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Writing Contest Winners

Writing Contest Winners

Writing Contest Winner: Travel Tips

November 12, 2012

Last month, CISL San Diego asked its students to write a travel article that was similar to our Tips for Enjoying Las Vegas post. The results were very impressive! The winner, Emilie Staes, wrote about visiting Valencia, which is on the west coast of Spain. Congratulations, Emilie, and thank you for your submission!

Valencia: Where Else?

By Emilie Staes

If you like charming places and partying all night, Valencia is what you need! Indeed, Valencia is an amazing destination, and here are some of the reasons why:

1. Eat Typical Food

Man ypeople enjoy eating “paella Valencianna”. You can eat traditional food as well as food from all over the world. “El Carmen” is the best place to eat gastronomic food. In the surrounding area of “Plaza del Ayuntamiento”, you can find many delicious and cheaper restaurants.

2. Let’s Go Shopping!

Valencia is famous for its big shops and commercial centre. The city can suit all tastes. If you want to experience high fashion, go to Sroni, Cicilo, Amoros, or Jorge Juan Street. Or, if you prefer to buy some fresh products, one of the biggest covered markets is waiting for you: El Mercado Central de Valencia.

3. Get Some Rest at the Park

Jardines del Turia. Copyright VLC Valencia.

Valencia is also famous for its wonderful parks. This place is a pleasure for the eyes. Admire all the vegetation and the flowers, meet other people and exchange words . . . but you can also do some sports like running, basketball, riding bicycles, rollerskating, and skateboarding. “Jardin del Turia” is most highly recommended park. If you spend some time there, don’t forget to visit the City of Arts and Sciences. There are a lot of things to do inside, and the buildings are really modern and gorgeous. It’s a big white concrete structure beside which you may feel small.

4. Go Out with Spanish People!

A true fact: “You don’t know what a real party is if you never went to Spain”. There the part never ends. You will still be in the club until the next morning. Meet some Spanish people and become friends, the ambiance will keep you there. El Carmen is the best quarter for bars and restaurants. it might be a good idea to go to the ports because they are full of modern and sophisticated clubs.

5. Where the Beach?

The city of Valencia contains some of the most splendid beachees on the Mediterranean. After sunbathing and swimming, most poeple like eating in the many restaurants along the beach. Temperatures in Valencia are particularly pleasant. There are beautiful beaches all over Spain: La Concha beach is one of the best beaches in Eurupe. You should try it!

In brief, Valencia is a unique and wonderful place because of its activities, places, and its gastronomy. It’s ideal for both the lazy and intrepid traveler.

Interesting Facts about Valencia:

  • Valencians know how to party
  • Valencia is famous for its “horchata”: a frozen drink made of tiger nuts
  • Valencia is the birthplace of paella
  • Valencia is the third largest city in Spain


CISL San Francisco Student Articles Writing Contest Winners

Student Writing Sample: “Do We Have Free Will?”

November 8, 2012

Do we have free will? CISL San Francisco students were asked this question last month for our writing contest. The winning entry, from Maxime Bindzi, is a wonderful example of a five-paragraph English essay. Enjoy his musings on free will. Congratulations, Maxime! Your writing skills are truly impressive!

Student Writing Sample: “Do We Have Free Will?”

By Maxime Bindzi
Most people think that they’re free because they have the impression that they make their own decisions. I decide for example to listen to rock music, to wear baggy jeans and to talk in a certain way. We consider ourselves as individuals in a society but are we really as original as we think we are? We do have a certain degree of choice but not as much as we think we do. What really happens is that our behavior, our language, our lives are influenced by a lot of factors which don’t reach our proper conscience. Our decision making is influenced by an endless chain of causalities.As a teenager or pre-adult, I consider myself as an original person. I’m not part of any fashion music or politic movement; I’m more like a free spirit.
However, I was raised in a poor French neighborhood with its own rules and its own system. My friends and I may probably have been influenced by some rules that made us choose between basketball and ballet, between being bullies or victims. I myself did not face those choices because my mother made them for me. I started basketball and classical music (cello) at the age of 3, and I’m proud to be one of the few in my neighborhood who had been introduced to this kind of music. The only choice I had to make was accepting my difference or be part of the mass. I choose the difference. 
Now I look on my friends lives, they did not made any choices, they just followed the cultural or social wave which allowed them to do certain things and forbade them to do other things. In their mind, they are free to sell drugs, be bad at school and play soccer. The fact is that when everyone has the same occupation, there is no more freedom; it might be for a few of them but for most of them this is a question of social habits. When it comes to social habits there is no more free will. I might sound a bit rough but I truly believe there is none.
The reason why I think so is because there are many things that affect our choices, even though man has the capacity of determinism; there will always be a factor which doesn’t reach our mind such as publicity. I was born in an advertisement century, TV is everything. Studies have shown that at the age of 18 we have been exposed to at least 350 000 ads. This is definitely something that can affect our everyday life. When you are part of a group, your choices can be distorted.
When we talk about determinism, it is hard to avoid destiny. Am I really free to do whatever I want or was it written before I did it? Is there an entity beyond our imagination (God or something else for the non-believers) who can control our choices or who make us believe that we are free? To conclude, I think that it’s depends of what you mean by free. But if you’re looking for THE answer which will solve everything, give up and pick another question because there is none. However I think that it is useful to ask ourselves, “Are we really free?”.
Student Articles Writing Contest Winners

Writing Sample: “Is it Ever OK to Tell a Lie?”

