al-Joharah’s dream discussion. It was brilliant to see how students such as Adwa, replicated the presentation techniques she’d seen at TEDX into her own talk like a professional! Razan, enchanted her audience by discussing memory techniques whilst perfectly capturing British humour as she sarcastically mocked her peers for being so forgetful! Kalyan demonstrated just how much the students English has developed by their ability to discuss immensely complex moral topics. His presentation on Euthanasia was moving and culturally sensitive whilst showcasing how excellent his command of English has become.
Despite the many nationalities represented at  Edinburgh School of English’s conference today everyone contributed to a series of fantastic talks and debates in English. The lunch break seemed to signal a real cause for celebration, not least because everyone was ravenous from their efforts. Rather, there appeared a genuine pride in creation of our progressive little global community.

We can’t wait to hear from you all at the next one!


Edinburgh School of English goes to Tedx

Last Saturday our students escaped the weekend’s torrential rain in Edinburgh’s magnificent hotel Caledonia, host of Herriot Watt’s Tedx event. The theme of the conference was ‘Breaking Barriers’ and with our students new language skills they were doing just that.

We all listened to fascinating talks ranging from artificial intelligence to sexism in Hollywood. The event gave the students an excellent opportunity to practice their ability to listen to a variety of presentation styles in English. During the breakouts the nature of the topics ignited debates amongst our group, determined to challenge each other’s thoughts on these controversial notions. It was brilliant to witness how excitement among pupils to discuss these ideas, surpassed any confidence issues over the English required to get involved in the conversation. At Edinburgh School of English it is especially important to us that our pupils feel just this, the self-assurance to allow classroom work to transcend into real life.

What’s more watching a range of speakers also prompted consideration amongst pupils of how people communicate. Everyone agreed that regardless of the ability to demonstrate perfect English, listeners best understood the ideas from speakers who spoke confidently, with eye contact and belief in what they were saying. The event was a fantastic practical demonstration for our pupils that confidence is one of their greatest assets to communicating effectively. At Edinburgh School of English we are helping our students become so much more than theory and test results. We ignite their passion for learning and experiencing new cultures, ensuring they have the confidence to explain this in English!

Inspired, our students are now going to participate in Edinburgh School of English’s own TedX themed event. Aspiring to replicate the communication skills they saw in action, pupils will get the chance to spread their own ideas on topics they really care about.






Student Stories – Jonas Knobel

We asked Jonas if he could tell us a little about why he came to The Edinburgh school of English summer 2017 and how he found his experience with us.
Hi, my name is Jonas Knobel. I am fifteen years old and I live in Switzerland.
One year ago I came up with the idea to do a language course because my interest in English had been growing and I found the ability to speak several languages was going to be very useful in future. I began to look for a suitable course for teens, and indeed I found many.
I decided to go to the E.S.E. in Edinburgh because I found the cultural city rather interesting. Also I liked the programme of the school and additionally I am a big fan of Harry Potter.
So in summer 2018 I went to Edinburgh in order to improve my English and experience things. I was very warmly welcomed in Pollock Halls (a Hall of Residence) so the start was quite good and easy for me.
In the following four weeks I experienced loads of things. I went to school, to Arthur’s Seat, to Edinburgh Castle. Every Saturday, we did a long journey to the surrounding cities and villages of Edinburgh. Twice we had a disco, which was extremly fun. We had ceilidh lessons and ever Friday afternoon we had time for shopping and doing something with our new friends.
In school, we had classes with very friendly and good teachers. The cantine food was quite good and carefully considered. I was very pleased that the cantine had separated veggie meals from food with meat, because I am a vegetarian.
My current hobby was and is Speedcubing. No wonder I showed interested teachers and pupils how to solve the Rubik’s Cube. They really enjoyed it and some were able to solve the Cube afterwards so I hope they are continuing to practise.
At the end of every week the teachers gave several special awards to pupils who had stood out in a positiv way. For example when they had been speaking English all the time even though there were other people who spoke the same language as they did. Personally, I found those awards a really good idea and I saw them as a challenge, so I was very pleased every time I got one.
The pupils were devided into four clans, such as in the Harry Potter novels. The clans competed every week in several activities. In every activity the clans had opportunities to get points. The clan with the most points after a week won and got a reward.
Naturally, sometimes it was very exhausting to have activities all the time. And sometimes it was a bit annoying when some people spoke in another language. Another fact was that your friends were coming and going. That was a bit unfortunate and sad.
All in all those four weeks were full of experience and fun. I became a bit braver to speak English and now I managed to get into a bilingual/immersion class at my grammar school in Switzerland. So my thesis is going to be in English.
I recommend a language course in a foreign country to everyone who is really interested in it and who wants to gain loads of experience.
Jonas Knobel

Innovative Learning


The Edinburgh School of English’s cultural programme embodies our completely innovative approach to language learning. Our inclusion of dynamic educational events demonstrates how we weave traditional learning with essential life skills. At the Edinburgh School of English we do not believe in merely passing on theoretical knowledge. Instead, we strive to ignite a passion for learning in general.
‘Bexperimental’, for instance is an interactive science show that encourages kids to take the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in designing and carrying out scientific experiments. It’s a vibrant, fun packed day, that is always enjoyed by everyone but specifically it may just inspire the next generation of Einsteins!
What’s more at the Edinburgh School of English we not only acknowledge that our Young Leaners interests will be diverse but we actively encourage it! This understanding is reflected in the great variety of innovative learning events we promote. The visit to Sky Studios is another favourite among our students and for most it will be a completely unique opportunity to consider interest in the film and television industry. The group work they are required to do in the studios ensures that all pupils push themselves in terms of their communication and listening skills.  Sky studios is also an excellent opportunity for individuals to demonstrate leadership qualities as the groups pull together highly entertaining mock Television broadcasts!
We are certain that taking our students out of the classroom, to events like these, will ensure they learn to think creatively and independently. The life skills our pupils gain through these activities would benefit any child, but without realising it our students are engaged in a higher level of thinking in a foreign language. As a result our Young Learners leave with not only a greatly improved understanding of English but most importantly, the confidence to communicate this.

Staff Stories – Catherine (Pip) Penman

As an English literature graduate and competitive sports woman I joined the school of English as an activity leader. I was excited by the prospect of a school that understood the immense benefits of supplementing classroom work with sports and activity.  Edinburgh School of English is more than just a language school and it’s through our activities that theory gets transformed into real life skills. It’s fantastic organising events for groups of kids from so many nationalities, it’s such an incredible social experience for them.

The activity programme also gives me the opportunity to work closely with the kids in a more relaxed environment. I really enjoy hearing their general conversation in English improve, and for me, it’s especially interesting to discuss their opinions of Scotland in comparison to their own countries. I get to learn so much about foreign cultures, discussing everything from politics to favourite musicians while the kids get the challenge of explaining it all in English- it’s a good deal!

By the end of each session it’s always so rewarding to experience our students using their new language skills to make friends and bond over the challenges our activities present.   I love witnessing  how sports tournaments, dance classes, scavenger hunts and so much more help pull down the language barriers that class teachers have been working against . As a result our students are left with an international network of friends they never would have imagined possible before the summer.