Seven thousand years of history, the warm Mediterranean climate and a calm, clear sea make Malta a fascinating, yet relaxed destination for people wanting to study abroad.
Malta is the gateway between Europe and Africa at the southern tip of the European continent. It is the largest of three islands on the Maltese archipelago (the others are Como and Gozo) and has been described as one big open-air museum with so much of the past still visible today. You can investigate the island’s mysterious prehistory, retrace the footsteps of St Paul, or see where the Knights of St John fought their most famous battles. Even Napoleon occupied the island for a brief period.
Its more recent history (if you count 200 years ago as recent) saw the island being acquired by Great Britain in 1814. Supporting the UK through both World Wars, Malta remained in the Commonwealth even when it became independent in 1964, at which time it adopted the British system of administration, education and legislation. As such, the island has a familiar feel to it for students and visitors from the UK. Malta became a republic ten years later in 1974 and joined the European Union in May 2004 and the Eurozone in 2008.
The President and constitutional head of the state of Malta is Marie Louise Coleiro Preca who was elected in April 2014 for a five year term. The Prime Minister is the Head of Government, this is Joseph Muscat since June 2017.
Malta is a Catholic country and religion is very important. If you visit a church modest dress is expected with shoulders and legs covered.
At the other extreme is Malta’s reputation as a hub for the clubbing scene. Internationally renowned DJs like Paul Oakenfold, Erick Morillo, Magda, Tiesto, Van Heill appear for guest weekends throughout the year.
Traditional Maltese food is typically rustic and based on the seasons. Look out for Lampuki Pie (fish pie), rabbit stew, Bragioli (beef olives), Kapunata, (Maltese version of ratatouille), and widow’s soup, which includes a small round of Gbejniet (sheep or goat’s cheese). Unsurprisingly, fish is always on the menu, so why not try the Aljotta (fish soup).
On most food shop counters, you’ll see Bigilla, a thick pate of broad beans with garlic. Make sure you try the ‘hobz biz-zejt‘ (round of bread dipped in olive oil, rubbed with ripe tomatoes and filled with a mix of tuna, onion, garlic, tomatoes and capers) and pastizzi (flaky pastry parcel filled with ricotta or mushy peas).
Sports lovers have plenty to do on Malta, especially if it involves the sea. Diving is a safe option, with excellent visibility and a range of shallow to deep dives depending on your proficiency. Walkers and mountain bikers simply have to head out from the village squares on the narrow farmers’ tracks to find themselves in a timeless landscape.
Malta loves festivals and its annual carnival is just one of many that takes place each year. This week-long event features a procession with floats perched on lorries and fancy costumes. Malta’s main nightlife centre, Paceville, catches the late night carnival goers who pile into the clubs and bars, still wearing their outrageous outfits.
At a glance facts
- Languages: Maltese and English
- Population: 432,089 (2018)
- International dialling code: 356
- Time zone: GMT+1 Malta is one hour ahead of the UK
Europe, member of the EU