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Celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S.

November 10, 2018

Halloween has passed, the daylight hours are getting shorter and shorter, and the weather has turned colder. Every American knows that this means one very important thing: Thanksgiving is coming! Many students are curious about the origins and the traditions of Thanksgiving and we are happy to share this information with them.

The Origins of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is primarily an American holiday (although it is also celebrated in Canada) and is held on the fourth Thursday of every November. The holiday was started when 53 American settlers (called Pilgrims) had a big feast with 90 Native Americans to celebrate the Pilgrims’ safe journey over the Atlantic Ocean. The holiday has been an official country tradition since 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln named the day an official American holiday.

Thanksgiving Dinner Turkey

A typical Thanksgiving meal! Green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, turkey with cranberry sauce, and rolls.

Thanksgiving Foods

The main tradition of Thanksgiving is the large meal. What is served? It depends on the house! Each family has different recipes and traditions for Thanksgiving dinner, but here are some staples that you will probably see at most Thanksgiving tables:


Most Americans choose to eat a large, roasted turkey for Thanksgiving. It is also popular to serve at Christmastime.

If the celebration is really big, then some families will also serve another meat, like ham or beef.


A mixture of bread, herbs, and spices is stuffed into the turkey. After the turkey is finished cooking, the stuffing is scooped out and served in a separate bowl. It is very juicy and flavorful!


Some families also choose to have “dressing”, which is like stuffing but is not baked inside the turkey. Instead, it is cooked in a separate dish. Dressing is a little more dry than stuffing because it does not have the juices from the turkey.

Mashed Potatoes

Everyone loves mashed potatoes! Many families also make a gravy from the bits of turkey that fell onto the bottom of the roasting pan.

Cranberry Sauce

This tart fruit sauce is a great addition to the very mild flavor of turkey (and is really good on bread rolls).


Many families serve yams, which look like orange potatoes and are very sweet. An old recipe that some families still use requires you to bake the yams with marshmallows, which makes the dish even sweeter.

It is a joke in many families that some family members REALLY hate yams . . . but do not be discouraged: try them! You might be one of the people who loves this sweet dish.

Green Beans/Green Bean Casserole

Some serve green beans, which can be cooked many different ways: boiled, sauteed, or cooked into a casserole. The recipes vary! For green bean casserole, a layer of green beans are mixed with mushrooms and a thick, white sauce or soup: the mixture is topped with fried onions and baked. The result is a crunchy, sweet top and then soft green beans underneath.

Pumpkin Pie

This delicious pie MUST be served at each Thanksgiving table! Make sure to top your slice of pie with some whipped cream. Most families also serve another dessert, like apple pie, for dessert.


Photo from Macy’ Photo originally from Business Wire.

Thanksgiving Traditions

Just like the menu, the traditions of each family are different at Thanksgiving. Many families watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is on television in the morning, to see celebrities sing and dance on beautifully decorated floats. Most families also take time to talk about what they are thankful for before the meal is eaten.

Another Thanksgiving tradition is Black Friday. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and it is the busiest shopping day of the year. Many American wake up VERY early (sometimes at 2 or 3 in the morning!) to get to the stores early and take advantage of the incredible sales. The last few years, these sales have also been online, so recently a lot of families have chosen to stay at home and sleep in . . . and then shop in the comfort of their pajamas on Friday morning.

As a backlash to this consumer-related “tradition,” people began “Small Business Saturday.” In this shopping day, customers visit only the small, local shops and support these businesses rather than the large corporations that dominate Black Friday.

The newest “tradition” is “Cyber Monday,” where many stores offer online shopping deals. What will Tuesday be named? Only time will tell . . .


Career English CISL San Diego Social Media Student Articles

Career English Student Success: Hyebin’s Talent Scout and Marketing Experience!

May 5, 2017

CISL’s Career English program allows international students to master English skills and then spend time with an American company. Our student Hyebin recently completed the Career English course by spending time with Gaslamp Event Management, a marketing company that also is a talent management company for models. Hyebin provided us with some information about her experience with the Career English program and her time with GEM.

Hyebin remembers the interviews before her placement. “I had two interviews. One was for B Green Foods and the other was for GEM.” She says that she “searched about the companies in advance,” but of course she was anxious! Hyebin remembers that “it was my first job interview, so I was nervous, but both were casual interviews, so it was comfortable for me.”

