Archives for March 2011

Farewell to Klasse 7A

We had a memorable time with our Austrian friends

So much to see!

We have seen so much during the weeks they were here. Last Wednesday we were lucky enough to get a tour of San Francisco City Hall. We had a terrific tour leader, who was incredibly knowledgeable about the building and it’s history. I was amazed to learn that the city hall has been retro fitted so that the ground underneath it can move up to 27 inches in an earthquake, without moving the pillars supporting the building.

De Young Museum and Golden Gate Park

We then fit this group of 65 onto a pair of city buses, and made our way out to Golden Gate Park. The students had an audio tour of the museum, and then they had free time to eat lunch and visit the tower on the new building, which has a gorgeous view of the entire city. Here is a view of the park below us, with the Academy of Science building on the other side of the oval. The green roof captures rainwater and helps insulate the building.

After the De Young, we split into two groups. One group went back into the city to explore downtown, and the other went down to the peninsula to explore the suburbs a bit.

Computer History Museum

On Thursday we spent the morning putting together their presentations for the evening farewell party. They did a great job practicing, and entertained their host parents with waltzing, and Austrian jokes and games on Thursday night. During the afternoon, between practice and the party, we visited the computer history museum in Mountain View. It was very interesting, I was pleased to see what a great job they did explaining the history of computing. Definitely worth the visit. It was too rainy for me to take a picture, but the attached photo shows what the building looks like. You can learn more online at: Computer History Museum

On Friday the students spent the day at the high schools, Gunn students had an international lunch that they all got to enjoy. Some of the students also had a visit to Google, and then it was time to relax with their host families for the weekend.

Our students have flown back to Austria, with many happy memories of California. It sounds like they had a great last weekend. Some students went to a movie together, some went to Monterey and saw the beach and aquarium, and some went to La Cirque de Soleil. On Monday, even though we were leaving that day, we still had time to squeeze in a tour of Berkeley. The students got to see the Baseball stadium, the hall of sciences (including a dinosaur skeleton,) and the famous campanile. I could not resist posting pictures, because they actually had some California Sunshine on the last day!

I hope that this is just the first taste of California for all of you, and that you come back soon!

Return to the U.S. this summer with ECI!

Want more opportunities to improve your English and explore California? Then enroll in one of our summer immersion programs for European students. You’ll find all the details on the Edu-Culture International, Europe website.

Tahoe Visit, Stanford, and Tesla Motors

Final blog from Local Leader Jennifer

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Google Tour

Students were treated to an unexpected and rare tour of internet company, Google, on Friday after their high school shadowing day. Using host family car pools from both schools, the group was transported to Google Headquarters, where they were given a tour by present and past Google Employees. A special thanks to Heike Schmitz for getting us “in” to Google. The students, together with the tour of the computer museum and Google, really go an “inside” look at Silicon Valley. We hope some of them may return someday for school or work.

Weekend Wind-Down

The weekend was another fun one for host families and students. Some headed out of Palo Alto for sightseeing, others enjoyed sporting events, and others relaxed at home with various activities throughout the weekend. The kids are all looking forward to reuniting with their loved ones at home, but also are enjoying their last hours here.

Devine Family Trip

Our family braved the forecast of snow to travel to Lake Tahoe for skiing and snowshoeing. Emanuel showed us how to ski FAST racing style, and we enjoyed showing him how to snowshoe but it was so WINDY that we called it quits after just a brief look at the scenery on the mountain top. We also took a “dip” in Lake Tahoe, actually we were walking to the water but misjudged where it actually started since it was covered by snow and ice. Emanual has a rare claim to fame that he actually swam and skied on the same day at Lake Tahoe.

Monday sun and the city

Today is sunny and gorgeous in the city. Classes b and c headed first to the Embarcadero, then democratically by vote decided we would all go through thru the financial district on our way to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. The climb paid off with breathtaking views from all sides. We took the campus wooden stairs down enjoying beautiful gardens and the sounds of birds.

Gold rush history

After a stop at the gold rush museum it was time for some free time where at least one student must shop for luggage so he can bring all of his purchases home.

Police and Fire Station Visit

Tuesday was a lovely day in Palo Alto and the students enjoyed a walking tour of the Stanford Campus. On the way to the main Quad, we stopped at the Police and Fire Stations where we learned about how firefighters live, about the gear they wear, some new high tech gadgets they use to make sure they don’t run out of oxygen, and more. At the police station the students verified their prior learning on Americans and guns, as they were informed that anyone over 18 can buy a gun if they have the money and pass a background check. Although there were several weapons that were displayed, the kids were allowed only to take photos, no touching.

Stanford Campus Tour

Then it was on to the main part of campus where we saw Palm Drive, the Roudin Sculptures in front of the Memorial Church, the bookstore and more. The students completed their evaluations of the trip on the desk of the lovely Tresidder Student Union in the sun.

