Dienstag, 16. April 2013

The best city in the world (after Berlin): San Francisco - ILSC Review

Last September, I decided to go on a special vacation in the coming year. I asked my boss if I could have 8 weeks off and she said “yes”. I had always wanted to go to San Francisco. So that’s what I did. And it was the best decision I ever made. San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to.
I not only took my own holiday but my “educational holiday” too. Therefore, I had no school choice. ILSC is the only school in San Francisco, my agent told me, which can or is willing to handle the paperwork for the German “educational holiday”. That’s definitely a plus for the school.
But to be honest – I expected something different. I already finished my studies in 2008 and have worked for more than 4 years. I wanted to improve my English in general but I also wanted to learn more Business-English. Not Business-English in general but my particular Business-English about beneficiaries, the 7. Framework Program for Research and Technological Development, budget law, stuff like that. But they didn’t offer me these topics, so that’s why I was a little bit frustrated at the beginning. But now I see they can’t teach me that because it’s too specific. I guess no one else needs this stuff.

What I didn’t know before was, that they put different levels in one class. So for example my first class “Academic Preparation” ranges from I4-A2. The school is too small to have one class for each level. If I had known this before I would have gone to ILSC Vancouver, which is larger than ILSC San Francisco. The other thing is that they don’t teach tenses in the high level but everything else like gerund, passive structure, subjunctive, conditionals. They say, that you already know the tenses if you are in such a high level. But that’s not true. For example, I never know when I should use which tense. So for me it would be more necessary to learn tenses than gerunds. And if you stay here longer than one session you will learn the same stuff again and again. I think it’s boring. It’s okay to hear it once or even twice but that’s it. But now I’m here and I think I made the best of it.
The last paragraph was more negative than I thought it would be. So here are the advantages of the school:
  1. The Location – ILSC is situated right in the center of San Francisco. It’s really easy to visit famous sights like Fisherman’s Wharf, Coit Tower, Bay Bridge or Lombard Street, after school.
  2. The Lab – they have a little lab with computers and headsets you can use during or after school.
  3. The teachers/staff - all the teachers/staff are really nice and helpful. They have always an open ear for you.
I wasn’t sure if I could improve my English during the last 5 weeks so I asked my host mother. And she said I speak more fluently now. And last night was the first night I dreamed in English. So overall the trip was worth it even if it was not what I expected: I improved my general English, I found a really lovely and kind host family and I explored one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Donnerstag, 11. April 2013

... make sure to visit Alcatraz Island ...

Yesterday I finally visited Alcatraz.
At first I want to tell you some interesting facts about "The Rock":
The first spanish man who discovered the island was Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775, who charted San Francisco Bay and named the island "La Isla de los Alcatraces" which you can translate as "The Island of the Pelicans".
Alcatraz was a prison from 1933- 1963. 36 men tried to escape during this time. 23 were caught, six were killed and two drowned. The fate of five men remains unknown, although officially they are listed as "missing and presumed drowned".
In 1972 the island became part of the Golden Gate national recreation area and in 1973 it opened for the public. More than 1 million people visit the island each year.

On Alcatraz you can listen to audio guides in different languages. If your language is quite good you should choose english. Because there you can listen to the real voices of prior inmates. It was really interesting and easy to understand.
One of the inmates said, that sometimes, when the wind was blowing from San Francisco to Alcatraz, they could hear the voices of the people, the laughter of the girls and the giggle of the kids.
They had an excellent view to San Francisco and every day they do know what they are missing.
Another man said:"You were not a human, no individual on Alcatraz."

Some people tried to escape. One example is still in my mind. 3 people used metal things like spoons to make their way through the concrete. And they were succesful. They escaped through the air vent and made it to the roof of the prison and to the bay. They were never seen again. So no one knows if they drowned or if they are still alive...
Going to Alcatraz is an amazing experience. By the audio guide you have the feeling you can hear and feel the inmates. You got a real good impression how life was on "the Rock". It must have been hard to live on this beautiful island so close to the real life, to San Francisco.

Montag, 8. April 2013

If you are going to San Francisco...

As you can see, it is a little bit quiet on my blog those days. It's because I'm in San Francisco. It's my holiday and this is my 5th week. I'll be here for another 3 weeks.
Last year, a friend of mine went to Vancouver for 2 months. She quit her job. I was so jealous. I had always wanted to go to America for longer than a 2 or 3 week holiday. Another friend of mine told me, I could do it. I just had to save all my holidays in a year and go. That's what I did and now I'm here, in this amazing city. I always wanted to go to San Francisco because of the series "Charmed".
I immediately fell in love with this city. I love the fog, the hills, the bay and the ocean.

I love the Golden Gate Bridge. When I was younger I always dreamed about getting a marriage proposal at the Golden Gate Bridge. Just me, the guy and the bridge :-) The bridge will definitly be closed to traffic for this special moment in my life.
I know, a young girl's dreams...

I don't think, this will ever happen, but it would be funny.
The left and the next three pictures are really typical of San Francisco. There is always a lot of fog. But that's so charming. I mean even on a sunny day you have this fog around the Twin Peaks or the Golden Gate Bridge.

I've already done a lot of things here in San Francsico. I climbed Coit Tower, walked through Italy and China Town. I saw the sea lions at Fisherman's Wharf thrice. I took the ferry to Sausalito....
This Wednesday I want to go to Alcatraz. You always have to buy tickets in advance, because it's always sold out.
I hope, this pictures give you a little feeling about this beautiful, amazing and absolutely lovely city.

Last weekend I visited Los Angeles. It was okay, but I definitely don't want to go there again. The city is dirty, it smells bad nearly everywhere you go, and it is really hard to go anywhere without a car. That is what I like most about San Francisco. Everything is really close together, so you can walk easily. But at the same time, the public transportion system is excellent. The only thing is, that if you go the "wrong" way, you have to climb up a steep hill. But you get used to it. :-)

Mission District is a really beautiful area. There is a street called Clarion Alley. You definitely have to go there. There are amazing murals. They usually change it from time to time. So for example, if you use Google Streetview you can see different pictures than what I saw last week. Close to this street, at the corner of Dolores Park is a great ice cream shop called Bi-rite Creamery. The ice cream is really delicious and it isn't as expensive as I expected. The most famous flavour is "salty caramel", but I didn't try it yet. Maybe I'm too German...
But I tried some hot fudge on my ice cream. It was one of the best hot chocolate sauces I have ever eaten.

To be continued...