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October 2002 issue

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USA's eastern states

The USA's east coast states have a lot to offer language travellers. They are home to some of the country's most famous cities, as well as towns and villages abundant in history and beautiful scenery, and numerous language schools. Gillian Evans reports.

The eastern coast of the USA is sliced up into a haphazard chain of states, each with a different character and yet united by a rich history and stunning scenery. 'The east coast is gorgeous and so varied in climate and physical beauty,' says Karen Decker, President of the International Center for Language Studies (ICLS) in Washington, DC. 'From the rock-bound coast of Maine to the tropical beaches of South Beach [in Miami], students can find just about any kind of experience they want on the east coast.'

The east coast is also home to some of the USA's most famous cities such as Washington DC, Boston and New York City, although César Rennert, President of Rennert Bilingual in New York City, adds, 'Students also choose cities such as Atlanta [Georgia], which represents the new south, or Miami [Florida], which has become the gateway to Latin America.'

Washington, DC, is popular with both university students and business executives wanting to experience life in the country's capital. ICLS is ideally situated in the centre of downtown Washington, just around the corner from the White House. 'When you step out of the school you have a view of the Washington Monument just down the street,' says Decker. 'Our students can walk to museums and monuments, and there are beautiful parks and fountains all around us.' Aside from visiting Washington's famous sites, there are plenty of other things to do free of charge. 'Museums are free and there are many outdoor concerts throughout the city during the spring and summer,' says Decker.

New York City attracts thousands of international students each year but for different reasons from those who choose Washington, DC. Rennert says students choose the 'Big Apple' because of its 'pulsating excitement and raw energy' and endless list of things to do. 'The bottom line is that if there is something you want, you will find it in New York,' he claims.

Despite being in the heart of New York City, Rennert Bilingual students can easily experience the natural beauty of the state. By travelling just a few miles upstate, students can explore nature at its glorious best in Bear Mountain State Park, says Rennert, while the scenic Hudson River and the historic state capital, Albany, are just a few hours' drive away by car.

If Washington's speciality is politics and New York City's is partying, then Boston's speciality must be education. It has a long academic history and central Boston alone is home to over 60 higher education institutions, including the prestigious Harvard University and MIT. Besides its academic reputation, there are lots of other advantages of studying in Boston, as Alan Broomhead of OISE Boston Intensive School of English explains. 'Boston has a rich tradition and a wealth of history, as well as a European 'feel'.'

By US standards, Boston is a relatively compact city, but this does not mean it is quiet. 'The eminence of [Boston's] universities means that there is always a busy social and academic calendar, with events that range from free lectures at MIT to an evening at the symphony or jazz concerts at the Berkley School of Music,' reports Guido Schillig, Managing Director of Anglo Continental in Cambridge, which is just across the Charles River from Boston.

Embassy CES Boston Lasell is situated in Newton, a leafy suburb bordering Boston. 'Newton is out of the noise and bustle of the downtown area,' says the school's Director, Linda Walsh. 'The quiet tree-lined streets make it an ideal place for serious study.' She adds, 'The proximity of the T, the Boston subway system, allows for a convenient escape from the campus on evenings and weekends.'

A good base from which to explore both Boston and New York City is Connecticut - which is conveniently situated between the two - although there is plenty to discover in the state itself. Kristi Newgarden, Director of the University of Connecticut American English Language Institute (UCAELI) in Storrs, explains, 'Connecticut is known as the 'Constitution State', for it was in the capital city of Hartford that the US Constitution was drafted and signed.'

As well as discovering the history of the country, through trips to Mystic Seaport and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, Connecticut-based students can explore the unspoilt nature nearby. 'We have taken our students whale watching off the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts; river tubing on the Farmington River in upstate Connecticut; and cycling on Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island,' recounts Christie Ward at the Intensive English Language Program at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.

Another school convenient for exploring some of the major cities in the area is the Hun School of Princeton, located in Princeton, New Jersey. 'We are centrally located between New York City and Philadelphia and provide opportunities for students to visit these cities,' says Donna O'Sullivan at the school. 'We are the only private school in the area that provides a residential summer programme in academics, theatre and/or dance and English as a second language.' Among the varied excursions organised by the school, O'Sullivan mentions visits to amusement parks, theatres in New York and Princeton and the Amish Country in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, as well as sporting activities such as canoeing and hiking in the surrounding area.