Tesla and Stanford Mall

The last stops of the day were to the Stanford Mall, known for its lovely flower displays and a smaller group walked across the street to Tesla for a look around at the new electric Roadster cars, starting at $109,000. We were not able to test drive, only those who put a down-payment down are afforded that privilege, but we did get some great pictures.

Uneventful Trip to the Airport

Tony, the funny Italian New Yorker bus driver (we really want him to be our driver for the bus tour next time) picked us up and we headed to the airport for an easy check-in. I just heard that the students and teachers have arrived home in Vienna safe and sound. It was a pleasure to meet each and every one of the students, and I hope I will perhaps see some of them again in the future. Many other host families shared with me yesterday at drop off how great the experience was and how much they will miss their student.

We wish the students well! Thank you for reading my blog.
Jennifer Devine, Local Leader

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Return to the U.S. this summer with ECI!

Want more opportunities to improve your English and explore California? Then enroll in one of our summer immersion programs for European students. You’ll find all the details on the Edu-Culture International, Europe website.

Rain Cannot Stop the Fun

Klasse 7 enjoys sightseeing, museums, and school visits

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In spite of the unusual weather in San Francisco and Palo Alto, the students are enjoying their sightseeing, educational, and school visits. On Wednesday the students again grabbed umbrellas and raincoats and headed for the city.

Visit to United Nations Plaza, Civic Center, City Hall

They were welcomed at the San Francisco City Hall by Ellen, an elderly but energetic guide. Ellen showed some of the highlights of the city hall building, including a visit to the Mayor’s office (he was not in, but we met his secretaries).

De Young Museum Visit

Then it was off to the de Young Museum, which showcases a number of American and South American exhibits. Several of the students commented that the Mayan and Aztec art was quite “Scary”, and I agreed with them. The audio tour was helpful in describing the different exhibits and types of art. The students all visited the tower of the museum, which provides a 360 degree view of the city, to have their photos taken. These photos will be given together with a thank you card to the host families after the Farewell Party on Thursday. The students split up after the museum, their choice: continue touring the city or to to do some shopping. Can you guess where the majority of kids went? (it was raining, so maybe that is the main reason). I have been very impressed by this group’s shopping stamina, I have to say.

It’s Showtime on Thursday

On Thursday the students prepared all morning for their “Farewell Program” for the host families. Each class prepared a marvelous presentation: A performed a medley of songs, B prepared a funny word pronunciation game, and C did a Quiz Fact Game Show. Rafael created a wonderful movie for the grand finale of the program – 8 minutes of photos and comments set to music. The host family really enjoyed it and I’m sure that the home families will as well! 12 of the students hosted and shared their personal thoughts about the trip – they were amazing; very poised and speaking from the heart. The teachers were very proud of them, and so were the local leaders, Kirsten and myself.

Personal Computing Museum – Sponsored by Bill Gates

Ok, Bill didn’t give us a personal tour, but we did get to see him talking about Microsoft. After ending our practice, we headed to the bus for a wet ride to the local PC Museum, just outside of Palo Alto in Mountain View, home of Google, Symantic, and many other Internet companies. The kids enjoyed playing the “ancient” computer games like pac-man, pong, and more. There were many interesting video clips featuring the start of IBM, Palm, HP, and of course Microsoft.

Google Bound

The museum was the perfect segue into tomorrow’s (Friday) Google Tour, which came about very fortunately just a day ago. Several of us had been working several different angles to get a tour of facebook or google, and one of our Host Mom’s (one of the first 100 google employees) was able to call upon a friend to give the tour! This is certainly a very rare opportunity for groups like ours, and the kids are very excited. Caroline is baking a cake in the shape of the google logo to present to the tour guides.

Shadowing Day

The Palo Alto High guests were greeted with Paly “Pride” T-Shirts and green beads in honor of the Paly Viking championship football victory last fall. The Gunn guests were invited to enjoy a special International Lunch at Gunn today – an amazing assortment of foods will be offered from around the world. The event is a fundraiser to help victims of the earthquake/tsunami in Japan.

Ready for the Weekend

Host families are preparing for one final weekend with their students. There are plans to attend some sporting events, baseball at Stanford and Pro basketball, some trips to the mountains, to the beach, and some good old movies. Laser tag is also a popular indoor choice. We’re excited about bringing Emmanuel to ski. There is record snow in the mountains – but the road is supposed to open at noon, so we’ll head up to Tahoe in early afternoon. The boys will “skip” one class so we can beat the rush hour traffic. Enjoy the weekend, I’ll write the final blog on Monday.

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Return to the U.S. this summer with ECI!

