March 2008 issue

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San Diego sizzles

With its winning climate and international flavours, it is not hard to see why language students would be attracted to study in San Diego. And surely all that sun and all those beaches can only help students master the English language just that little bit quicker. Bethan Norris reports.

International students chose to study in San Diego for the same reason that Americans continue to move to San Diego,” comments Katie Hill from IH San Diego. “Because of its perfect beaches, climate, friendliness and proximity to other tourist destinations. San Diego boasts a laid-back surfer attitude, safety, cleanliness and average daily temperatures of 21.4 degrees.”

Located on the southwest coast of the USA and on California’s border with Mexico, San Diego certainly has much to recommend it as a study destination. The region is home to two university campuses – the University of California San Diego and San Diego State University – which contribute to the trendy student vibe, as well as a thriving bio-technology industry with a number of large pharmaceutical companies having their headquarters in the city. For this reason, San Diego’s language schools are attractive to a wide range of clients, including executives, those wanting to go on to higher education in the USA and those more interested in the beaches and outdoor activities available.

Cyndee Sindelar from ELS Language Centers USA says that their school in San Diego caters for a wide range of clients. “ELS San Diego offers our general group English programmes, as well as our preparation programme for the Toefl iBT and Business English programme,” she says.

Whatever a student’s motivation for learning English in San Diego, however, it must certainly help to be in a scenic location with plenty of opportunities for free-time activities on tap. Converse International School of Languages is located in the old town region of the city known as the Gaslamp District. “Because of our convenient location, students have a wide variety of options available to them when it comes to leisure and free-time,” says Francine Chemnick at the school. “Many students spend their time in the nearby shopping centre, Horton Plaza, which offers a food court, both upscale and casual clothing stores, a cinema, live performance venues and even an outdoor skating rink in the winter.” Chemnick adds that the Gaslamp District is also home to many popular nightclubs, restaurants and bars.

The old part of the city has been subject to an urban renewal campaign since the 1980s with many waterfront skyscrapers, loft developments, five-star hotels, restaurants and boutiques opening in the downtown area. Many of the buildings in the Gaslamp district date from between 1880 and 1910 and the region retains a flavour that betrays San Diego’s close proximity to Mexico. Hill describes the old town neighbourhood as “one of San Diego’s premiere tourist destinations” and adds that it is “especially renowned for its Mexican cuisine”.

One of San Diego’s best loved traditions, and something that students particularly enjoy, according to Hill, is Taco Tuesdays where local bars and Mexican restaurants sell cut price tacos. A speciality particularly associated with San Diego is the fish taco, which consists of small pieces of batter-coated fish accompanied by an array of condiments, including cabbage, avocados and salsa, in a flour tortilla. Tacos of every variety can be bought throughout San Diego and are a popular dish for locals and tourists.

Another popular area of the city for students to visit, according to Robert Tepper from the International Academy of English, is Seaport Village. “[This is] a shopping area right on the San Diego harbour where students can shop, eat great seafood, or simply stroll along the harbour,” he says. This shopping, dining and entertainment complex was opened in 1980 and was built on the Punta de los Muertos [point of the dead] where those who died of scurvy on the Spanish expedition of 1782 were buried. Now it boasts four miles of cobblestone pathways bordered by ponds lakes and fountains, as well as numerous shops, restaurants and bars.

Other popular attractions include the San Diego Zoo – which contains the largest population of giant pandas outside of mainland China – Wild Animal Park, Sea World and Balboa Park, which is home to 15 major museums, a number of parks and gardens and Spreckel’s Organ Pavilion, which has the largest outdoor pipe organ.

With its immigrant history and position on the Mexican border, San Diego has a very international feel, which helps students settle in quickly, says Chemnick. “San Diego is a very diverse city and home to people from all over the United States as well as the rest of the world,” she says. “Our close proximity to Mexico allows for a populace that is generally more understanding towards foreigners and more patient with those trying to adapt to our linguistic and cultural differences.”

Language schools in the city also report that there are many ways for students to get involved with the local community. ELS Language Centers runs a volunteerism programme for students as well as a ‘Contact! America’ programme, where students meet and interact with local people. “Volunteerism experiences might include helping to maintain San Diego’s parks, working with adults with disabilities or taking care of animals at the local San Diego humane society,” says Sindelar. “Contact! America activities may include conversation partnerships, speaker programmes or local business visits.”

Students can also take part in the many social activities arranged by the schools themselves, as Chemnick reports. “During holidays, we organise activities and parties in order to teach our students more about American culture and customs,” she says. “Our annual Halloween party is always a hit and includes pumpkin carving, a costume contest and even a haunted house.”

San Diego also offers a base to visit some of the other attractions of the Californian region. “If students want to get away for the day, they can drive north for one-to-two hours and find Disneyland, Universal Studios, Six Flags Magic Mountain, beautiful Big Bear ski resorts and much much more,” says Tepper. “An hour to the east puts the students in the Anza Borrego desert, where there is excellent hiking and off-roading. And less than one hour to the south of San Diego is Tijuana, the border town in Mexico that is very safe and accessible to tourists.”

