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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006, 00:30 GMT 01:30 UK
UK students wait to leave Lebanon
By Martin Patience
BBC News, Byblos, Lebanon

Angela Quartermaine (right)
Arabic language classes have continued despite the crisis
As the British authorities work on a plan to evacuate nationals caught up in the bombardment of Lebanon, some young Britons are continuing with their studies despite the falling bombs.

Jessie Thomas, 19, came to Lebanon to study Arabic but quickly found herself in a war zone.

Israeli air strikes began pounding Beirut three weeks into her summer course at the Lebanese-American University.

"I know what the smell of a bomb tastes like," says the student matter-of-factly.

As the bombs thundered across the city for a second day, the students were told they were being evacuated.

The Lebanese were being very positive telling us that everything would be OK
Angela Quartermaine
UK student

Brought to the university's campus in the mountains, an hour's drive north of the Lebanese capital, Ms Thomas is one of four British students now staying here.

The campus boasts spectacular views over the Mediterranean Sea and the students appear relaxed.

But none of them know when they will be evacuated from Lebanon.

"I do appreciate the Foreign Office have a lot of people to deal with but it would be good if they could have sent us some information," says Angela Quartermaine, 23.

The British Foreign Office insists that it is doing all it can do to help British citizens in Lebanon.

Classes continue

The students, along with about 30 foreign nationals, are full of praise of the university administration.

Their Arabic language classes have continued despite the current Middle East crisis.

Ms Quartermaine says she feels safe at the university campus but was unnerved by the speed at which events unfolded.

I'm more in love with this country than I was before
Jessie Thomas
UK student

"The Lebanese were being very positive telling us that everything would be OK," she says sitting on a wooden bench.

She added: "They are so used to this kind of violence whereas we are not. It's very strange situation. It's all very surreal and like we're in the middle of a movie.

"I feel like I've grown up a lot during this. I've had a taste of what the Lebanese people must be going through."

Many of the other students from other countries have already been evacuated.

Deep concern

One American student says that she has received a text message from a Dutch friend safely back in the Netherlands.

Both Ms Quartermaine and Ms Thomas say that they will leave Lebanon when the opportunity arises.

Two British warships are sailing to the country but Ms Quartermaine says they only learned about this from the BBC.

She admits that her father is deeply concerned at home. But Ms Thomas says that her mother is less worried.

"She lived in Belfast during the 1970s," she says.

Despite all that has happened, the two women vow that they will return to the country when the current crisis is over.

"The Lebanese people have been so kind," says Ms Quartermaine.

"I'm more in love with this country than I was before," adds Ms Thomas.


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