Learn English in San Francisco – Surviving your first several weeks Series: Communication!

In the 21st century open-mindedness is one of the most desired things by all the people all over the world and, since San Francisco is seen as the capital of the mind’s freedom, a lot of people (especially young people) dream of seeing at least once in their life this beautiful city. But since I arrived here I noticed something really strange and I had always been asking myself one question: “Can open-mindedness be a problem?” But I could not find an answer to this question mark because after it I had always to ask myself: “If something is wanted so much as open-mindedness is, how it can be a problem?” After five months spent in this city, I think I could answer this question by saying that open-mindedness could be a problem, especially if you come from a small country mainly populated by close-minded people that don’t see unusual things well and that usually don’ t like to approach strangers. “Approaching strangers”. What a beautiful, strange, fearful, normal and unusual concept. Put simply, it is just a subjective concept, but when you live in San Francisco for five months, you realize that approaching strangers is everything but subjective. In fact, while walking down the streets of the Bay Area, there has never been one time that I could have felt “non-wanted” among San Franciscans. They seem to love me; they seem to love to talk to me just to hear my accent. After five months here, I realized that San Franciscans love to talk to people, no matter who they are. Personally, I think that communication between people in this city is just wonderful, but, as I mentioned before, it could be a shock. How nice is it when you step on the BART train and you are tapped on the … Read more

Learn English in San Francisco – Surviving your First Several Weeks Series: Weather!

Arriving in San Francisco, adapting to the weather might represent a serious challenge. Whether you’re from a warm country or used to cooler climates, there really is no place like San Francisco (in every sense)! Weather in San Francisco is crazy and at first it might puzzle you, but don’t let it fool you! The City by the Bay can offer you four seasons in one day, accordingly weather conditions may change in a matter of minutes. So be prepared! The secret to San Franciscan weather is layers. If you’re wearing several, in case there is a sunny moment, you can always take something off, but as soon as it cools down again, put it back on. Also, don’t trust what you see looking out of the window in the morning. The sky may be cloudless, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a warm day. There might be a strong wind making you shiver or sudden fog chilling the temperature. Of course, the opposite might be the case as well. A cloudy, windy morning sky can quickly change to a perfect summer day, even if you’re dressed for arctic climates. Therefore, here comes some practical advice about staying warm from (a little) experienced San Franciscans: As above-mentioned, it’s all about layers! As a basic, it’s best to put on a t-shirt and a sweater, and if you like, add a cardigan. Over that, a jacket is necessary. Then it’s always a good idea to carry a scarf with you, especially during those windy times of the day. Some people might even recommend you to carry gloves and a hat. In addition to that, closed shoes are always nice, especially if you are sensitive to getting cold feet! Another thing to consider is the buildings’ inside temperature caused by … Read more

Learn English in San Francisco – Surviving your First Several Weeks Series: 4 Tips for Public Transportation!

Surviving the transportation of San Francisco can be something very difficult for a newcomer in the city. Having so many different bus lines, metro, light rail systems could turn your first week into a nightmare. But…learning how to use the public transportation in San Francisco is not that hard at all! (thanks goodness!). Here are four tips for you: First of all there are two big companies of public transportation, Muni and BART. The first one, Muni, works only in San francisco and it’s the owner of both the Muni busses and the Muni metro/light rail system, these are the ones in charge of taking you everywhere inside San Francisco. BART works all the way from Oakland to Millbrae (SFO Airport). From my POV, it only works if you’re looking forward to go to going to Oakland or if you are living in a host family (usually those are located in Balboa Park/Daly City/Pacifica/etc..). It is also helpful if you are staying in The Monastery, and could be useful since is the fastest way to get to school! (You could take a bus or a light rail but it would take much longer and you will only save around $10 per month!)                    First tip: Buy a clipper Card and load it with a Muni Fast-pass! How does it work? Easy! The clipper card is a magnetic card that you Load up with money for public transportation services, you pay a monthly fee and you get unlimited trips on the service that you paid for! The Muni Fast pass includes unlimited trips on both Muni Metro and Muni bus and Unlimited trips on the BART, BUT, BART only works between Embarcadero Bart station and Balboa Park Station, so if you are planning on going to Oakland or somewhere in … Read more

Learn English in San Francisco – Surviving your First Several Weeks Series: Food in San Francisco!