Visiting the Mexican town of Tijuana is a popular pastime of students at Converse International School of Languages too as it is located just 25 minutes from the school by public transport. The most popular area of Tijuana is the Avenida Revolution where tourists can visit the many bars, nightclubs and casinos and buy “bootleg” brand name clothing, leather goods and silverware from the shops and stalls there. Most people in the town speak both English and Spanish and visitors from San Diego can cross the border into Mexico via the San Ysidro crossing which is the busiest border crossing in the world.

Agent viewpoint

“San Diego really surpasses the expectations of my clients. The city has a multitude of things to do, such as many renowned museums, beautiful parks, huge malls, breathtaking beaches, vibrant nightlife and so on. It is a year-round destination, with near perfect climate, natural beauty and plenty of recreational activities. San Diegans are very hospitable and it is really very easy to feel at home. Its cleanliness, efficient public transportation and safety also please my clients enormously.”
Silvio Filho, CI – Central de Intercambio, Brazil

“Students may plan to study at university level in San Diego or have friends or relatives in the city. Also, they like the mild weather, the fact that the city is not too big or small and the reasonably low cost of living. Students enjoy meeting people in San Diego. They always say the people are friendly.”
Sulaksana Kanchana, Professional InterEducation Co, Thailand

“Trends & Business specialises in sending abroad high profile executives, usually sponsored by their companies. It’s an investment and as such companies need to make sure their money is put to good use. Working with an institution such as International House in San Diego makes the combination of destination, quality course and affordability an irresistible one. The more urban and educated the client, the more they appreciate IH San Diego’s quality services and the city’s perfect weather, miles of beaches, mountains and wealth of attractions. More recently, with the drop in the value of the dollar against the Brazilian real, companies also understand the benefit of short-term immersion courses versus neverending ones locally.”
Sandra Monica Szwarc, Trends & Business/LCCI, Brazil

Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.





International House
      World Organisation
MEI-Relsa Ireland 
NAIS – National
      Association of
      Independent Schools
Perth Education City
Quality English 
Bright World

Interglobal Ltd

Malta Tourism

Joy of English
Perth Education City

Bodwell College 
Centre Linguista
College Platon 
inlingua Vancouver
National School of
School District #8
      Kootenay Lake
iMandarin Chinese
      Training School

ILI International
      House – IH Cairo

Bell International
      (Malta, UK)
Bright World
      Summer School 
Camp Beaumont
      (Argentina, Australia,
      Canada, England,
      France, Germany,
      Greece, Hawaii,
      Ireland, Italy, Malta,
      New Zealand, Russia,
      Scotland, Spain,
      Sweden, USA)
English Studio
Heart of England
      Language School
International House
      World Organisation
Kaplan Aspect
      Australia, Canada,
      Ireland, Malta,
      New Zealand,
      South Africa, UK,
LAL Language and
      (England, Malta,
      South Africa, USA)
      at Clifton College,
Malvern House
Our World English
Queen Ethelburga's
Rose of York
      Language School 
South Thames
St Giles Colleges
      (Canada, UK, USA)
Study Group
      (Australia, Canada,
      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
      Italy, New Zealand,
      South Africa, Spain,
Twin Group
      (Ireland, UK)
French in Normandy
Langues Sans
Silc – Séjours
      (France, Spain, UK)

Carl Duisberg
      (England, Germany)
International House
      Berlin – Prolog

Alpha College of
Atlantic Language
English in Dublin
Galway Cultural
ISI – International
      Study Institute Ireland
MEI-Relsa Ireland 
Swan Training


Kai Japanese
      Language School 

Clubclass Residential
      Language School
EC – English
      Language Centres
      (China, England,
      Malta, South Africa)
LAL Malta
Malta Tourism

EAC Language
      Centres and
      Activity Camps
      (England, Ireland,
      Scotland, Wales)  
Edinburgh Academy
University of Stirling

Cape Studies
EC Cape Town
      Cape Town
Good Hope Studies
Interlink School of
LAL South Africa 
Language Teaching
Shane Global
      Language Centres –
      Cape Town 
South African School
      of English

Esade Executive
      Language Centre
Idiomas ¡Sí!
International House
      San Sebastián –
International House
      Sevilla – Clic

EF Language
      Colleges Ltd
      (Australia, Canada,
      China, Ecuador,
      England, France,   
      Germany, Ireland,
      Italy, Malta, New
      Zealand, Russia,
      Scotland, Spain,
      (Australia, Canada,  
      England, France,
      Germany, Italy,
      Japan, New
      Zealand, Russia,
      Spain, Switzerland,

ALCC – American
      Language &
University of
      California Riverside 
University of
      California San Diego
University of
      Nebraska at Lincoln
Wilbraham & Monson
Zoni Language
      Centers Canada
      (Canada, USA)


Bell International
      (Malta, UK)
South Thames
University of

University of

Monterey Institute of
      International Studies
NAIS – National
      Association of
      Independent Schools
St. Timothy's School
Valley Forge Military