Browsing Category

San Francisco Travel Tips

California Life Featured San Diego Neighborhoods San Diego Travel Tips San Francisco San Francisco Travel Tips Student Life Suggested student activities Vocabulary

Best bike routes in SD and SF + biking vocabulary

October 17, 2016

There are so many ways to enjoy nature and stay in shape while studying English at CISL San Diego or CISL San Francisco. From the running routes to the hiking trails to the yoga classes, there is always something to do that will keep you in shape!

Another great way to exercise while you are an international student in California is by biking. San Diego and San Francisco both have great bike paths to help you see the cities while exercising. Check out some of the best sites to plot your next ride, but before you do, be sure to learn some bicycling vocabulary!

Bike paths in San Diego

It probably isn’t surprising that many of the bike paths in San Diego are near the ocean. Ride with the ocean breeze in your face and the smell of the salty sea in the air, and make sure to stop along the way to enjoy some of the boutique shops and beautiful natural sights!

Mission Bay’s scenic 12-mile route

CISL students love the Mission Bay ride, which is 12 miles in total. The many bike rental companies in Mission Beach make it easy to rent a bike if you don’t have one! Check out the City of San Diego’s website for an excellent article about the Mission Bay Bike Ride.


San Diego Union Tribune’s Guide

The local SD newspaper, the San Diego Union Tribune, has published an excellent guide to biking. This detailed article provides information on the level of difficulty for each trail, tips on where you can stop for bathroom breaks, and other pertinent information such as where to park, things to look out for (such as traffic, or pets on the trail), and ways to extend the trail if you’re not tired once you’ve reached your destination.

Silver Strand Bikeway

This trail, which takes you from Coronado to Imperial Beach, is a favorite for San Diegans (it can also be walked)! Choose between starting or ending in Coronado, home of the famous Hotel del Coronado and the beach voted the Best Beach in the U.S.


Bayshore Bikeway

Are you ready for a strenuous ride? Check out the Bayshore Bikeway! This route, which is recommended by the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, is a total of 24 miles: 13 of these miles are car-free, and the remainder is on designated bike lanes or bike routes. After a ferry ride across the San Diego Bay, your route begins at the Coronado Ferry Landing. Cyclists go through Coronado, the Silver Strand, Imperial Beach, and Chula Vista before ending Downtown.


Bike paths in San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito

See the iconic bridge in an entirely different way with this famous cycling trip! Starting in San Francisco, make your way across the bridge and ending in charming Sausalito. (Don’t forget to enjoy the view from this side of the Bay!) Numerous cycling companies offer bike rentals and tours.


SF Gate’s Guide to Flat Routes in SF

Don’t want to bike uphill in a city known for its steep terrain? Check out SF Gate’s excellent Guide to Flat Routes in SF. The secret to avoiding the hills? Knowing when to turn off of heavily traveled streets onto smaller, less-traveled ones in a way that avoids inclines. These routes are known to locals as “wiggles” and, according to SF Gate, “The best known of these serpentines is the one Weiss now correctly uses to connect central Market, via the path behind Safeway and through the Lower Haight, to the Panhandle and the western neighborhoods beyond.”


SFist’s Guide to Bike Paths

In addition to some of the more popular routes, SFist’s Guide to SF Bike Paths provides routes that are slightly lesser known, such as the beautiful Baker Beach ride that’s just 5 miles from the Panhandle. Locals know best!

Bike Vocabulary


Do you know each of these words? If not, look them up!

Bike parts

  • Handlebars
  • Pedals
  • Gears
  • Brakes
  • Spokes


  • To pedal
  • To brake
  • To switch (gears)
  • To pump (tires)



American Traditions California Life Featured San Francisco San Francisco Travel Tips Suggested student activities

“Leaf” expressions + fall activities

October 5, 2016

“To ask why we fall in love is to ask why the leaves fall. And to ask how we stay in love is to ask how the trees stay.”

Fall is here! With this season comes fall traditions, such as Halloween, pumpkin carving, haunted houses, Thanksgiving, and the famous pumpkin spice latte that many Americans love. With all of these traditions and the beautiful fall weather, it’s a great time to be an international student in California!

The season American call “fall” is also known as “autumn.” Why is it called “fall?” Because the leaves fall during this time of year! To celebrate, we are looking at some English expressions with “leaf” and then providing our students with suggestions for things to do in San Diego and San Francisco this fall.


Leaf Expressions

To turn over a new leaf

Definition: to start over, to act in a different manner or change your attitude about something.

Example: We had a difficult beginning to our work relationship, but I’m willing to turn over a new leaf and work together on this new project.

Leaf through

Definition: phrasal verb with leaf; to quickly turn the pages of a book or a magazine, reading only a little of it.

Example: I leafed through the magazine and decided not to buy it.


Shaking like a leaf

Definition: shaking and trembling from fright.

Example: I was so nervous before my interview. I was shaking like a leaf!

Make like a tree and “leaf”

Definition: an English joke: “leaf” sounds like “leave,” so the expression should be “make like a tree and leave.” The expression “Make like a BLANK and BLANK” is common in English.

