When it comes to quality universities and colleges, no region of the USA has more or better ‘schools’, as they say in the USA. Several of the country’s powerhouses are here: Harvard University (Boston), Yale (Connecticut), Brown (Rhode Island) and Dartmouth (New Hampshire). So, too, are dozens of smaller but equally academic colleges, such as Williams (Massachusetts), Middlebury (Vermont) and Bowdoin (Maine). All these and more are in classic ‘college towns’. A New England speciality, these are historic, attractive but lively, thanks to the student population.
So, what’s the appeal? Start with the choice. British students go to New England to study in cities and in the countryside, even at women-only colleges; they like the variety and flexibility of courses and the broad range of higher education. Some are renowned specialists, such as MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for science. The Rhode Island School of Design is top-notch for art, architecture, film and more. Hospitality and culinary skills are on offer at the New England Culinary Institute (Vermont) and Johnson & Wales University (Rhode Island). As for music, five of the USA’s best music schools are in Boston, including Berklee, whose graduates include Quincy Jones, Diana Krall and Keith Harris, the drummer for The Black Eyed Peas. New England colleges have always attracted high flyers: Jodie Foster was at Yale; Emma Watson at Brown; Matt Damon at Harvard and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Wellesley.
Then, there is the comforting familiarity. New England is where the first English settlers arrived in 1620. Spot their legacy on maps of the six states: there are five towns called Manchester, plus counties called Essex and Middlesex, even a Thames River.
A little more than a six hour flight away, the north-eastern corner of the USA also offers a variety of contemporary experiences during New England’s classic four seasons. Our autumn, their fall, is perfect for weekend hikes in the woods – or cheering on the American football teams (yup, we’re talking gridiron). In winter, students join locals skiing in the mountains of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. In spring, you can cycle through villages in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, past millions of bobbing daffodils – and that’s when the baseball season gets under way. Summers are long and hot, so everyone enjoys the outdoor life, heading for long sandy beaches, harbours chock full of boats, open-air concerts and plays galore.
So, when those results come out, or it’s time for ’Clearing’, no wonder relatives and friends are encouraging youngsters to apply to New England colleges. No doubt they are planning to pop over to ‘check up on them’. After all, it’s a fun place for a holiday.