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5 Things You Should Do in Your First Week as an International Student

September 8, 2017

Moving to the U.S. to study English is exciting, but it can also be a little scary! Follow these suggestions for the 5 things you should do in your first week as an international student at CISL San Diego or San Francisco and you will feel adjusted and comfortable in your new home in less than a week.

5 Things You Should Do in Your First Week as an International Student

Things You Should Do in Your First Week as an International Student

#1: Learn the transportation system

Make it easy to see your new city! Learn your transportation options immediately. Here are some suggestions:

  • Get your transportation passes. Check out our Guide to Transportation for San Francisco and San Diego Students for information on city buses, the metro, and trains.
  • Buy a bicycle (if you want to own a bike). Check out Craigslist to buy a used bicycle for a good price. (As always with Craigslist, be sure to meet the person in a public location, like a coffee shop, to make your purchase.)
  • Download apps for the ride-share services in your area (like the apps Uber and Lyft) so that you can get a ride for a good price.
  • If you’re in SD, download FRED (The Free Ride). You can get a free ride to anywhere Downtown!
  • If you are interested in getting your driver’s license, visit the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for information on how to take the test: the process is quite simple in California, but you will need to show proof of address (like an electricity bill). This may take some time for you to set up.

Things You Should Do in Your First Week as an International Student

#2: Get your phone card

Get connected to family and friends back home! Pre-paid SIM cards can be purchased from many locations and are very affordable. They can be purchased from a local convenient store (such as 7-11) or at a mobile phone carrier such as T-Mobile or AT&T.

Things You Should Do in Your First Week as an International Student

#3: Find your grocery shopping locations

Where will you do all of your shopping? When you are exploring your new neighborhood, try to locate all of the area’s grocery stores. Usually you will be close to a large grocery store (such as Von’s, Ralph’s or Safeway), but there will probably also be small stores close to you that have many of the items you need. In addition, see if your neighborhood has a farmer’s market: usually these are once per week on a scheduled day.

More information:

Things You Should Do in Your First Week as an International Student

#4: Find out where you will exercise

The quickest way to feel like you are at home is to have a routine: make sure your routine includes staying healthy! Find a gym, yoga studio, or other exercise studio in your area and join it so that you can make friends and stay healthy. Check out our International Student Guide to Exercising in the U.S. for some tips and information on U.S. gyms.

Things You Should Do in Your First Week as an International Student

#5: Enjoy some of the local restaurants

The best part about living in a new country is of course the food! Explore your neighborhood and try a few restaurants and cafes that are close to you. See which ones are open late (in case you get a late-night craving for something delicious). Don’t be afraid to talk to the employees: people are very friendly in the U.S.! Chances are, the employees will love to give you some tips for things to do and see in your new neighborhood.

More information:

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English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

September 1, 2017

Do you know the basic English capitalization rules? Stick with these simple guidelines and you will understand the majority of the times that we capitalize something in English.

Basic English Capitalization Rules

The first letter of the first word of a sentence

This basic rule is something we always follow in English.

  • The thing I enjoy most about living in San Francisco is the city at night.
  • She said she loves living in California because of its beautiful sunsets.

If the sentence begins with a number, be sure to spell the number (not begin a sentence with the number).

  • Fifty states are in the United States. (correct)
  • 50 states are in the United States. (incorrect)

The word “I”

The word “I,” the first person singular subject pronoun, is always capitalized.

The first word of direct speech

Direct speech (the exact words a person says, which are in quotation marks) should be capitalized.

  • She turned to him and said, “Do you want to hear a joke?”
  • He responded, “Only if it’s a good one!”

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Proper Nouns

Proper nouns (the names of people and places) are always capitalized.

There are many types of proper nouns: here are a few.

The names of people

The names of people are always capitalized.

  • Andrea and Whitney are coming to dinner on Friday evening.
  • Tim needs to respond to my email.
  • Has Mark called you yet?

Continents, countries, cities, and regions

Does a place have an official name? Capitalize it!

  • I would like to study in North America, but I can’t decide between the U.S. and Canada.
  • Where is she from in Central America?
  • We are going to Puglia, Italy next summer.
  • I had a wonderful time studying in Southern California.

Planets, mountains, oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes

Are you talking about a natural formation that has an official name? It should be capitalized.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Buildings

Buildings that have official names are capitalized.

  • The San Diego Convention Center hosts ComicCon every year.
  • I think the Palace of Fine Arts Theater in San Francisco is so lovely.
  • Have you ever been to Pier 39 in SF?

Businesses, organizations, programs, and sports teams

Officially formed groups and programs are capitalized.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Days and months (but not the seasons)

This simple rule is always followed. Note: the seasons are capitalized when talking about semesters in college.

