Cable Cars, Alcatraz, and Baseball Games

Two more sunny, fun days studying abroad in California

We headed up to San Francisco again on Wednesday, excited and ready for a full day of touring. The sun was out and we were getting warmer by the minute! We hopped on the Cable Car at Powell near Union Square. The students were excited to hang off the cable car and were waving at people on the street and in the cars. We all had a lot of fun flying up and down the hills of San Francisco in the Cable Car, and some of the students even compared it to riding a roller coaster! We were all actually able to squish onto one car, which was tight fit but fun.

We took the Cable Car to Lombard Street, which is the most crooked street in the world. We took a walk down the street and headed back to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch at the legendary Hard Rock Cafe! Pauli asked if he ordered the “Bacon Cheeseburger” if that comes with Bacon, Cheese and the Burger? I replied yes and he was so excited!

Riding the Alcatraz Ferry on the San Francisco Bay

After Hard Rock, despite our tight schedule we also found time to say hello to the sea lions at Pier 39, and the sea lions greeted us back. Next, we got the students together for the boat ride over to Alcatraz Island for a tour of the famous prison, gardens, and around the island. By the time we got on the boat, most of the students were in t-shirts and were enjoying the sun.

Exploring Alcatraz aka The Rock

On the island we took an audio tour of the prison to learn about it’s history, inmates, and guards. The tour was good and we learned so much about Alcatraz. The tour told us about the largest escape attempt, where 3 men escaped through the walls. They used spoons to chip through the cement behind a vent for over a year. Once they escaped they were never seen or heard from again. There are 2 theories: 1. They died in the very cold, rough waters off of the island trying to get to San Francisco; 2. They were studying Spanish and were learning about South America so many think they made it and made their way down south. Many of the students were talking about this and their theories of what happened, so I know they were listening.

Tasty treats at the Ferry Building

On the way back from Alcatraz, we all stopped for a quick break at the Ferry Building, where I was able to show Ina and Raffaela some of my favorite local food items. We tried the decadent Cowgirl Creamery Cheese, fresh pressed olive oils, different flavors of almonds, and my personal favorite: mushroom ice cream. They didn’t believe me that it was delicious at first, but they loved it and even got a popsicle each. It tastes like maple-yum! Then it was back to Palo Alto after a fun day!

American baseball in the sunshine

On Thursday morning the students were busy getting ready for the final performance that they will be doing at the farewell party. I cannot give away any of the secrets of what I have heard or seen, so you will just have to wait until Sunday for photos. We hope to see all of the host families there. Today I taught them all how to play baseball. Luckily, some of them already had some working knowledge of the game so we were able to demonstrate how to play. I explained the rules and the goals of the game and then we took the field. There were so many eager players we had a field full of students.

It was a beautiful day yesterday and the students were excited to run around. We started with a scrimmage game and there was a huge line of students wanting to hit the ball and get a home run! Then we played a game. They caught on quicker than I had expected and we were able to play a fun game. Believe it or not, we had a tie score 7-7! They all took turns with positions and loved it. Some smaller groups split off to play catch, practice hitting the ball, and even got a game of soccer together. At the end of the day we had peanuts and cracker jacks and sang the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” It was a great day in the sun!
– Marya

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.

ECI’s Austrian students are now TV stars!

Visiting Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf, and 7Live TV show

After making the trip up to San Francisco on both Caltrain and BART, we walked over to the Ferry Building for a quick break before our busy day. The Ferry Building is one of my favorite spots in SF. Outside today we saw a Farmer’s Market, where local farmers bring their fresh fruits, veggies, meat, and fish. There are also food tents where you can get yummy fresh food. Inside there are many stalls also selling fresh fruit, meat, and fish, plus chocolates, olive oil, gellato, coffee, wine, oysters, burgers, fresh bread, cheeses, and unique mushrooms (even mushroom ice cream!). While paying attention to the signs, Felix asked me what “sustainable” means when talking about food? In California, it’s common to advertise if a farmer’s crops are organic, locally grown, and sustainably raised.