October 19, 2012

To what extent is telling a lie a bad thing? In English we call little lies “white lies.” These are lies that we tell to the people we love because we do not want to hurt their feelings. For example, you might not like your friend’s new shirt, but if your friend asks you your opinion, you might lie and tell your friend that you love their new purchase. Or you might not like your boss’s new idea, but you have to respect your boss, so you lie and say that you love the new proposal.

We asked our CISL students to write an essay about telling lies. Is it ever ok tell a lie? If so, when? We were impressed by the openness of the student essays! Thank you to each student who participated, and congratulations to Ran Joo, the writing contest winner! Below is Ran Joo’s essay on lying.

Student Writing Sample: “Is it Ever OK to Tell a Lie?”

By Ran Joo

Some people think that it is permissible to tell a lie because they want to protect vulnerable people’s feelings while others think it is not necessary to tell a lie. In my opinion, we need to tell a lit to take care of other’s emotions. There are a couple of examples to show my opinion.

Firstly, people tell a lie when they don’t want to neglect people’s kindness and thoughtfulness, even though the things their friend gave to them isn’t always necessary. When your friend’s gift doesn’t fit your style, you will thank them for their kindness. You will try to compliment the person on how pretty the present is. Also, when your mother wants to sure how beautiful she is, you will tell a lie to make her happy.

Secondly, people tell a lie when they want to prove their abilities to someone; for example, when you interview to get a job, you’ll try to be acknowledged by your employer. You’ll also tell a list which wouldn’t be harmful to you when you sell products in a business so that customers perceive that your products are helpful and beneficial.

To wrap up, people tend to tell a lie when they want to appeal or ensure something from people, especially in their social lives. They also tend to tell a lie not to hurt their family and friends in their private life. If you were the person always telling the truth, you might hurt vulnerable people without any intention. I think sometimes, we need to tell a lie rather than tell the truth.

Congratulations again to Ran Joo for winning our monthly contest!

Are you a current CISL San Diego student? Check out this month’s Writing Contest prompt about travel writing and get started on your next submission!

Suggested student activities Writing Contest Winners

Tips for Enjoying Las Vegas

October 12, 2012

Many CISL students choose a trip to “Sin City” during their time living and studying in San Diego, yet few students arrive with an itinerary. Here are some suggestions for fun activities during a trip to Vegas OTHER than experiencing the city’s nightlife:


1. Just walk around!

The Bellagio hotel has water shows throughout the day, but most tourists prefer the beautiful night display which has a spectacular light show.

Walking down “The Strip” with your friends is a great way to take in the sights and sounds of the city, and you will probably encounter many street performers and free shows. The Treasure Island Hotel has a pirate show every night at 7 pm, and the Bellagio hotel has a spectacular water show every 15 minutes.

Many students agree that walking the streets of Vegas is the only way to truly feel how BIG Vegas is. Just remember: wear comfortable shoes! The Strip is very, very long! If you get too tired, you can always grab a taxi cab to take you back to your hotel.


2. See a show

Many students choose to see one of the seven Cirque du Soleil shows while they are visiting Vegas, but the city offers many other performances. Consider seeing a magic show, a musical, a comedy show, or a “headliner” like Celine Dion or Elton John.

Check out Las Vegas Shows for a list of performances.


3. Eat at a buffet

Vegas is known for expensive restaurants and celebrity chefs, but before the city’s culinary explosion, it was famous for its buffets. Experience “old Vegas” by eating at a buffet for one meal and enjoy the MANY dishes the buffet will offer! The Buffet at the Bellagio has many delicious international foods, while Cravings Buffet at the Mirage offers 11 live cooking stations.


4. Gamble . . . a little (if you are 21)

Vegas is of course known for its gambling, but many people are intimidated and a little afraid to gamble. Many casinos offer free lessons for beginners. It might be a good way to practice your English skills: just remember to only play at the tables with low bets! Don’t come back to San Diego broke!


5. Be adventurous

Would you like to do something really memorable during your stay in Vegas? Consider experiencing the SkyJump at the Stratosphere. You will fall 108 stories! If you are not too excited about free falling, you can experience Fremont Street Flightlinez, where you zip line over the Vegas crowds. Are you afraid of heights? How about swimming with the sharks at the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, or riding the roller coaster at New York, New York?