Example: This guy is annoying me. He needs to make like a tree and leaf!



Fall activities in SF

Take a wine tour

As the leaves on the vines turn beautiful colors, Napa becomes a beautiful place! Harvest is over and the vineyard workers are eager to talk about what they think the newest vintage will be like. Visit the tasting rooms, snap some photos of the colorful landscapes, and learn all about this world-famous wine region. Check out our Guide to Napa Valley for some suggestions for this road trip, and make sure to learn some wine tasting vocabulary before your visit!


Visit a haunted house

Haunted houses pop up throughout the city in October and yes, people are crazy enough to be paid to be scared! Haunted houses are like interactive theaters where people walk through the (very scary!) production. The costumes and the acting are incredible! Be sure to check out our article on the most haunted places in San Diego and San Francisco and our guide to the best haunted houses in San Diego, which includes the impressive Balboa Park Haunted Trail.

Photo from The Haunted Hotel SD.

Take a trip to a pumpkin patch

Take part in this fun Halloween tradition of choosing your pumpkin from a pumpkin patch and then carving a face or design into it! Our Guide to Pumpkin Carving includes all of the tools and steps necessary to carve your own pumpkin, but check out the Activity Calendars for CISL San Diego and CISL San Francisco to see if CISL is also hosting its own pumpkin carving!


See a football game

Football season is synonymous with fall! Visit a high school, college, or professional game and take part in this American tradition. If you’re a CISL San Diego student, check out the Chargers: CISL San Francisco students have their choice of the San Francisco 49ers or the Oakland Raiders.


Check out the festivals

Wine festivals, film festivals, food festivals . . . you name it, and there’s a festival for it this fall! Check out the San Diego and SF Travel websites for a list of festivals.


Want to learn a little more about fall? Check out some of our fall-related articles!

American Traditions California Life Featured San Francisco San Francisco Travel Tips Social Media Suggested student activities Vocabulary

Running vocabulary + running routes in San Francisco

September 21, 2016

San Franciscans are some of the most in-shape people in the U.S., and it’s no wonder why: the city’s abundant farmer’s markets selling fresh California produce and the numerous parks and open spaces suit those who love the outdoors! San Francisco’s terrain and cool weather also make it a runner’s paradise. Whether you’re a novice or a marathon runner, you’ll find a route that works for you in SF. Here are some suggestions for websites, articles, and apps to help you run in San Francisco.



Running Routes in San Francisco

Map My Run

These maps include details of the route length and elevation. Routes are plotted on a large map of the city, so you can easily see where the routes are located.  The mobile app is excellent!



Routes include a map, photos, length, elevation, and a description of the route and its highlights.



Beginner, intermediate, and advanced routes are mapped out for you in this informative article.



Running Vocabulary


Warm up

Definition: to do movements that prepare the body for intense exercise. Warming up prevents injury because it prepares the muscles for a workout.

Example: We suggest that you warm up for about ten minutes before you begin running.

Cool down

Definition: movements that help the muscles relax after an intense workout. Walking and light stretching are examples.

Example:  To cool down, we walked through the park after our run.


Definition: the speed in which you run.

Example: My pace has increased a lot since I learned how to control my breathing.


Definition: sweat!

Example: A little perspiration is good for you!


Definition: the ability to exercise for a longer period of time.

Example: He is a great endurance runner, but he’s a very short sprinter.


Definition: to run very fast, usually for short distances.

Example: We sprinted at the end of the race.


Check out some of our other articles about exercising while you are an international student in California!

California Life Dining San Francisco San Francisco Travel Tips Student Activities Suggested student activities

SF’s SoMa “StrEat” Food Park + Ordering Vocabulary

August 16, 2016

San Francisco is known as being a hub of cultures, so it comes as no surprise that you can find incredible food in the City by the Bay! But after checking out the clam chowder bowls of Pier 39, eating some chocolate from Ghirardelli, and trying some of the fusion restaurants in San Francisco, there’s something else CISL international students must try: the SoMa StrEat Food Park.


SoMa “StrEat” Food Park

This unique concept includes 10 vendors who come together to sell their treats in the same location. The area, located in SoMa, offers much more than just food: games, music, and even free WiFi are available for customers! Try something from one vendor, grab a side from another, and then dessert from a third . . . the options won’t be the same next week, because the vendors will change! For that reason, it’s best to attend the SoMa StrEat Food Park VERY hungry!

SoMa StrEat Food Park

Photo from SoMa StrEat Food Park

SoMa StrEat Food Park 

428 11th St
San Francisco, CA

11 am – 3 pm 
5 pm – 9 pm 





Vocabulary for Ordering in the U.S.

Before you head over to SoMa, make sure that you know how to order your meal! Do you know how to order, from start to finish? Check out these commonly used expressions.

Beginning your order

May I please have a _____?

One _____, please. 

Could I please get a _____?

Asking for advice

Don’t know what to order? Ask them for the recommendations?

Hmmm, I’m not sure. What’s good here?

What do you recommend?

This is my first time here. What’s popular?

What’s your specialty?