Hike up to Coit Tower

Next we walked up to the famous Coit Tower. I’m not sure how many steps there were to the top, but there were many! It seemed as if the stairs lead straight up. Once at the top we had a great view of the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. There were only a few complaints about the walk, but I think they enjoyed the view. We then headed over to Fisherman’s Wharf, where the students sampled chocolates, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls, and hot dogs. This is a great place to get an “I Love SF” t-shirt, so I’m pretty sure I saw a few of those in some bags. There have been some funny food requests. Johanas wanted to know where to get Jelly Beans and Christopher wanted to know where he could get a donut. We found both!

After a week in America, we’re already on TV!

After Fisherman’s Wharf, we walked over to the ABC channel 7 TV station. We were going to be in the live studio audience on a show called 7Live. It’s a show about everything from today’s headlines, fashion, local news, pop culture, deals around the bay, and sometimes special guest stars. I’m not sure everyone understood everything in the show, but it was a fun experience. Thank you again to everyone at 7Live for being such wonderful hosts! You can see the episode on their website, and the students make many appearances: ECI study abroad students from Austria on 7Live

– Marya

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.

City Hall, Union Square, and Chinatown

Good times in downtown San Francisco, despite the rainy weather

Friday’s rain sure made the day an adventure. We went up to San Francisco using both Caltrain (large commuter train) and BART (the subway system). The entire process takes about an hour to get up to the city. It was Bernd’s (the teacher chaperon) birthday today and we sang to him when we got on BART. The students were all very excited about the day, because we were going to Union Square for shopping. First, we took a tour of the UN Plaza in front of  City Hall, but kept our visit quick because of the rain.

We then took a tour of San Francisco City Hall where our tour guide gave us the history of the building and even took us into the room where all of the big public decisions are made. The students sat on the marble stairs and listened attentively, and even saw several marriages taking place as well.

Sampling San Francisco’s food trucks

Before the tour I noticed many yummy food trucks lined up in the park across from City Hall, and I explained to the students the new trend of the food trucks and how good the food is. For those of you who don’t know about the food trucks, these are mobile restaurants out of a truck, with truly delicious food! There are so many of them serving all kinds of food in San Francisco. Today they had Mexican, Mediterranean, Bacon Bacon (anything you can think of with Bacon), Indian, and food from the Philippines. Some of the students got a snack on the way to lunch after the tour and liked the new foods. Raffela said that her taco was great and tasted like BBQ Pork.

Union Square shopping and exploring Chinatown

After City Hall, the students had free time around Union Square and the mall for shopping and lunch. They all came back with several bags, and were excited about the new things they got for “so much cheaper than at home!” As always, they of course wanted more time, but we had more to see.

From there we took a tour of Union Square and walked into Chinatown. Founded in 1850, it is the oldest Chinatown in the US, if not the world (well except for China of course). As we walked down the streets of Chinatown the rain really started coming down and we took over the streets with our umbrellas.

You really feel like you are in another country; the street and store signs are in Chinese and some not even translated. We wandered down the narrow streets and an alleyway and visited a fortune cookie factory where we sampled vanilla and chocolate fortune cookies. Then we walked up to the Cable Car Museum before we had some free time to explore and shop in Chinatown. The wind and rain was pretty crazy, so much so that my umbrella was so bent out of shape that I needed to get a new one in Chinatown.

We hurried back to the BART to make it on time. On BART back home we pretty much took over and entire train car and sang Happy Birthday to Annika, as her birthday is Saturday. Then onto Caltrain to meet the host families back at the train station. It was a long day, but I think everyone had fun and at the very least it was an adventure!

– Marya

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.

Laughter, Smiles, and Rain in SF!

Fun times touring San Francisco with our Austrian students

I was excited about Thursday’s itinerary, as it was my first opportunity to show the study abroad students my city. I have pride living in San Francisco, and I love showing it to new people. What a treat to be able to share it with the Austrian students!

I picked up Martin and Elias for carpool this morning and asked them what they were looking forward to most. Martin responded “seeing the crazy people” and Elias was excited to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Touring San Fransisco, they both got their wishes granted.

