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.

Tahoe Travels & Yosemite Adventure

Students explore the Bay Area and beyond

Tahoe travels

David and host parents traveled to the Lake Tahoe area this weekend for some fun in the snow. Located just 4 hours from here, we can usually count on snow there when there is rain here. David and Ethan, his host brother, were thinking they would be snowed in and have to miss school today; however, the host family made their way home for a very slow and careful drive home on Sunday, arriving quite late. I hope they are not sleeping during class today! Several families, including ours, are planning to go up next weekend.

Yosemite adventure

Nino and his host family traveled to Yosemite park to enjoy beautiful scenery – Yosemite is one of the best National Parks in the U.S. Visitors can camp or stay in lodges inside the park; camping during this season is for the very hardy. Luckily, Nino and his host family slept indoors, although Nino enjoyed making Snow Angels and participating in a new sport called “Snow Diving.”

By the Bay

I spoke with a few students and teachers who had visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium over the weekend – a fantastic place to see seals, otters, sea lions, and other marine life, as well as to learn about the unique ecosystems of the Northern California coast. The Aquarium was funded by a large grant from the Lucille Packard Foundation, wife of the founder of Hewlett Packard (computer maker with HQ in Palo Alto). A very generous woman, Lucile also started a children’s hospital here where children come from around the world for treatment.

In Class Now

As I write this blog, your children are in class with our children at the High School. Our children were so excited to bring them – I have had several requests to add an additional day so they can spend more time with their new “sister or brother”; however, I think the visiting students would prefer to keep it to just the two days, something about sitting in class for 8 hours is just not as exciting as going on adventures around San Francisco.

Open campuses

They were welcomed at each school before the first class and found their way to at least their first period class before the rain started again. We have open campuses here, which means they walk from building to building between classes, not inside. Normally this is wonderful as the weather is quite mild; however, today they may have been sprinkled upon during some of the class breaks. The sun is now out; however, so hopefully the rest of the day will offer some drying off time. Many students have after school activities – it is the season for lacrosse, swimming, track & field, tennis, girls’ softball, and boys’ baseball, all sports are offered at high school after school. We also have students in our group who are dancers, debaters, boy scouts, etc. and their guests will often accompany them, or they can go home and rest.

Big day tomorrow

We’ll be up early for a trip to Alcatraz, the famous former prison on a rock. Keeping with the rock theme, we’ll enjoy lunch at Hard Rock Cafe. Sun is expected tomorrow – fingers crossed!

– Jennifer Devine, Local Leader

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.

Visiting Stanford & San Francisco

Austrian students enjoy their first week in California

Well, the beautiful California weather is not showing itself to our guests from Austria. Luckily we did not have any rain on Wednesday when we toured Stanford, and Thursday was beautiful walking around in San Francisco.

Stanford visit

We started out in down town Palo Alto, and got a great tour of the Police station. Our guide was a lot of fun and the Austrian students got to sit in a police car, turn the lights on, and have their picture taken on a police motor cycle. The policeman also gave the students some tips on how to stay safe in San Francisco. We then went into Stanford University, and saw the Memorial Quad, the Church, and the Museum. We ended the day with some free time at the Stanford shopping center to eat lunch and do a bit of shopping.

Seeing San Francisco

Everyone was thrilled to be going to San Francisco on Thursday. Thanks to all the American host parents, we were at the station on time for our train. We filled up the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) car, as you can see in the photo. We enjoyed Yerba Buena Gardens, especially the Martin Luther King Memorial. Next the students gathered for the official orientation, under our first blue skies of the week, and then we went on to see the city.

Chinatown and Cable Car Museum

We discussed the history of San Francisco briefly while we gathered in Union Square. We happened to be there on St. Patrick’s day, ask your student if they saw the Irish Dancers. So many people were wearing silly green hats and necklaces! Then we went up into china town, the largest in the U.S. It truly is like stepping into another country. We saw fortune cookies being made! The cable car museum was 2 short blocks from China town, so we went to see the machinery that keep the cables running under the streets of San Francisco. You can see the gears behind the students in the photo.

Rainy Friday bus tour

Friday we had a bus tour of San Francisco. Unfortunately the rain started early in the morning and continued throughout the day. We walked around in the Japanese Tea Garden, and stopped for photos at the Pacific Ocean and on the Golden Gate Bridge. However the rain and wind were strong enough that we decided we should not walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. We looked at Haight Ashbury, and drove past the original Mission San Francisco and Mission Dolores.

The upcoming week

I am hoping that the clouds will go away now so that our students will be able to see some better weather. According to the weather predictions, Tuesday should have variable clouds with a shower, and Wednesday cloudy but only a chance of rain. These are the two days we will be in San Francisco. Monday the students will be attending a local high school with the host families’ son or daughter.

Thanks for reading this. I will write again 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.

Saturday Fun at the Bowling Alley

Austrian students enjoy their first weekend in California

Due to rain, rain, and more rain on Saturday, host families looked for fun things to do inside, or escaped the bay area. Those who chose to travel to Tahoe are enjoying tons of powdery snow…28 inches fell on Saturday alone. This winter has been a record for snowfall in the Lake Tahoe area, the most since 1984. Other families were visiting Yosemite, Monterey Bay, and other locations. For those who stayed local, movies, bowling, laser tag, and going to the theater were other popular choices. Oh yes, and shopping too!

Sunny Sunday

Sunday was a better day for us weather-wise. We woke to sunshine, although brief, but in the late afternoon the sun came back again. The weather on the beach was even better: at noon at Half Moon Bay the sun came out for nearly an hour. Our family enjoyed showing Emmanuel the “killer waves” and eating at a local Chowder House. Later in the day back in Palo Alto we hopped on our bikes for a tour around town, touring the gardens of the Proctor and Gamble founder, Elizabeth Gamble (now a city park), drove by the homes of notable locals such as Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, and Steve Young, football player, before returning home for some college basketball watching and dinner.

Plans for Tomorrow: Attending School

Monday is the first shadowing day where the students attend high school with our students. The teachers will also be joining the students. The group is nearly evenly split between Palo Alto’s two High Schools, Gunn High and Palo Alto Senior High, located just a few miles apart. Both high schools are known for great academic programs and high college acceptance rates. The teachers will also attend class at both schools. Friday is the final shadowing day for the students.

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.