  • I will see you on Wednesday.
  • My birthday is in October.
  • I love the spring. The air smells so good!
  • I will attend Grossmont College for Fall 2018.
    English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Religions

Religions are always capitalized.

  • My family is Catholic.
  • My neighbors practice Islam.
  • We are learning about Buddhism in school.

Languages

Languages are capitalized when written in English.

  • I will be studying English in San Francisco this fall.
  • She speaks Farsi and German.
  • I would love to improve my English phrasal verbs.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Holidays and festivals

Official holidays, festivals, and celebrations are capitalized.

  • What are your plans for Thanksgiving?
  • I love dressing up for Halloween. It’s my favorite time to be in the U.S.!
  • San Diego’s Little Italy hosts the Art Walk every spring.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Periods of time

Periods of time that have official names are capitalized.

  • Dinosaurs lived during the Mesozoic Era.
  • I enjoy art from the Middle Ages.
  • When did World War II officially end?

Visiting Sacramento, California’s Capital

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

The word “capital” is often confused with the word “capitol.” Do you know the difference? A capital is the government headquarters, but a capitol is the actual building.

The most famous cities in California are probably San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles . . . but the state’s capital, Sacramento, deserves some attention! Have you been to Sacramento? This beautiful city is located between two rivers and is known for its diverse population, tree-lined streets, historic Old Sacramento, incredible restaurants, and sports teams.

In honor of all things related to “capital and capitol” (in language, government, and architecture), we are looking at some of the highlights of Sacramento. Here are a few things you should see and do on a trip to Sacramento, California.

Old Sacramento

What did California look like in the 1800s? A trip to Old Sacramento will give you an excellent idea! This eight-block area has over 100 shops, restaurants, and many museums. Visit the old schoolhouse, take a ghost tour, ride a classic horse carriage, learn about the Gold Rush with the Gold Fever tour, and ride a riverboat before having dinner on the Delta King, a floating hotel and restaurant.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Sacramento Capitol building

Before seeing the government at work, walk the beautiful parks of the Sacramento Capitol. Go inside for a tour and to visit the museum: you will learn about California’s history while seeing beautiful architecture. Afterwards, visit one of the many award-winning restaurants in the area . . . or take the quick walk to Old Sacramento.

Farm-to-fork dining

Sacramento is known for its restaurants, particularly the restaurants that use farm-to-table (also called “farm-to-fork”) dining. In this concept, the chef has close relationships with local farmers and buys the restaurant’s ingredients directly from the farmers. This allows the chef to control the quality of the ingredients.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Sacramento Kings and Sacramento River Cats

While in Sacramento, check out a basketball or baseball game! An evening at a Sacramento Kings game is full of excitement and energy. During the warmer months, enjoy beautiful Raley Field and a River Cats baseball game. Play ball!

Photos from Pixabay. River Cats photo from River Cats Facebook. 

 

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The 5 Best Sunset Views in SF + Sunset Color Vocab

June 21, 2017

California sunsets are one of the best things about living in this beautiful state. When you’re studying English in San Francisco, be sure to enjoy the sunset each evening! These locations offer the 5 best sunset views in SF.

How amazing are the sunsets in California? Take a look on Instagram and you’ll see! Each of these photos were posted within the last day, which shows how amazing the California sunsets are.

The 5 Best Sunset Views in SF

Twin Peaks


Wear comfortable shoes and grab a jacket: the wind at Twin Peaks can be strong, and the hike up is a bit of work! Once you’re at the top, you have stunning views of San Francisco. Stay after sunset and watch the lights of the city come on: this view is beautiful any time of the day.

Twin Peaks: 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA

Lands End

A post shared by Robert L. Gee (@_no.27_) on


Lands End is a park in San Francisco that has many hiking trails, including the famous oceanside California Coastal Trail. San Franciscans use this trail to run and hike, but they also take a moment to stop and enjoy the sunset from the beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Mile Rock Point and Mile Rock Beach.

Lands End: 680 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA

Bernal Heights Park (and Summit)

A post shared by Karen (@moxykk) on


Bernal Heights Park is built on a hillside, and its park and trails provide stunning 360 degree views of San Francisco. Enjoy the trails and the view past San Francisco: on a clear day, you can see surrounding cities in the Bay Area such as Daly City.

Bernal Heights Park: 3400-3416 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA

Corona Heights Park

A post shared by David Olem (@davidolem) on


Corona Heights Park is next to the Castro and Corona Heights neighborhoods in SF. The views, which are unobstructed, allow visitors to see Twin Peaks, Downtown San Francisco, and beyond. Be careful: the steps leading up to the top do not have handrails, so it can be a little scary!