Specializing your order

Could I please have  . . . on the side?

No ______, please.

Could I add _____ to that?

Can I substitute _____ for _____?


Questions about ordering

Do I pick it up here, or will you bring the food to me?

Will you call my name?

Where are the napkins and condiments?



Can I pay with a card?

Do I pay now, or later?


Where are your favorite places to eat in SF? Tell us on Facebook!



American Traditions California Life Featured Learning Materials Lessons San Diego San Diego Neighborhoods San Diego Travel Tips San Francisco San Francisco Travel Tips Student Activities Suggested student activities

Grammar Lesson of the Month: “Heat” expressions + water parks in California

August 1, 2016

The weather is heating up . . . but in California, there are plenty of places to cool off! In addition to exploring California’s many beautiful beaches, lakes, and rivers, CISL students have the option of enjoying some of the world’s best water parks. Check them out: but first, learn some expressions with “heat!”

Expressions with “heat”

Beach Party


In the heat of the moment

Definition: Doing something quickly and without thinking, usually because you are overcome with anger or excitement.


  • In the heat of the moment I said some things I regret.
  • I forgot my phone was in my pocket, and in the heat of the moment I just jumped into the pool! Oops.

Take the heat (for something)

Definition: To take the blame or criticism for something.


  • I broke the window, but my brother took the heat for me.

In a dead heat

Meaning: tied while in competition; neither side seems to be the winner.


  • Right now both Olympic teams are in a dead heat for the gold medal.
  • The horses were in a dead heat until the very last seconds of the race!

Turn up the heat

Meaning: Increase the pressure to do something or complete something.


  • Production is low, so we have to turn up the heat and get the workers to perform better.
  • She really turned up the heat in our exercise class today! I’m exhausted!

Beat the heat

Meaning: To escape the heat and cool off.


  • We would beat the heat in the summer by going to the local pool.
  • I beat the heat in the summer by eating cooling foods.

Grammar Quiz

You just learned some new expressions with the word “heat,” but can you use them properly? Check out the following sentences and decide which ones have mistakes with the expressions and which ones don’t. The answers are at the bottom of this post.

Sentences using expressions with “heat”

  1. It was in the heat of the moment that I decided to buy a ticket and fly to Italy.
  2. This summer we have beated the heat by staying at the pool every afternoon.
  3. It looks like the two teams are in dead heat.
  4. I need you to turn up the heat on Tim so that he sells more this month.
  5. Who is going to take the heat by this failed project?

Water Parks in California

How do you beat the heat in the summer? We suggest checking out some of these spectacular water parks in California!


Waterworld (Concord, Bay Area)

Bay Area’s most popular water park just might be Waterworld: it has more water slides than any other park in Northern California! Not only does it have many water slides, but it also has some of the scariest, which makes this park a dream for the adventure-seeker!

1950 Waterworld Pkwy
Concord, CA 94520
Phone number(925) 609-1364

Waterfront Park (Little Italy, San Diego)

One of the newest additions to the Embarcadero on San Diego Bay is the beautiful Waterfront Park. Have a picnic on the grass while looking at the boats and cruise ships on the Bay, or jump into some of the water fountains and cool off!

Little Italy
1600 Pacific Hwy

San Diego, CA 92101
Phone number(619) 232-7275

Belmont Park’s Wave House (Mission Beach, San Diego)

Wave House Mission Surfer FB

We’ve often written about Mission Beach’s Belmont Park and Wave House: it’s a favorite for CISL students! Sip on some cool drinks, take a dip in the ocean, attend one of the concerts or events, or try to surf on the artificial wave maker. There’s always something fun to do at the Wave House!

3125 Ocean Front Walk
San Diego, CA 92109
Phone number(858) 228-9283

Sea World’s Aquatica (Chula Vista, San Diego)

Sea World is known for its marine life and animal shows, but there’s something new to check out: its awesome water park! Formerly called Knott’s Soak City, the new Aquatica is entirely renovated and is now a summer “must” for San Diegans. Swim in the pools, take a ride down the lazy river . . . or get crazy and try one of the intense water slides!

2052 Entertainment Cir
Chula Visa, CA 91911
Phone number(800) 257-4268

 Quiz Answers

How did you do on our little quiz? See if you found all of the grammatical errors for our expressions with “heat.”

  1. It was in the heat of the moment that I decided to buy a ticket and fly to Italy. Correct! (Note: you could also remove “that” from the sentence: click here to learn about Relative Clauses.)
  2. This summer we have beated the heat by staying at the pool every afternoon. Incorrect: “beated” is an incorrect past participle of “beat.” The tense, the Present Perfect, is correct: click here to learn more about the Present Perfect. 
  3. It looks like the two teams are in (a) dead heat. Incorrect. You are in A dead heat because “heat” is a noun. 
  4. I need you to turn up the heat on Tim so that he sells more this month. Correct! In this case, Tim works in sales and needs to improve his earnings. 
  5. Who is going to take the heat by (on/with/regarding) this failed project? Incorrect: we must use one of the words given (on, with, regarding) and we cannot use “by.”