In the end, Hyebin’s chose Gaslamp Event Management, a company located downtown just five minutes from the CISL campus.

What did she do each day? “At first, I made tickets which were for Saint Patrick’s Day. After preparing tickets for 1 week, I sold them on Saint Patrick’s Day. There was a booth in front of a bar, so it was good for meeting a lot of customers.”

What an awesome opportunity to speak English with native English speakers!

Hyebin’s responsibilities also included working with models. “My CE placement was also a model agency, so I was a talent scout & manager. Every day, I received a lot of application letters and I invited them to our interview. In addition, I was in charge of Downtown Dolls’ social media marketing.” She states that “experiencing many tasks was good for me. As I mentioned, I was a talent scout & manager, so I had to respond to application letters so it was good for improving my writing skills . . . I managed Downtown Dolls’ official website and social media sites. I could do a real social media marketing.”

When looking back on her experience, Hyebin is very pleased. “My boss and colleagues were friendly. I was the only one who couldn’t speak English fluently. Every time when I didn’t understand what they were saying to me, they told me again and helped me. They encouraged me and I could work happily. I was satisfied with my CE program.”

Would Hyebin recommend this program to others? Absolutely! She says “I would recommend CISL’s Career English program to potential students who want to experience real tasks at a company. You can learn English and experience many things and meet nice people. It will definitely be worth it.”

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, Hyebin! We are so happy that you enjoyed your time at your company and that your English improved!

California Life CISL San Diego Featured San Diego San Diego Neighborhoods San Diego Travel Tips Student Activities Student Articles Suggested student activities Vocabulary

California Surfer Slang for English Students

July 27, 2016

If you’re in California studying English, one thing is certain to happen: you’ll pick up some California slang!

Not surprisingly, a lot of California slang has its roots in the surfing culture. Below are some words often used by surfers, but you don’t have to be a surfer to use these slang words; in fact, many are commonly used by Californians. In the cases when a word is used both by surfers and the land-loving populations, we have included both definitions. 


Surfer Slang (used by everyone)

Generation definition: Having an aggressive attitude; having a bad attitude.

Example: You are such an aggro driver. 

Surfer definition: Being aggressive in the water

Example: He became really aggro when he was stuck in traffic.

General definition: Getting excited about something.

Example: I’m amped about tomorrow’s test because I studied really hard for it. 

Surfer definition: Getting excited to surf.

Example: I’m so amped for our trip to Las Vegas!

Generation definition: To leave.

Example: I’m tired. Do you want to bail? (from a place, such as a party)

Surfer definition: to jump of the surfboard in order to avoid being thrown off because of a wave.

Example: He bailed in the middle of the wave. 


Surfer Slang (used only by surfers)

General definition: the purple dinosaur on a children’s show.

Surfer definition: An inexperienced surfer.

Example: I was a total barney for the first year, so don’t give up when you first try surfing!

Beach Leech
General definition: There isn’t one! This is entirely a surfer term.

Surfer definition: A person who doesn’t bring their own supplies to the beach and borrows (leeches) yours.

Example: Your roommate is such a beach leech. I don’t have any sunscreen anymore because he used all of mine.

Generation definition: a name for a male.

Surfer definition: A non local.

Example: There were a bunch of bennies at the beach this morning.


To learn some more California slang, check out some of our other articles on the subject:

And be sure to check out our articles on surfing in California!

Would you like to learn some more surfer slang? Check out this article from Surfing Waves about “surf speak.”

Photos from Shutterstock. 

Career English CISL San Diego Featured San Diego San Diego Neighborhoods Student Activities Student Articles Student Life

Career English Student Success: Desiree’s architecture firm!

June 29, 2016

CISL’s Career English Program provides students an incredible opportunity to learn English in a small classroom setting, then spend time at an American company. Desiree, from Switzerland, shared her experience with Studio E Architects. Thanks for sharing, Desiree!

After spending four months learning English at Converse Languages School in San Diego, Desiree began the Career English program. She worked closely with our Career English Coordinator to find the most fitting experience for her based on her prior experience and education and her future work goals. Why did she choose architecture as her desired field for her Career English program? “Five years ago I started my apprenticeship as a draftsperson in Switzerland, so I would really like to draw in San Diego and I wondered how an architecture firm worked here.”