Corona Heights Park: Roosevelt Way & Museum Way, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA

Alamo Square

A post shared by Steven Lemeshow (@slemeshow) on


This park has views of the most famous houses in San Francisco: the Painted Lady Victorian houses! Alamo Square Park was just renovated and re-opened in May, 2017. In addition to enjoying the architecture of the mansions surrounding the park, visitors can see San Francisco City Hall, Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge . . . and beautiful California sunsets! 

Alamo Square: surrounded by Webster Street (east), Golden Gate Avenue (north), Divisadero Street (west), and Fell Street (south)

Best Sunset Views in SF

Sunset Color Vocab

How do you describe the beautiful clouds, the amazing colors, and the effects of the ever-changing sunset over the Pacific Ocean waters? These colors will help you

Shade:

Definition: the intensity of a color (whether it has more light or dark to it).

Example: Look at the many shades of pink in tonight’s sunset!

Hue

Definition: a color or shade (similar to the word “shade” . . . although an artist could explain that they are different! For learning English, think of “hue” as a synonym for “shade” or “color”).

Example: Last night’s sunset had so many beautiful hues.

Color + ish (blueish, pinkish, etc.)

Definition: a color similar to the one used in the word, but not exactly the color. (Use this word when you don’t know the exact color you’re describing.)

Example: The sky was a blueish, purplish color: it was so lovely.

Stunning

Definition: very beautiful.

Example: What a stunning view . . . and sunset.

Ablaze

Definition: on fire.

Example: The sky was ablaze during the red and orange sunset.

Cast (verb)

Definition: to cause light or shadow to appear on a surface.

Example: The sun cast its light on the clouds and created a stunning sunset.

Ray

Definition: the streaks/lines of light (from the sun).

Example: The sun’s rays were shining through the clouds as it set.

Best Sunset Views in SF

Radiant

Definition: bright.

Example: The radiant sunset was impossible to capture in a photo. You had to be there to really see  it.

Crimson

Definition: a shade of red (often used to describe the sky).

Example: The crimson sky turned into a deep blue.

Glow

Definition: to shine brightly.

Example: It looked like the sky was glowing.

Trace

Definition: a hint of something; a touch of something.

Example: I could still see traces of orange in the sky an hour after the sun set.

Share your California sunset photos to Facebook and be sure to tag CISL and add #CISL to your photos!

Photos from Pixabay. 

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The Word ‘ALSO’ in English + Places You Should ALSO Visit While Studying in SF

May 1, 2017

Do you know how to correctly use the word “also” in English? It might be a small word (just four letters!) but it is used quite often. Today we are looking at how to use the word “also” in English; then we will look at this word in action by learning about some places you should “also” visit while studying English in San Francisco!

The Word ‘ALSO’ in English

We use the word “also” to add an agreement to a statement.

Examples:

  • Yesterday I went to Little Italy. I also went to Mission Beach.
  • I tried surfing and we also tried kite-boarding.
  • I took the TOEFL exam. I also took the IELTS exam. I know, I’m crazy!

Placing “also” in a sentence

The word “also” is placed in the sentence in relation to the sentence’s verb or verbs.

Use #1: With a “be” verb

The word “also” comes after the BE verb.

Examples:

  • My teacher is a Cambridge instructor. She is also an IELTS teacher.

Use #2: For all other verbs

For all other verbs, “also” is placed before the verb.

  • I tried fish tacos. I also tried a shrimp burrito.
  • My teacher taught us how to use phrasal verbs during the Cambridge Speaking Module. He also helped us learn how to naturally incorporate idioms into our speech.

Notice that these verbs are one-word verbs: in the examples above, we use “tried” and “helped,” which are in the past tense. What about verb tenses that are more complicated?

Use #3: For sentences with more complex verb tenses

For verb tenses that use two words, “also” goes between the two parts of the verb. Examples include the Present Continuous, Past Continuous, or Present Perfect. This also includes verbs that are used with modals.

  • You’ve been to the theater in SF? I’ve also been there!
  • I was also working out last night at the gym.
  • We could go check out Haight-Ashbury tonight. We could also explore the Mission District.
  • When you’re living in SF, you should definitely go to Dolores Park. You should also see the cool Comic Museum!

Places You Should ALSO Visit While Studying in SF

You’re probably going to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, Union Square, and Alcatraz. Chances are, you’re going to check out Golden Gate Park, ride a cable car, and explore neighborhoods like Haight-Ashbury and the Mission District. But we also suggest that you leave the city on occasion: there is so much to do and see outside of SF! The following suggestions are for day trips or weekend trips for SF residents. Have you visited these really great cities and locations?

Sausalito

Cross the Golden Gate Bridge and you arrive in Sausalito, a charming seaside town with beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay. The city is famous for its houseboat community (almost 500 in total!) and is a lovely place to explore: check out the Marinship neighborhood’s waterfront and beach (you can rent canoes and kayaks!) and walk down Caledonia street for some excellent shopping. The city is filled with excellent restaurants and adorable cafes.