Are you feeling like a daredevil? Check out one of the most dangerous and scary activities in Las Vegas: the Sky Jump!

See for a list of all the “extreme” activities in Vegas. Warning: they look VERY scary!

6. Hang out by the pool

A trip to Vegas usually includes long nights and lazy days. Relax by the pool at almost any hotel and pretend that you are in paradise. Maybe you are?


As you can see, there is a lot more to do in Vegas than simply visiting bars and clubs . . . although the city’s bars and clubs are pretty incredible as well! Hopefully your daylight hours will also be full of fun events thanks to this list of suggested activities.


Vegas Vick, seen to the left of this photo, has been a staple of the Vegas Strip for decades.

Fun Vegas Facts*:

  • The huge neon cowboy that is seen in so many photos/videos of Vegas is named “Vegas Vick”. It is the world’s largest mechanical neon sign.
  • Camels were used as pack animals in Nevada as late as 1870.
  • Over 38.9 million people visit Las Vegas each year.
  • Seventeen of the 20 biggest hotels in the U.S. are in Las Vegas.
  • In Chinese culture, the number “four” is considered back luck. Therefore, the hotels/casinos Wynn Las Vegas and Rio have no floors that start with the number four. The floor after “39” is floor “50”.
  • Many of the casinos and hotels in Vegas are thought to be haunted. The Luxor, The Flamingo, Bally’s, and The Hilton are just a few hotels with stories of ghosts haunting the hallways.

* From and


Writing Assignment:

You just read the article “Tips for Enjoying Las Vegas.” Now, you will be the author! Write an article that gives tips for visiting a new city. You can choose ANY city in the world . . . except your hometown! (And except Las Vegas, since we just provided you with an article about Las Vegas.)

You must:

  • Write a short introduction
  • Say at least five things that the reader must do/see/experience
  • Give some interesting facts about the city
  • Write a short conclusion


  • Assume that your reader has never been to this city. Tell the reader all the cool things he/she needs to know!
  • You will have to do a little bit of research for this post. Include specific names of places, sites, etc.
  • The most interesting article will win a prize!
  • Please bring this article to class on the date that your teacher requires.

Check back to the CISL Blog at the beginning of November to read the winning entry! Good luck!


Do you have a great Vegas story that you want to share? Email us at

San Diego Student Articles Writing Contest Winners

Writing Contest Winner: What comes to mind when you think of summer?

September 20, 2012


Just two weeks ago, Americans celebrated Labor Day, which traditionally marks the end of summer. But the weather is still warm and summer is in full-swing here in San Diego! Because we are still enjoying the late summer sun and activities, we thought we would ask our students what they think of summer. The responses were beautiful! So many of our students had heart-warming stories about childhood summer memories or hilarious stories about vacations-gone-wrong. Choosing a winner was incredibly difficult, but we finally chose Sienna from Level 9. Sienna’s essay on summer is beautifully organized and uses great connectors (moreover, nevertheless, etc.) and has some very interesting facts about summer in Korea! We hope you enjoy her essay as much as we did. Thank you, Sienna, for such a great writing contest entry!


By Seo Yoon J from South Korea

Which season do you like most? For me, summer is the most fantastic season. Summer is San Diego and Korea are somewhat different and also have similar features. Therefore, I want to introduce the summer in Korea; the weather, the most popular activities, and foods.

The summer season in Korea starts in July, and the temperature is getting cooler after the last week of August. There is intense heat during these months. Generally, temperature goes up by 35 degrees in the afternoon. The oppressive afternoon heat tires me out every day. Moreover, because Korea is located on a peninsula, it is extraordinarily humid in summer. Also, you can easily hear weather forecasts about typhoons.

Even though the weather is a little bit irritable, there is a reason why I do like the summer most. It is the best season for a bunch of activities. Most of the people take a vacation during this season. While they do’t do to work, people go to beaches, valleys and waterparks. Also they enjoy summer sports such as rafting, windsurfing, and jet skiing. Especially, there is a famous beach called “Haewoon dae”. This beach has been designated by Guinness Book as the beach which has the most beach umbrellas. According to Guinness Book, there are 8,000 beach umbrellas.

Last but not least, we enjoy many kinds of tasty foods. In Korea, there is a phrase which says “fight fire with fire.” It means that we can endure the hot weather by eating hot and spicy food. Therefore, most Koreans eat many kinds of hot and spicy food in summer. Lastly, the same as San Diego, summer is the season of the best fruits in our country. Above all, I like a kind of punch which is called “Hwa chae”. We make this by ixing pieces of watermelon, cider, and juice.

As I pointed out on top, there are some differences between summer in Korea and San Diego. Nevertheless, there are also many similarities. I want to find and enjoy the special things which could be found only in San Diego in this last part of summer.