March 2011 issue

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The call of the wild: US south-west

Mention the USA’s south-west, and California immediately springs to mind as a hugely popular destination for international students. However, the rest of the south-west corner of this vast country also has much to offer, and a charm all of its own, as Jane Vernon Smith discovers.

In Colorado, the state capital of Denver makes an excellent base in which to combine study with making the most of the great outdoors. With its location in the South Platte river valley, close to the Rocky Mountains, “People come here [not only] to [undertake] all kinds of outdoor activities,” comments Marianna Bagge of city-based Accelerated Schools, “but also to enjoy our great weather.”

While the area boasts more than 350 days of sunshine each year, she claims, ski-ing is possible in the nearby mountains from early November until the end of April, “with one or two ski areas open till the end of June or early July”. Colorado also has plenty of water for boating, water ski-ing and swimming, and for those who want simply to admire nature in the raw, there are the great Sand Dune mountains in the south of the state, and the Mesa Verde national park. Students may also wish to take a diversion to see the Four Corners monument, which marks the point where the states of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah meet.

“I think the one place that absolutely can’t be missed in the Denver area is Rocky Mountain National Park,” comments Richard Brown, Director of Bridge English, another Denver-based language school. This is located approximately one hour and forty minutes’ travel time north-west of the city, and provides hundreds of miles of hiking paths. “It’s really one of the most beautiful places in Colorado, and even though I’ve been there numerous times over the years, each time I go, there’s something new to see and experience; it’s so awe-inspiring,” he enthuses.

Denver itself is a “modern, clean, safe and comfortable city” of three million inhabitants, which, thanks to its size, “offers a remarkable range of interesting activities,” says Brown, including historical spots, as well as outdoor activities. Among his top recommendations are visits to the Colorado Museum of Science and Nature, with its “wonderful array” of exhibits, and the Denver Art Museum, “which is truly one of the better regional art museums in the USA”.

He continues, “We have hundreds of miles of biking and walking paths around the city, and I always recommend a bike ride or walk along the Cherry Creek pathway.” This, he points out, can take students from close to the school’s modern site, all the way to the city centre, about five miles away. “In addition, Denver is well-known for its superb system of city parks throughout the metropolitan area and in the nearby foothills of the Rocky Mountains… We just love our outdoor lifestyle,” acknowledges Brown.

A further attraction for international students, according to Bagge, are the three local amusement parks, representing hours of fun. Thanks to the light rail and bus systems, Bagge notes that students are able to explore the city on their own, as well as in a group, and one popular destination is the Red Rock, a stunning amphitheatre, which is carved into the mountainside. Another is the Denver Mint, which she notes is one of the few places where US currency is printed.

At Bridge English, meanwhile, “It’s an amazingly enthusiastic and positive atmosphere we all experience here everyday,” according to Brown. He adds that students like the casual ambience and the convenience of the area – which provides a huge bookstore, video arcade, rugby sports stadium and city parks – as well as the school’s small classes and personal attention, in an intimate environment that he describes as “very much like a big family”.

The state of Texas has strong associations with the Wild West, and much of the countryside surrounding the city of San Angelo remains ranch land today, “so students can see real cowboys in action,” comments Carole Simpson, English Learners’ Institute (ELI) Coordinator, at the Center for International Studies at Angelo State University. This is a small and student-friendly language school, based on a campus that is “large, green and safe,” according to Simpson.

The charm of San Angelo itself, lies in being “a peaceful and pretty, small town, [where] people are very friendly,” she says. “There is a quaint downtown, and tree-lined river walk, and our students who have stayed with host families have fantastic experiences of Texan hospitality.” A local highlight is the historic landmark of Fort Concho, which was established in the nineteenth century in order to protect the frontier. Meanwhile, she adds that those wanting a taste of big city life, can easily visit Dallas, Austin and San Antonio for the weekend.

On the western side of the state of Texas, bordering New Mexico and Mexico, is the city of El Paso, home to Language Plus, a small, boutique school that has been teaching international students for the past 28 years. Director Connie Gyenis has a long history with the school. “I came to El Paso in 1977, as an exchange student from Luxembourg, and fell in love with this great city, its friendly people and, most of all, the bi-cultural [US/Mexican Spanish] atmosphere… When I graduated in December of 1985… I got a part-time job as a teacher at Language Plus, and the rest is history,” she relates. “Now, I am proud to say that it is my company, and the school is still going strong, and I have a passion for teaching languages and culture to students of other nationalities.”