Our bus tour exploring San Francisco

We had an exciting day on our bus tour of San Francisco. It was a big day with a lot to do. In Palo Alto it had stopped raining, but on our way into San Francisco the clouds were all around us; luckily we were on the bus. As we drove up the freeway, I pointed out the football stadium, and it seems that we have a few San Francisco 49er football fans in our group. We went downtown and the students just couldn’t stop taking photos. One of the important things they really needed to know is “Where is the Apple Store and when can we go?”

Our Tour Guide, Ed, was very knowledgeable and had fun joking with the students, and I even think they were really listening. We had a birthday boy today and we sang to Alexander Burger. We drove downtown and under the Bay Bridge to look at the Giants’ baseball stadium. I noticed that Mark and Elias were already wearing San Francisco Giants Baseball Hats, which was great to know we have even more sports fans in Austria.

Seeing the Pacific Ocean and Haight/Ashbury

Next we drove through Golden Gate Park and saw the Buffalo. When we stopped at the beach and piled out of the bus they were so excited see the Pacific Ocean. I had thought they were just going to peek over the railing, but they went right on ahead and with Bernd (their teacher & chaperone) at the lead and went all the way to the water. The students ran around and hugged each other and took photos of themselves jumping in the air. For me, I thought it was cold, but they were loving it. The students were curious about the temperature of the water, which we looked up to be around 12 degrees Celsius. Burr! Luckily, by this time it had stopped raining.

We then went to the famous Haight/Ashbury neighborhood, where students enjoyed Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and walking around this culturally important neighborhood. Bernd commented that getting a double scoop was way too big and that the portions in America were much different than the small scoops they get in Austria. Many of them had the classic American favorites of pizza and burgers for lunch, and most exclaimed, “Yum!”

Visiting the famous Golden Gate Bridge

We drove past the Palace of Fine Arts and across the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately due to heavy fog we couldn’t see the city, or even the top of the bridge, but the bridge looked beautiful and mysterious engulfed in fog. While walking across the bridge, I spotted a large pod of dolphins swimming below in the Bay and the group of boys I was with enjoyed that. It started raining pretty hard the last 1/2 mile of the bridge, and we all got pretty soaked.

We stopped at Alamo Square Park, home of the famous “Painted Ladies” Victorian houses that you see on many of the postcards. I was surprised to see so many of them spring up after a long day and jump off the bus and in the rain. I saw Sonja skipping up the stairs into the park with her umbrella. We were able to stop in a couple of other neighborhoods in our way back to Palo Alto, which was fun since each corner of San Francisco is different.

The students started the day with smiles and ended with laughter looking at photos from the day and some sleeping on the bus. I love their spirit and joyful energy. So far they have been a great group. Today I learned how to say “thumbs up” in German which I am not even going to begin to try and spell.

– Marya

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.

ECI’s first study abroad students of 2012

We look forward to sharing California with our Austrian group

Chaperones Marya Kahan & Lena Gammer are excited to show our students an amazing time in the Bay Area. The Austrian group will be living with volunteer host families, improving their English abilities, and seeing what American life is like first-hand. After picking the students and their teachers up from the airport on Tuesday, the group were all tired from their travels. Most of the students went right to sleep after arriving at their host family’s home. They needed to rest for the full itinerary they have ahead of them.

On Wednesday, the group had a full day. We started the day with an orientation and a walk in the rain to downtown Palo Alto, where the students participated in a Scavenger Hunt and all groups did very well. They are all quite clever! They didn’t let the weather spoil the experience.

Visiting Stanford University campus

The rain let up a bit for our Stanford University tour, which was fun and educational. Most of the students will be coming home with some variety of Stanford clothing or souvenir. This is a great group of students! Despite the rain they had a great time today and were in high spirits.

Today we are splitting into 2 groups and will both be exploring San Francisco. The weather should be a little nicer for us. Half the students will enjoy a guided bus tour of San Francisco, including stops at Haight Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, Alamo Square, and the Golden Gate Bridge. The other half will take a guided tour of SF City Hall and United Nations Plaza, and will visit Chinatown and Union Square. On Friday they switch, so both groups get to see it all.

We’ll keep posting updates as the trip progresses. We’ll post photos of our time together on the next blog. We look forward to the next few weeks together. Share your own hosting stories in the comment section of this blog.

Welcome to California!

– Marya

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.