One thing you must know before coming to San Francisco is that your usual food doesn’t exist here. You have to get used to new smells, new flavors, new habits and you’ll probably sense them just by walking down any restaurant district filled with any type of international cuisine. You are going to have so many options that you will want to try them all and end up not knowing which one you want to try. The funny thing is: I am not only talking about restaurants. This is the same feeling you’re going to get when you walk into your first food store. Let’s say you want to buy just some milk and cereals. Pretty easy usually, isn’t it? Well, it is not. Once you get to the right section after some wandering around, you’ll have to decide among hundreds of brands, tastes, prices, discounts, boxes, names that you don’t know, flavors that you never heard about and so on… and finally, when you’ve picked the one that looks more familiar to you and you approach the line to pay and get out from that chaos… the milk!    Here we go again then: low fat milk, 2% fat milk, chocolate milk, coconut milk, soya milk, bio milk, rice milk etc. This happens with whatever you want to buy in any places you will go. It may sound strange but, you are going to get used to it. No worries. Let’s talk about some tips.   If you need to buy facilities, goods of every kind or cheap food the place where you want to go is Target or any kind of Mexican market in Mission district. They might look suspicious, anyway their products are totally fine and prices are really affordable. Otherwise, if you don’t care so much … Read more

Learn English in San Francisco – Surviving your First Several Weeks Series: Empire of Tolerance

If you considered your home as an open-minded spot, please forget everything you knew about the concept of open-mindedness. Here you are going to arrive in the empire of the tolerance, acceptance, broad-mindedness,… The city by the bay is more than a “pretty face,” it’s also a place where you are going to learn how to manage your reactions to people that are different from you, how to understand them and how to accept them. It will (it did at least in my case) make you think deeply about how you saw the world before coming here and how you will see it after spending a few weeks in this amazing city. My first example will be about the subject of gays in San Francisco. In many countries, you can’t really see gay couples walking down the street holding hands. You can actually rarely see them in general. Here, in San Francisco, you can see them kissing in the street, holding hands, walking arm in arm. And I promise you, it’s something beautiful to see. In contrast of what you might have thought, it makes you totally comfortable. My second example is the homelessness. Before coming here I tended to be unpleasant when homeless people were coming to talk to me because in my country (Belgium) homeless people are usually disagreeable and are just asking for money. However here it’s different, and the San Franciscans know that and they act in an awesome way. If a homeless person comes to them and asks them about money, they won’t just shake their head and walk away, some of them will stop and talk to them. So after having seen this kind of behavior for 4 months, here is my advice. If a homeless person gives you a compliment, accept it and … Read more

Getting out of San Francisco while at EC

Some US cities (LA is a prime example) take a lot of escaping from.  Getting out of the urban tangle takes an hour or more.  Not so San Francisco, and the San Francisco Bay Area in general.  Not counting planned urban parks such as the magnificent Golden Gate Park, or beaches and marinas where the imprint of human activity is heavy, and of long duration, you can often appear to be so far from a city as to not be able to imagine one is nearby, and you can do this in less than half an hour. Two great escapes from SF involve the wonderful California coast.  It’s easy (by car) to head south from Pacifica on California Highway 1, and hop from beach park to scenic overlook as far south as San Diego.  Or, even faster, one can go north across the Golden Gate Bridge (itself a major tourist destination), and reach the wild overlooks of the Marin Headlands in minutes.  And, with a bit more investment of time (but still under 30 minutes), you can drive to the trailhead of the scenic and peaceful Tennessee Valley, and hike the easy trail that leads to a secluded beach. This is a great way to get a feel for the coastal form of natural California, with rolling hills, gentle valleys with small streams and lagoons, and unexpected groves of trees.  There is nothing spectacular here, as in Yosemite or Muir Woods  –  just peace, and slightly spicy-sweet aromas of plants, birdsong and the gentle sounds of the wind in the bushes and trees, and, growing in the distance, the sound of the surf.  But most importantly, at least once in a while, no sirens, no traffic sounds, no rush of urban business and busy-ness.  A chance to unwind.  There are … Read more

