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CISL SF Student Activity: Hiking in the Bay Area (and phrasal verbs with “walk”)

August 29, 2013

San Francisco is known for its culture, charm, food, architecture . . . the list goes on and on! But did you know that SF is also home to hundreds of incredible hiking trails? The trails in and around San Francisco provide a nature escape within an urban environment. If you are looking for a hike while studying English in San Francisco, check out our list of some of the more popular hikes in the Bay Area. This list of short hikes (just 1-3 hours) provides a perfect way to unwind after English classes at CISL. Lace up your hiking boots, grab some water and your camera, and lets go!

Hiking in the Bay Area

Angel Island Perimeter Road

Angel Island port

Ferries to Angel Island arrive in this port in Ayala Cove.

In the past, Angel Island has served as a Mexican land grant, an army artillery post, an immigration station, and even a quarantine area for sick soldiers returning to the U.S. from tropical islands: today it is a beautiful state park and a haven for bird-watchers and hikers. Expect to see beautiful rocky coves, sandy beaches, grasslands, and forests on this small island’s well-developed hiking trails. Old buildings–including soldiers’ quarters and small chapel–pepper the trails (which also provide gorgeous views of the city and the Golden Gate).

Angel Island view

View from Angel Island of San Francisco. Both photos from Wikicommons.

To arrive, you must take one of the two ferries that service the island. The ferry from Tiburon runs more frequently: for information about ferry service to island from Tiburon, call Tiburon Ferry at (415) 435-2131. There is also a ferry service from San Francisco from the Blue and Gold Fleet; however, it runs less frequently: for more information, call (415) 773-1188. Both ferries land at Ayala Cove on the northwest side of the island. Ayala Cove can be found on this Angel Island map.


Batteries to Bluffs Trail

Batteries to Bluffs

Batteries to Bluffs runs along the rock coast and provides a beautiful view of the Gold Gate Bridge. Photo from Yelp.

The Bay Area Hiker, a great website for hiking trails, says of this trail, “Think  of a dream San Francisco hike: a path overlooking the ocean, with gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, a peaceful place where you could sit and watch the waves crash, or get your morning exercise running through a scenic landscape while birds sing and flowers bloom.” Not bad for a two-mile hike that takes roughly one hour!

The Batteries to Bluffs trail runs along the rocky coast near the Bay, so you can always expect breathtaking views of the ocean. Although the trail is well-manicured and relatively easy, there are quite a few stairs, so be prepared to climb! There are also very few trees, so make sure to wear sunscreen if hiking on a sunny day (but don’t worry too much about the heat: the ocean breeze does an excellent job of cooling hikers down on hot days).

This little video on YouTube, made by a local hiker, shows some great footage of the trail.

Briones Regional Park


The rolling hills of beautiful Briones are surrounded by towns . . . but you’d never know from its secluded landscape! Photo from Briones Regional Park Facebook page.

Briones is a hidden nature park surrounded by the Contra Costa County towns of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Concord, and Martinez . . . but from many points in the park, you would never know: there is nothing but unspoiled land for miles. The hike offers beautiful rolling rolls covered in soft grass and flowers, and from the Briones Peak, the highest point in the park, there are breathtaking views of the area. Because the area is so secluded, wildlife such as foxes and deer are common sights. After spring rains, the wildflowers add a splash of color to the green landscape.

In addition to its hiking trails, Briones has an archery course, Briones Arches, which is accessible from the Crescent Ridge Trail. For more information, visit the Briones Archers website.

Coyote Hills Regional Park: Bayview Trail

Coyote Hills

A view of the marshlands of Coyote Hills. Photo from Wikipedia.

Coyote Hills Regional Park consists of marshlands that are home to much local wildlife–making it a popular hike for birdwatchers and animal lovers–while the flat trails make the park a favorite for bicyclists and joggers. A well-manicured picnic area makes for a perfect stop on your trip: the area has access to picnic tables, water, and barbecues. Campers can enjoy overnight excursions as well.

Those looking to learn more about the area wildlife can check out the Nectar Garden, a butterfly and flower garden located next to the visitor center, and get a free tour from a knowledgeable staff member. Guests can also check out the Coyote Hills Visitor Center, which has several exhibits on local wildlife, or check out the Tuibun Ohlone Village Site that is dedicated to the Ohlone people who once lived here. During a tour, visitors can tour an Ohlone-style family house and see the way of life for the Ohlone people. (Tours are by reservation only: call the visitor center at (510) 544-3220 for information.)


Crissy Field

Crissy Field

The Crissy Field hike takes you through an old airfield. Several historic sites are along the route, along with shops and cafes.

Called “San Francisco’s Best Urban Hike,” this beautiful walk offers views of the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Bay Bridge while strolling through neighborhoods and nature. Throughout the walk, hikers encounter small shops, cafes, a visitor center and locals fishing, swimming, or enjoying the view. The path is well-marked and well-traveled, making it an easy route.

Land’s End


Nearly every view from Land’s End hike is stunning!

Located in the northwestern corner of San Francisco, Land’s End passes through hills full of cypress and wildflowers. It has views of old shipwrecks, access to the famous ruins of Sutro Baths (at one time the largest bath house in the world) and small beaches. Recently, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservacy added a new Lookout Visitor Center with a great ocean view.