Want more opportunities to improve your English and explore California? Then enroll in one of our summer immersion programs for European students. You’ll find all the details on the Edu-Culture International, Europe website.

Fisherman’s Wharf & Hard Rock Cafe

More fun in San Francisco with our Austrian friends

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Weekend fun

Gosh, we have been so busy with the students! I have heard from many families that they really enjoyed showing their students around on the weekend. Some families played laser tag, many went to the beach (so the Austrians could see the Pacific Ocean) and some went up to San Francisco, to the Exploratorium Museum, or to San Jose to the Tech Museum with their host families. Some of the Americans taught their Austrian guests how to cook a typical American food, like chocolate chip cookies!

Monday our guests went to the high schools with their American brothers or sisters, which went very smoothly. The Austrian teachers that visited Gunn with me said that they were very impressed with the quality of the student art work displayed in our school library, and by the fact that we have deaf, blind, and occupationally challenged students all attending school in regular classes. We were lucky enough to have a Gunn high school teacher with us on our tour of Alcatraz, and they were able to ask her questions about the school.

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We go to prison! But have fun first.

That makes the perfect segue to our next tour day. On Tuesday we went to San Francisco again, and took the cable car. It was great to get there first thing in the morning, and miss the crowds. Every one who wanted to got to ride on the outside of the car.

We walked through Fisherman’s Wharf, and then everyone was excited to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe at Pier 39. This is also the pier that is home to the famous Sea Lions, which we saw later in the afternoon.

Out to the ‘Rock’

After lunch we caught the boat to Alcatraz, also known at the Rock. For all you local families that have not taken this tour yet, you should, it is so interesting and evocative! We managed to miss most of the rain during the time we had to be outside.

That was our last stop on Tuesday, it was amazing to share our local sights with these great students. I forget sometimes how much there is to see and do in the San Francisco Bay area. Hosting these students reminds me that I should get out more!

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Return to the U.S. this summer with ECI!

Want more opportunities to improve your English and explore California? Then enroll in one of our summer immersion programs for European students. You’ll find all the details on the Edu-Culture International, Europe website.

Host Family Time & Visiting Alcatraz

A reflection from a host family from the weekend

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I asked some of our families to share stories or comments about how their Austrian guest is faring. One family shared, “we live in a modest Palo Alto home, and we don’t watch television. On Sunday morning, we were on our way to a “Waffles and Wii” breakfast gathering at a friend’s home in Hillsborough. Their home is the opposite of ours: 8,500 square feet, last listed at many millions, and because the husband works for Nintendo (Wii) they have an enormous entertainment room dedicated just to video games.

As we were telling Jona about our friends and their extravagant lifestyle, we joked that perhaps he had gotten a bum deal by being assigned to us instead of them. He quipped: “But do they have Zachary?” (our three-year old, who loves him already). It is true that the Peninsula has much diversity both in culture and economic status. It’s nice to know that the kids do see beyond that and are not caring or comparing how nice their host house is or how big the bedroom, but rather on the people inhabiting the house.

Day one of school visits

Our host students enjoyed bringing their new Austrian friends to school today. Some commented that they were surprised how the kids here actually really paid attention to what what happening in class, even one of the teachers. One student mentioned that one thing she saw in the American system is that a disabled/handicapped student has the option to attend public school, and that she like that. Some favorite classes were History, Orchestra, and English. Not high on the ratings were Chemistry, Japanese or Chinese.

Living Skills had a substitute teacher and it was rather “interesting” to see the kids take advantage of this situation. In America, substitute teachers are brought in from the community – they are not regular teachers. On Friday, students are looking forward to an International Lunch to benefit the Japanese Tsunami victims and receiving some souvenirs from Paly that remain after the big football victory this year – Paly won the state championship and had a big parade in their honor.

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Tour of Alcatraz and Pier 39

Today was a very busy day including many fun and interesting adventures. After arriving by train, we hopped on a cable car and took a tour through the center of San Francisco. After arriving at the top of the “most crooked street in America” (Lombard Street), we walked to the famous Cannery Row/Fisherman’s Wharf. The students ventured through an arcade museum before arriving at the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch.

This tour was undoubtedly a highlight of the trip thus far. We learned about the “infamous” inhabitants of the island of Alcatraz, the jailbreak, escaped convicts, and life in prison. The students were very well behaved after that (just kidding)! The audio tour was very descriptive and made it feel like we were actually there during the time the prison was open. The students were in agreement that they would not want to spend even one night there.

It rained off and on, but mostly only before our tour. We walked back down the famous Embarcadero Blvd. to the train station arriving home tired but happy after a very fun day.

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Return to the U.S. this summer with ECI!

Want more opportunities to improve your English and explore California? Then enroll in one of our summer immersion programs for European students. You’ll find all the details on the Edu-Culture International, Europe website.