Charlotte, in North Carolina, is almost equidistant from mountains and beaches. The city itself, according to Jeff Adams-Davis, Director of the English Language Training Institute (ELTI) at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, is the second-largest banking centre in the USA. However, he adds, 'Although Charlotte is growing at a rapid pace, it still has kept something of its 'small town' flavour. The pace is not too hectic and the people are friendly.'

In South Carolina, Anneliese Dessart, Student Services and Immigration Coordinator at English Programs for Internationals (EPI) - whose home is the 200-year-old campus of the University of South Carolina in Columbia - says that students choosing to study there can look forward to discovering the famous southern hospitality. 'Southerners know how to enjoy life; they are friendly and they like to help others,' she claims. To enable students to experience this first-hand, EPI offers a free conversation partner programme, 'where students meet native speakers from the community for an hour or more per week in order to have simple conversation or sophisticated discussions, or to participate in some outdoor or indoor activity of their choice', explains Dessart.

Like ELTI, EPI is well situated for those who want to explore the Carolinas' natural beauty. 'We are only two hours away by car from the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains to the north and the sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean to the east,' says Dessart, adding that, as well as the year-round warm climate, there are 'golf courses galore'.

The great weather and abundance of golf courses also spread into Florida, the so-called Sunshine State, and home of Talk International. The school is situated in Fort Lauderdale, an idyllic setting, according to the school's President, Des Levin. 'Fort Lauderdale is a beautiful coastal city which has 12 kilometres of pristine white beaches, studded with palm trees and washed by the warm, crystal-clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean,' he says.

It is ideal for all age groups. Talk International arranges sports such as snorkelling 'with some of the best sporting clubs in the area' for junior students, and takes them on trips to Disney World and Universal Studios. 'For the more affluent business executive,' continues Levin, 'we also have many sporting activities including scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, yachting, golf and tennis.'

Florida's population is made up of a hotchpotch of nationalities. According to Levin, there are strong influences from the Caribbean Islands, Europe, Africa and South America. 'This rich [mix] of cultures is reflected in the incredible variety of restaurants, music, clubs, sports, museums, art galleries...' he says. 'Quite simply put, there is something for everyone!'


Agent viewpoint

'New York, Boston and Washington DC are the most popular cities on the east coast. The main reasons are because of their social [reputation], the popularity [of these cities] in our country and [their proximity] to Turkey. Also, advertisements about the USA mostly use those cities. The schools that we represent are good quality and very experienced in language [teaching].'
Mehmet Catalagac, YES, Turkey

'The east coast states are popular because they are nearer to Europe and it costs less to fly there from Italy than to California, for example - with one exception that is Florida, where flights from Italy are expensive. Boston, New York and Florida are the most requested destinations. Boston means education, high-ranking universities, private schools and colleges; and a life that is similar to the European one. New York [is popular] because it is the centre of the business [world] and many business people make contact with their American counterparts. Florida is of course known for sun, holiday and fun. The quality of language schools on the east coast is very high. But most Italian clients now expect [more for their money]. There are more requests for single rooms with en-suite; double rooms are the norm at American campuses but this is not acceptable to a number of clients.'
Marco Righetti, Education Consultants, Italy

'The clients who choose the east coast mostly request Boston, Florida and New York. Boston is very popular with students who have just finished high school and are going to university as well as with university students. New York is popular among adults and professionals who are interested in short-term courses. They are attracted by the university atmosphere, the European style and safety. On the other hand, Florida is popular with teenagers, families and adults who want a short vacation while studying. They are attracted by the weather, beaches, leisure activities [and] shopping.'
Susana Carmona, VIC Organisation, Argentina

'Many Japanese clients would like to study English where there are few Japanese students. Compared to the west coast, the number of Japanese is lower on the east coast. The most popular destination is New York [because] there are many things to do besides learning English. Some of our clients are interested in learning arts, dance or business through an internship programme. In a big city like New York, there are more chances [to pursue these activities]. Boston is popular as there are many colleges and universities in the area. Florida is popular because of the [relatively] low number of Japanese and nice climate.'
Yumi Yokomine, Wish International, Japan

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