May 2002 issue

Travel News
Agency News
Agency Survey
Special Report
Market Report
Course Guide
City Focus

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San Francisco

Agent viewpoint

'Many of our students want to go to Los Angeles, Boston and New York, although some do choose to go to San Francisco. One of the schools we represent there has a work experience programme and many of my clients want to gain this type of experience after studying English. Although, from Osaka, there are some airlines that operate routes [to] San Francisco, it is quite hard to get a reasonably priced flight.'

Masakazu Sakata, Network Communi
cations, Japan

'San Francisco is popular among our young students but is not really that popular with business people. Our younger clients enjoy the beach and going skiing and they say they like the atmosphere of the city.'

Liliana Graziano, American Forum, Argentina

'San Francisco is a city that is lively, everyone knows about it and of course there is Silicon Valley there, and all the enterprises associated [with this area]. There is a lively social life, which is quite important [for our students]. Students like to go out and drink with their international friends, go shopping, all the things that they would normally do here!'

Sebastien Lefevre, Ispa, France

'Our students who choose San Francisco are over 20 years old and they choose business or specialised courses. It's a beautiful city, and near interesting places such as Las Vegas.'

Fanny Terol Esteve, Class, Spain

San Francisco is made up of a patchwork of neighbourhoods, each one contributing another facet to this multicultural city. Gillian Evans takes a look.

Ask almost any San Franciscan what they think of their city and you will find it hard to stop them telling you how wonderful it is. And just one visit to San Francisco is sure to confirm what they say. 'San Francisco is a unique, friendly, beautiful and cosmopolitan city where people from all over the world come to live, work and study,' says Bill Dinan, Student Services Coordinator at Brandon College. The city was named after Saint Francis of Assisi, who was famous for taking in society's outcasts, and the city's legacy as an accepting, open place lives on today. 'Many people are attracted by San Francisco's long history of opening itself up to diverse people from all over the world and from varied backgrounds and interests,' adds Dinan.

San Francisco is said to be one of the USA's most beautiful cities. Stretching along a thin peninsular edged with a rugged coastline and quiet bays, the city has areas of modern high-rise buildings, pastel townhouses climbing up steep hills, as well as lively markets and shopping centres. The city is a chequerboard of neighbourhoods - the colour and bustle of Chinatown, the trendy Latin Mission quarter, the gay capital, Castro, the nightlife buzz of SoMa and the hippie Haight-Ashbury all combine to make up the San Franciscan melange. Esther Goldberg-Contreras at International House San Francisco highlights these 'fantastic, diverse neighbourhoods' as one of the city's many attractions.

In a place with such diversity and varied attractions, students are spoilt for choice when it comes to activities to do in their free time. 'There is always something to do here,' she says. 'The most difficult thing is for students to choose which place to go. North Beach has many cafés and bars - like Vesuvio's, Tony Nik's, 15 Romolo, Rosewood, The Saloon, Caffe Trieste and Caffe Puccini - all located within a few blocks of each other on or near Columbus Avenue. Columbus Avenue has many great Italian restaurants, [and] every night of the week this area is like a carnival.'

The birthplace of the Beat Generation in the 1950s, hippies and flowerpower in the 1960s and the gay revolution in the 1970s, San Francisco readily accepts the out-of-the-ordinary, and this is also reflected in the city sites. 'There are so many unusual attractions in San Francisco that the 'unusual' has become the usual,' says Andrew Poole, Activities Coordinator at Converse International School of Languages. 'There is something for every taste and orientation.'

Spanning the three-kilometre wide bay, Golden Gate Bridge is the city's enduring symbol, and stretching about halfway across the peninsula, from the Pacific Ocean to the Haight's Panhandle park area, is Golden Gate Park. 'For relaxation and recreation, students often flock to Golden Gate Park, one of America's largest urban parks,' comments Dinan. The park is home to a flower conservatory, Japanese tea garden, lakes, museums and an aquarium. Dinan adds, '[In the park], one can find soccer or basketball games, rollerblade or rent bicycles.'

Popular excursions, according to Wendy Henderson, Director of Aspect ILA's San Francisco school, include Alcatraz Island, an 'escape-proof' prison from 1933 to 1963 where famous inmates included Al Capone, 'Machine Gun' Kelly and the 'birdman of Alcatraz' Robert Stroud; the tourist area of Fisherman's Wharf; and shopping at Union Square. As to the city's more unusual attractions, she mentions the Cable Car Museum and the Fortune Cookie Factory.

When it comes to eating, San Francisco certainly has no shortage of restaurants. 'There are more the 3,000 restaurants in San Francisco [and] many of them are inexpensive,' confirms Goldberg-Contreras. Local specialities include Dungeness crab, Ghirardelli chocolate, Chinese dim sum, and fortune cookies - which, according to Dinan, were invented in the Japanese tea garden in Golden Gate Park. Goldberg-Contreras highlights 'clam chowder at Fisherman's Wharf, the best Sub sandwich in the world at Roxie's and Californian Mexican in the Mission' as being among the San Francisco's top culinary treats.

For evening entertainment, Poole says there are 'great dance clubs and live music' throughout the city. Many schools involve the teachers in showing students the sights. At Brandon College, Dinan says, 'Teacher-led activities take place about twice a week. Students go to their teacher's favourite restaurants, bars, cafés, and nightclubs. The teachers here are very social and have a great time introducing students to the city.'

Aspect ILA offers an activity 'almost every day of the week, quite a few of which are either free or discounted', says Henderson. The school also organises for students to help distribute food to the homeless at Glide Memorial Church. 'Feeding the homeless has proven to be extremely popular, with many students then determined to return home and continue doing volunteer work,' comments Henderson.