Located close to the University of Texas at El Paso, the school is also convenient for shopping, while the city offers activities for people with all different kinds of tastes, according to Gyenis. Outdoor activities abound, including biking, mountain climbing and swimming. “Even though we are in the middle of the south-west desert, we are only two hours away from the cool New Mexican mountains in Ruidoso,” she comments. “[Here], from November to March, our students can go ski-ing, and during the hot summers, can escape in the cool woods of Cloudcroft, New Mexico, which is only one-and-a-half hours away.”

Bordering California to the east, the state of Nevada’s main claim to fame is the city of Las Vegas. This city is built around tourism and entertainment, says Selcen Kavruklar, Director of International Marketing at English Time Language Schools. “I think you can spend a good year going every weekend to a different show and be entertained.”

Among the many entertainment opportunities available to students, Kavruklar highlights world-famous shows, like Cirque du Soleil, and famous art galleries, like the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Arts, with its extensive collection of original works by artists including Picasso. They can shop in the city’s premium retail outlets, they can enjoy fine dining, with food produced by famous chefs, like Wolfgang Puck at MGM, or they can opt to “simply splurge at our great buffets, like Paris Buffet, and enjoy a night in the town at XS Nightclub at Encore, or Tao at the Venetian Hotel”. He adds, “I would have to say it is hard to be bored.”

English Time’s Las Vegas campus is situated within a 10-minute’s drive of the ‘strip’ (the city’s main thoroughfare) but there is also a great deal to visit outside this area. High on the list are visits to the famous Hoover Dam, the Lake Mead reservoir and recreation area and the Valley of Fire, with its “radiant rock formations”. For more active adventure, Kavruklar also highlights hiking at Red Rock Canyon, a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, sampling the hot springs at Sauna Cave or Roger Springs or a visit to the Las Vegas Sports Park.

“I think another great attribute about living here is that you are only four hours driving distance from Los Angeles and famous attractions like Universal Studios or Disney Land,” enthuses Kavruklar.

Agent viewpoint

“Brazilian students choose the US south-west mostly because there are few Brazilians in the region (in comparison to Florida, California and New York). Also, because of the beauty of the region and the natural attractions it offers – such as good ski resorts and outdoor activities. The one school in the region we work with, in Denver, also offers outstanding quality and a more mature profile of students, which is a key selling point for our agency.”
Ana Cecilia Ribas de Aguiar Poluhoff, Good to Great BICS, Brazil

“[Albanian] families and students…particularly love the sense of freedom [the] USA presents them. The main reason that makes students and parents choose [the USA’s south-western] cities among other cities in the USA is financial – it is much more affordable for them to live in the south-west than other places. [In the USA], they expect to see high buildings and luxury places. It is [also] a surprise for them to drive and meet no one.”
Anisa Pazaj, ANDE-LM Agency, Albania

“There are a lot of interesting places which our students can visit. Many of these – including Los Angeles, with Hollywood and Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, elegant Sedona, the Yosemite National Park with its beautiful waterfalls and groves of giant redwood trees, and the magnificent Bryce Canyon and Zion Canyon – are famous worldwide. Most of our students prefer to live in the city, not far from the centre, and they enjoy the good transport facilities that allow them to get to any place they need.”
Larisa Lachkova, Carnival Travel & Educational Agency, Russia

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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.






English Australia  
International House
      World Organisation  
Languages Canada/
      Langues Canada  
MEI Ireland  
Perth Education
Quality English

Cambridge Esol 

Dr. Walter GmbH  
Student Guard

Malta Tourism

Twin Group  

English Australia  
Perth Education

Ceran Lingua

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Algonquin College  
Banff Education
Bow Valley College  
East Coast School
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English School of
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Niagara College  
School District
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      & Pitt Meadows  
Student Guard
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Vancouver English

Bell International  
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Bury Language
CMT Learning  
International House
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Kaplan International
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Link School  
London School of
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King's Colleges  
Quality English  
Rishworth School
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Study Group
University of
      Essex -
St Michaels

Accent Francais  
Alpha B -
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College International
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Ecole PERL  
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Institut de Langue
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Langue Onze
LSF Montpellier  
Lyon Bleu
Paris Langues /
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EC Cape Town  
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Good Hope
inlingua Language
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Interlink School
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International House
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Escuela La Ola
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Malaca Instituto -
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Malaga Si  

EF Language
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International House
      New York  
ELS Language
New York
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University of
Zoni Language

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