Make sure to check out the labyrinth located at Eagles Point, at the end of the Coastal Trail. The labyrinth was constructed by local artist Eduardo Aguilera and is a great place to stop and take a photo.


The Land’s End Labyrinth was constructed by a local artist. Standing on it, you have a great view of the Bay.

Panoramic Hill-Chaparral Peak-Strawberry Canyon Loop 

Panoramic Hill

Photo from TripAdvisor.

With words like “hill” and “peak” in the title of this trail, it is no surprise that this 6.7 mile trail near Berkeley is quite the workout! Yet there are many rewards to breaking a sweat, including the opportunity to hike through eucalyptus and pine forests and view the Bay, Oakland, and San Francisco from high above sea level. Locals suggest taking this hike early in the morning or later in the afternoon because the view of the Bay with the coastal fog rolling in is breathtaking and serene.

Hiking boots are suggested on this trail because there are several parts with a lot of loose gravel. In addition, local hiking sites note that the trail is not incredibly well-marked, so keep your cell phone with a GPS handy, or print out this guide from

Happy hiking to our CISL San Francisco students! If you go on one of the these hikes (or any of the many others that the Bay Area has to offer) make sure to post a pic to our Facebook page!

To celebrate hiking in San Francisco, we are offering several phrasal verbs with “walk.” How many of these do you know?

Phrasal Verbs with “Walk”

Walk away

Definition: to leave an unpleasant situation.

Example: I won’t fight with you. I’m going to just walk away


Walk in on someone

Definition: to interrupt someone when they are doing something they don’t want you to see.

Example: I walked in on my roommate eating my chocolate! We laughed about it. 


Walk in to something 

Definition: to obtain something easily.

Example: He just walked in to his job. He’s so lucky. 


Walk something off

Definition: to go for a walk in order to stop focusing on something unpleasant.

Example: That was a huge meal. I’m so full! Let’s go walk it off

Example: After I got hit by the baseball, I walked it off



CISL San Diego Featured San Diego San Diego Travel Tips Voices of CISL

Meet our Japanese Liaison, Joseph!

March 21, 2018

Did you know that CISL has a Japanese Liaison? CISL staff member Joseph is Japanese and lived in Japan for more than 25 years. Now, we are lucky to have him as CISL’s Assistant Academic Manager and official Japanese Liaison.

We interviewed Joseph to learn more about his life, his Japanese family, and his job at CISL.

Meet our Japanese Liaison, Joseph!

CISL: Tell us about your time in Japan and how you learned to speak Japanese. 

Joseph: I grew up in Japan, mostly in Okinawa.  I have family there (my mother is Okinawan).  I lived in Japan for over 25 years before moving to the United States.  Since we spoke English in our house, I mostly used Japanese to communicate with my relatives in Japan.

I went to school on the American military bases, so I was educated in English.  I did study Japanese in middle school and high school as well as college.


CISL: What are your credentials and experience teaching?  

Joseph: I have been ESL teaching for 17 years.  I taught in Japan for 8 years.  I have taught in various schools in Tokyo, Chiba, and Okinawa, from languages schools, to special education and a high school (as well as at some companies)


CISL: What is your position at CISL and what do your responsibilities include?

Joseph: I am the Assistant Academic Manager.  I oversee the teachers as well as the students in the school.  I help the students if they have questions about their classes or would like to try another one.

I also am the Japanese Student Liaison, so if a Japanese student has difficulty understanding in English, I can explain to them in Japanese.  I also teach the FCE course and have been teaching it for 8 years.


CISL: Why would you suggest that students choose San Diego? What is one thing that surprises students about SD/Southern California?

Joseph: San Diego, like the rest of Southern California, is known for its weather and its beaches.  It has a mild climate so it never gets too hot or too cold.  There are a lot of activities which can be done in San Diego, such as surfing, hiking in the mountains or desert, skydiving… can even go skiing in the winter!


CISL: What is one tip you have for new students?

Joseph: The best thing to do is to immerse yourself in English.  It is the best way to learn.  Talk to people.  If you only converse in the classroom, it will be challenging to speak to native English speakers.  Do as much reading and listening as possible.  Even from watching TV, you can improve  your listening skills and learn new vocabulary.  Reading can help to understand not just vocabulary but sentence structure and paragraphing.


CISL: What CISL program excites you the most, and why?

Joseph: For me, it is definitely the Cambridge program!  As I have said, I have been teaching FCE for 8 years and I haven’t gotten sick of it yet!  You can learn a lot in a short period of time, and it is always nice to see the improvements the students have made as they go through the course.


CISL: What is a misconception about life in the U.S. that many Japanese students have?

Joseph: I don’t think  I would call it a misconception, but I don’t think a lot of Japanese don’t realize just how diverse the United States actually is.  Different regions have their own dialects and cultures (much like Japan).  Sometimes going to another state is like going to another country.


CISL: What’s one thing that students must do when in SD?

Joseph: Everyone knows to go to the beaches here, so checking out hiking trails such as those in Mission Trails Regional Park is worth the effort to see the natural beauty of San Diego.