Desiree worked with Studio E Architects, which she explains is “a thirteen-person collaborative led by two principals, Eric Naslund, and John Sheehan.” After being coached by the Career English Coordinator on how to shine during an interview with an American company, Desiree interviewed with John . . . and was offered a chance to spend time with the company!

Studio E Architects

How was the first day? What about the first week? Says Desiree, “My first day I was introduced to everybody and got a place where I can work for the next four weeks. In my first week I should try to draw in a new software. It is called Sketchup and you can draw 3D models with it. It was completely new for me because I was used to draw with Archi CAD what is quite different to Sketchup. I could always ask somebody for help if I got stuck, which was very useful.

After three days of trying out I could start drawing a multi family house. I made different alternatives. I also could start to draw a new project always supported by John, who was showing me what exactly he want me to draw.”

In addition to spending time working with these new programs, Desiree had the chance to work with the company owners directly. “One day John took me out to show me the place where my first project should be build [sic] soon. So we took some pictures from the neighborhood there and back in the office I should draw the neighbour[hood] buildings next to the new building in Sketchup.” Such a cool experience!

Another great experience? Learning a little more about beautiful San Diego, straight from an SD local! “Afterwards John was telling me about the history of San Diego what all starts with the Missions in 1769. The first Mission of 21 was . . . in San Diego.”

"Mission San Diego de Alcalá - church" by Bernard Gagnon - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the church in California. Learn more about the state’s missions with our article “Types of TOEFL Prompts and California Missions.”

For another project, Desiree had the opportunity to learn about one of San Diego’s most impressive architectural buildings, the Salk Institute in La Jolla. “Maxine is responsible for an huge parking garage which has already started build [sic] in the UCSD campus. I could go with her and John to visit the construction area which was very interesting. After that we went to the Salk Institute. It was amazing to see this building in real and John told me stuff about the architect Luis Kahn and the building.” Amazing!

Overall, Desiree said the experience was incredibly positive. “To sum up, this four weeks were great and sadly too short. The team was so nice, friendly and helpful. I can completely recommend this company to other students!”

We thank you, Desiree, for your hard work with Studio E and with CISL! Your English improved greatly during your five months in SD, and it was a pleasure seeing you enjoy yourself!

Would you like to spend time with an American company and improve your CV? Contact CISL and learn more about our Career English program!

Cover photo courtesy of Desiree.

“Mission San Diego de Alcalá – church” photo by Bernard Gagnon and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Studio E Architects photo from Studio E Architects via Facebook. 

CISL San Francisco Featured San Francisco San Francisco Travel Tips Student Articles

A few things I’ve learned during my time in San Francisco

June 18, 2015

By CISL SF student, Cornelia


  • The back door on Muni only opens if you step down.
  • You can smell Marijuana almost all the times.
  • Don’t try to understand the trash bin rules. There is no simple explanation.
  • The people who like being naked in public aren’t always good looking.
  • Hugs, no handshakes.
  • Perfumed garbage bags exist.
  • It’s totally acceptable to wait in line for an hour for your favorite food.
  • Always bring another layer, no matter how warm it looks when you leave the house in the morning.
  • San Francisco is like Europe, combined with the US. The best of two worlds.
  • Coffee is never only coffee. Trust me: Regular? Decaf? Half-caf? 1 shot? 2 shots? Non-fat? 2%? Whole? Soy? With-whip?
  • Burritos are kind of a religion: Everyone knows THE best place to get THE best burrito.
  • Always check the street cleaning signs – especially if you borrowed a car.
  • Without green juices and smoothies your life isn’t good.
  • Stop smoking. It’s not cool anymore.
  • The fortune cookie was invented in San Francisco, not China.
  • SF is the perfect place for foodies. And soon you will become one, too.
  • Walking everywhere is the best way to get to know the city. You can’t always trust MUNI or BART.
  • Neighborhood parks are the place to be.
  • No Giants game is complete without garlic fries.
  • You can sell closets as bedrooms, as seen on Craigslist.
  • San Francisco should be called The Windy City, especially at Ocean Beach.
  • Coffee in one hand, mobile phone in the other. Headphones on. That’s the SF uniform.
  • Always wear your sunglasses. You never know when the sun will come out.