To most fun way to get to Sausalito is by ferry. Check out our post on Sausalito and the Golden Gate Ferry for more information.

Berkeley

The city is famous for many things: its prestigious university, its liberal community, and its hippie culture are just a few! Berkeley is considered the intellectual heart of California by many: you might feel smarter just walking along its streets! (We are joking . . . but we really do recommend walking down some of its streets, particularly famous Telegraph Avenue and Solano Avenue.)

Berkeley is easily accessed by public transportation: the BART station in Berkeley is located on Shattuck Avenue (very close to UC Berkeley).

Napa and Sonoma Valley

The most famous wine region in the United States is just a short trip from SF! Napa is the most popular of the two regions, but Sonoma also offers award-winning wines and beautiful scenery. Check out some of the tours you can book if you’d like to have a guide, or rent a bike for a closer view of the grapevines! The area also has charming towns to explore such as Yountville, Oakville, and Rutherford.

Before taking a trip to Napa, read our article on Wine Tasting Vocabulary.

Santa Cruz

The beach boardwalk, beautiful parks, and downtown are heavily influenced by California surfer and hippie cultures; these locations are some of the many reasons to visit Santa Cruz. Walk down the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and ride the famous Giant Dipper roller coaster, check out the beaches and watch the surfers, and then go hiking in the beautiful mountains and see the gorgeous pine trees.

The Highway 17 Express bus will take you from San Jose to Santa Cruz in about an hour. Check out the Santa Clara Valley Transport Authority for more information.

Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay’s beaches, water sports, fishing, and hiking make it a popular destination for many Northern Californians. Explore one of California’s most charming seaside towns (and be sure to enjoy some of the Pacific Ocean’s fresh seafood)!

The best way to get to Bodega Bay is by car (it’s less than 1 1/2 hours driving). For information on how to rent a car, read our post on Renting a Car as an English Student. With public transportation, the bus takes about 3 hours: take Bus 72 towards North (from the Perry Street stop) to the Santa Rosa Transit Mall (Second St. and B. St. stop). From the Santa Rosa Transit Mall, take Bus 95 towards Point Arena (Northbound) to the Highway 1 and Tides Inn stop at Bodega Bay.

 

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Adverbs of Degree in English + 4 ‘Really Awesome’ Libraries in California

April 1, 2017

Adverbs of Degree in English

Adverbs of Degree in English

What are adverbs of degree in English? Adverbs of degree show the level of intensity of a verb in the sentence. Using them makes your writing and speaking much more effective (or can even change the meaning of a sentence)!

Here is an example of a sentence with and without an adverb of degree:

  • He won the race.
  • He almost won the race.

The meaning completely changes when we add this adverb.

The meaning doesn’t always change when we add adverbs of degree. Sometimes, these adverbs of degree just give us more clarification.

  • I love you.
  • I deeply love you.
  • I agree.
  • I highly agree.
  • You said what I was thinking.
  • You perfectly said what I was thinking.

In these cases, the verb is strengthened by the use of the adverb of degree.

Here is a list of some of the more common adverbs of degree.

almost absolutely  barely completely decidedly deeply enough enormously
entirely extremely fairly  far  fully greatly hardly highly
how incredibly indeed intensely just least less little
lots most much nearly perfectly positively practically purely
quite rather really scarcely simply   so somewhat  strongly
thoroughly  too totally utterly very virtually well

4 ‘Really Awesome’ Libraries in California

It’s almost impossible to choose just four really awesome libraries in California. However, we are absolutely sure that these are some of the best in the state! Notice how we use these adverbs of degree in English for the descriptions of each library: the words on the adverbs list are in bold. When are these words being used as adverbs of degree?

The San Diego Public Library, Downtown SD

While some people believe that people barely read books these days, we highly disagree: San Diegans read enough that the city just finished an entirely new library! The completely new structure is one of the coolest architectural designs in SD: check out our article about this amazing place.

San Francisco Public Library, Potrero Branch

What a view! This structure was recently renovated in 2010 and offers beautiful city views, lots of natural lighting, free wireless internet, and many places for group meetings and individual study.

Los Angeles Public Library

The Los Angeles Public Library holds more than 6 million books: that’s well more books than any other public library in the U.S.! The building is an utterly beautiful piece of architecture (check out the simply gorgeous globe lamp!) that is worth a visit.

Hearst Castle Library, San Simeon

The Hearst Castle is extremely famous for being one of the most beautiful castles in the United States, so perhaps it is fairly unsurprising that the castle has an incredibly stunning library. The details of the warm and lavish structure are impressive!

Have you been to a library in California? Tell us about it on Facebook!