Study English in San Francisco – Student Experiences

In addition to their regular courses, students at EC can benefit from participating in free classes with our teachers. In the free English writing class, Teacher Heather gave the students the assignment to write about their experience for a blog post. Read on! A few words about the school from Ali, enrolled in our Academic Year Program: “Hello Readers, I am Ali and I am from KSA. And I am studying an intensive English program at EC- San Francisco. I really like the town and our dear school. It gives a good opportunity to improve your skills and motivate you to understand another culture. Our School involves all the students together to create a perfect international atmosphere that will help you to practice your English most of the time.” Sumi decided to share about the biking activity that occurred last month with our teacher Drew. As you all know, every week is a new activities calendar planned for the students. See the one of this week here. “Hi, readers! My name is Sumi. I’m from Japan. I’ve been at EC for 4 weeks. I would like tell you about an activity on April 27th.We went to the Golden Gate Bridge by bike with Drew. We used a rental bike to go to the Ferry building to the Golden Gate Bridge. On the way, there were many hills and we were really tired. It was sunny day, and we enjoyed cycling while seeing SF views. There are a lot of beautiful views. Then I was moved when I saw the Golden Gate Bridge. It is the symbol in SF. It is an awesome place, but it was windy and cold. Through this experience, I got many friends at EC. I wanna join school activity again because I wanna make many friends. Let’s … Read more

Good Food, Just Around Every San Francisco Corner

San Francisco (obviously, home of EC San Francisco), is known for its excellent food, among many other things.  And, not surprisingly, Chinatown is a good place to look for good Chinese food.  And, being in California, you can bet there is at least one good Chinese vegetarian places to be found.  You are SO right. Hidden a bit over a block above Grant Ave. (the spine of Chinatown), uphill on Washington St., is a little “hole in the wall” restaurant called “Lucky Creation.”  Some of the best veggie Chinese food I’ve ever had, at reasonable prices!  Try the appetizer sampler plate, or the veggies in a potato basket (“golden nest”).  The fried honeyed walnuts are fantastic.  Lucky Creation is clean (and the food smells great), but the ambiance is near zero.  Not “fine dining,” just brilliant food.  Try it, even if you aren’t vegetarian.  And it’s just about a 10 minute walk from ECSF, and equally close to the central shopping area around Union Square, so there’ s no good reason not to try it.  

Happy Birthday ECSF! 4 Years of Providing Quality English Language Courses in San Francisco

  It was four years ago on Monday May 10th, 2010 that EC San Francisco opened its doors. EC San Francisco was the forth school in the US and the first to grow organically, launched as a startup. Not from a garage but from our 18th floor of 100 Montgomery street, we started with 2 staff members, Cindy Ochoa and Amy Niles as well as two part-time teachers, with a first enrollment of… two students from Brazil! We have grown since then, and we are now a team of 6 staff members, 2 interns and about 25 teachers and students from all over the world. Over those 4 years, EC has served more than 2000 English learners through our diverse portfolio of English language courses in the heart of the Financial District of San Francisco. To celebrate this fourth anniversary, we had cake for today’s Graduation! And it is also a celebration for the EC Group, as since then, we have had 5 additional start-ups – both in the United Kingdom and the US – in Bristol, Miami, Los Angeles, Oxford and Manchester. EC San Francisco is glad to have paved the way!

EC San Francisco English Students Making A Difference As Global Citizens

Hi students and readers, It’s been another great week at EC San Francisco and we had to say goodbye to many awesome students. There were also a number of great activities, one of which was the EC San Francisco Global Citizen Program’s inaugural visit to the Sequoias San Francisco, a local retirement community located near Japantown. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Global Citizen, it is EC’s community service elective class that offers students the chance to interact with Americans in an engaging setting outside the EC San Francisco campus. It’s a project based class that offers students a chance to give back to our community and talk to English speakers in ways that aren’t really possible in our other elective classes. Our most recent visit to Sequoias saw the students teach the residents key words and phrases in their native languages of Spanish, Korean, and Japanese. They also discussed their life experiences and, as a teacher, I must say it was immeasurably rewarding to see both the students and residents laugh and share personal stories. While many of our students visit San Francisco’s trendy locales that are frequented by twenty-somethings, they don’t often get a chance to spend time with seniors. This program gives them the chance to do just that and learn from individuals who have a wealth of knowledge to share. For any students interested in joining Global Citizen, I strongly encourage you to do so. You’ll put your new found language skills to good use and make memories that’ll stick with you for many years to come. Teacher Tim