October 2010 issue

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US east coast

Encompassing cities such as Boston, New York and Washington, DC, the US east coast is popular with students wanting to go on to further study. Jane Vernon Smith investigates.

Stretching from the state of Maine in the north to Florida in the south, the US east coast offers a variety of different, but typically American, experiences. Boston, the birthplace of American independence, is one of the premier destinations for visitors to the USA, says Olga Karanikos, Sales Manager, North America, for Embassy schools. “It is,” she notes, “the world’s largest academic centre, home to over 50 universities, and…a sophisticated city, in a location which feels more like a friendly town.”
Founded in 1630, it is also one of the oldest cities in the USA, comments Tiffanie Callisto at Geos Boston, “and is, therefore, the most culturally significant out of all the cities on the US east coast.” To gain a feel for the city’s history, Karanikos recommends walking the Freedom Trail, which highlights many of its historic monuments, and tracks the path of Paul Revere on arriving in New England to warn of the onset of British troops.
According to Martina Barth, Area Director for Kaplan International Centers, Boston, sport also features prominently in Boston life, with professional hockey (Bruins) or basketball (Celtics) at the TD North Bank Garden, and baseball (Red Sox) at Fenway Park. Other typical Boston activities include pubs, Italian food and culture, and events at the famous Faneuil Hall.
With a choice of two schools – in Boston itself and nearby Cambridge – Kaplan offers “great central locations, close to many shops, restaurants and pubs”, comments Barth. Furthermore, “Our proximity to Harvard University makes the Kaplan International Center in Harvard Square a great choice for students hoping to transition to a university setting,” she notes.
Those in search of big city excitement will find it in New York, according to Greg Munoz, International Student Services Coordinator at Geos New York, “the most exciting, inspiring city in all of the USA”. From well-known landmarks, like Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Times Square and Wall Street, to lesser-known places students will discover for themselves, there is always something for everyone, he expands.
‘The city that never sleeps’, as it is known, offers “the best in museums, music, theatre, film, restaurants, nightlife, shopping and more”, notes Karanikos. Meanwhile, 24-hour mass transit systems make it cheap and easy to get around and enjoy the sights. “It is the perfect location for students who enjoy an active, multi-cultural, exhilarating city,” she summarises.
According to Munoz, the character of New York is eclectic and unlike how it is portrayed in the movies. Observing that, “Locals always show a passion for helping others,” he recounts the story of a student who, unable to reach her host family upon arrival, sought and obtained help from a supermarket employee, who managed to put them in touch with each other.
Another lesser-known fact about the city is its reputation for good food. “Students can try everything from the New York staples, such as bagels, pizza and cheesecake, to exotic foods, such as Ethiopian cuisine. I actually suggest students walk along the streets and try some of the smaller restaurants – they are the hidden gems of the city!” Munoz recommends.
A ten-minute subway ride from here is Columbia University’s School of Continuing Education, which is housed in Lewisohn Hall on the university’s Morningside Heights campus. It offers “all the amenities of a college town, while still maintaining the distinct urban appeal of a New York City neighbourhood,” according to the schools’ Director of Communications, George Calderaro. Columbia University, a member of the elite Ivy League, dates back to 1754, making it the state’s oldest institution of higher learning. Its beautifully landscaped 36-acre campus, which serves both as academic village and relaxing public space, boasts some of the most beautiful and impressive architecture in the city.
The US capital, Washington DC, provides a wholly contrasting city experience. According to Suzanne Jayaraman, Regional Director at Kaplan International Centers, “DC is really a small town, more than a city. That’s not to say [it] doesn’t offer the same types of entertainment one can find in New York or Los Angeles,” she explains, “it’s just that things are a bit more relaxed here. Our streets are clean, there are as many park spaces as roads, and people are friendly.”
“That same genteel approach can be found in our centre. In this atmosphere,” she points out, “students are able to take the time to form lasting friendships.” Moreover, the Washington Kaplan Center is within walking distance of Georgetown and Dupont Circle, two of the most coveted neighbourhoods in the city, says Jayaraman, and students can walk to the White House in 20 minutes.
Jayaraman recommends taking advantage of Washington’s many free attractions, such as the Smithsonian Museum Network. “I would also encourage a lazy afternoon spent by the Potomac [river]. Students will be able to take some amazing pictures of our iconic monuments and watch the American tourist go by.” Also recommended is a trip to Mount Vernon, Virginia, to see the home of the first US president, George Washington.
Moving down into the sunshine state of Florida, the city of Fort Lauderdale is another popular tourist destination. The local Embassy school moved to a brand new location, with state-of-the-art facilities, in the central Riverfront area of the town in July this year. ”Students love the easy access to the beautiful sandy beaches lining Fort Lauderdale,” notes Karanikos. At the same time, the school is close to “movie theatres, the Modern Art Museum, the historic downtown, restaurants, outdoor cafés, jazz and night clubs, trendy shops and beautiful waterways”.
Many students also venture to Miami for the nightlife or to South Beach for both shopping and beaches. “Where else can you do your homework under a palm tree at the beach, and spend your weekends at Disney World, Universal Studios, in Key West or on a Bahamas cruise?” Karanikos muses.
“Miami is an exciting and vibrant city,” according to Cristina Larive at Kaplan’s Miami campus, and its cultural diversity allows visitors to experience food, dance and music from around the world. Students can get around locally using a free trolley bus service, and the most attractive neighbourhoods to explore, she suggests, are Brickell, South Beach, Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, home to Kaplan’s Miami centre.
Popular excursions within the area include the Miami Seaquarium and the local zoo, Jungle Island. “A trip to the Keys, particularly Key West, is a must. The drive from Miami is breathtaking,” observes Larive, “and the laid-back atmosphere is a great way to spend a weekend. The Venetian pool – which is only blocks from our school – is a refreshing way for students to beat the heat.”
In Tampa, on Florida’s west coast, is the University of South Florida (USF). Founded in 1956, it boasts a high research rating, and recently has been ranked among the top 20 “up-and-coming universities in the US” by US News and World Report, notes Glen Besterfield at the Into study centre based on the USF campus. USF also offers a vibrant residential and campus life within a safe community, while Tampa itself is a diverse and beautiful city, he comments, and its residents are both friendly and accustomed to welcoming people from around the world. “Living here,” he says, “you can enjoy the excitement of metropolitan life as well as the beauty of Florida’s natural habitat.”

Agent viewpoint

“The east coast of the USA is more popular compared to other destinations within the USA, as students feel they add more value to their language course if they study in New York or Boston – as these are business cities. They feel it puts more value on their CV. Also, students feel that there are many more opportunities outside English lessons to practise their English and to spend their spare time.”
Marjolein Breikers, Travel Active, Netherlands

“Many of our students are shocked at how big the USA is, and yet, once they arrive on campus, they are also happily surprised at how easy it is to make friends and feel a part of the school community. After class, or on the weekend, being able to do things, such as see a Broadway play, go to a Boston Red Sox game, visit the White House or enjoy a beach in Miami are memories that last forever.”
Chris Frederick, ApplyESL/International Education Group, USA

“Overwhelmingly, our students are interested in studying in New York or Boston – New York is the more popular city with students. Clearly New York is famous globally, and Thai students are interested in social activities, as well as study; they wish to see the sights that make New York famous…The facilities in terms of shopping, food, restaurants and entertainment available within cities also plays a part.”
Sujitravadee Kitisarakulchai, Brilliant Life Company, Thailand

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