Thank you for taking time to give our students some tips, Joseph! And thank you for all the work that you do for CISL students. You are such a wonderful addition to our school!

Featured Lessons Vocabulary

10 Phrasal Verbs for Casual Conversation

January 22, 2018

Phrasal Verbs for Casual Conversation

Phrasal verbs are a part of everyday conversation for English speakers. The following are commonly used in casual conversation. Understanding them will allow you to confidently have a casual conversation.

10 Phrasal Verbs for Casual Conversation

Be up to

Definition: Doing something.

Example: What have you been up to lately?

Example: What are you up to this morning?

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: This is a common way to casually ask a friend what their plans are or what they are doing.

Come over

Definition: To go to someone’s house or location.

Example: Do you want to come over later?

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: This phrasal verb is the most common way to ask your friend to your house.

Phrasal Verbs for Casual Conversation

Thanks for coming over for lunch!

End up

Definition: To do something or become something that was not in the original plan.

Example: We planned to go to the movies, but we ended up going to the beach because it was a beautiful day.

Example: I wanted to be a surgeon, but I ended up being a dentist.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: Plans change! The phrasal verb “end up” is a great way to express this.

Get together

Definition: To meet socially.

Example: Marianne and I are getting together this weekend for drinks.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: This phrasal verb is the easiest way to express social plans.

Phrasal Verbs for Casual Conversation

We got together and studied for our TOEFL test.

Help out

Definition: To help someone.

Example: Thanks for helping out with the cleanup after the party!

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: We all help our friends out when we can.

Keep up

Definition: Continue doing something; persist.

Example: I can’t keep up with my work lately.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: We have to keep up with many things: our jobs, our homework, even the lives of our friends.

Phrasal Verbs for Casual Conversation

I ran into my friend at the mall.

Run into

Definition: To meet someone unexpectedly.

Example: Guess who I ran into the other day? My old teacher!

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: We run into people we know often: RUN INTO expresses this better than saying “I saw _____.”

Take off

Definition: To leave (casual/slang).

Example: I have to take off in about 5 minutes. I have to meet my Mom.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: This is a common way to casually say that you need to leave. English speakers use it often.

Phrasal Verbs for Casual Conversation

I’m taking off in 10 minutes and going to the beach. Wanna come?

Turn out

Definition: To produce an unexpected result.

Example: I was worried about ordering a lavender coffee, but it turned out to be delicious.

Example: How did your cake turn out? Did you like that new recipe?

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: Things do not always go as we planned. This phrasal verb expresses this situation perfectly (and casually)!

Note: this phrasal verb is slightly different than END UP, although both refer to an end result. END UP focuses more on the outcome or result, while TURN OUT focuses more on producing the result.

Show up

Definition: To arrive.

Example: I think everyone is showing up around 7:30.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: This is a casual way to say “arrive” and is often used in conversation. “Arrive” is more formal.


To learn more about phrasal verbs, read some of our other articles:

Aviation English California Life

Aviation English Vocabulary + What to Pack for Studying English in SD

August 22, 2017

Aviation English Vocabulary + What to Pack for Studying English in SDEnglish is the official language of the aviation industry; therefore, pilots and other aviation workers are required to have a high level of English. Do you know these aviation English vocabulary words? Learning them will help your career in this industry take off!

Aviation English Vocabulary


Definition: In the air; flying.


Definition: The vertical distance from the Earth (at sea level) to an aircraft in flight.


Definition: The inside of the airplane where passengers sit.


Definition: The body of an airplane: the wings and tail are attached to the fuselage.


Definition: A building at the airport where airplanes are kept when not in use.


Definition: A measure of speed. One knot equals one nautical mile per hour.

Aviation English Vocabulary + What to Pack for Studying English in SD


Definition: The act of making the airplane contact the ground or water, ending the flight.

Landing gear

Definition: The parts of the airplane which support the airplane on land or water (usually wheels, although landing gear for planes that land on water include skis). Usually the gear is retractable and folds into the airplane during flight.


Definition: The person who controls the airplane.


Definition: A piece of equipment turned by an engine in order to help the plane fly.


Definition: A machine that uses radio waves to detect and locate objects. The objects are “seen” on a radar screen.


Definition: A surface or area on the airport designated for airplanes to take off and land.

Aviation English Vocabulary + What to Pack for Studying English in SD


Definition: The back part of the airplane.


Definition: The part of the flight when the airplane reaches flying speed and becomes airborne.


Definition: Speed.


Definition: The distance at which objects can be seen and recognized. Smoke, fog, and storms can hinder visibility.

Aviation English Vocabulary + What to Pack for Studying English in SD

What to Pack for SD

What is something that everyone associates with travel? Packing! You don’t need a career in aviation to enjoy our list of things to pack before moving to San Diego. Make sure these items are in your suitcase before you begin your CISL adventure.

Bathing suit

Yes, even in the winter, a bathing suit is a good idea. Hotel rooftop pools (and even the beach!) will be accessible during warm winter days. (Don’t believe us? Check out these statistics about the weather in San Diego throughout the year.) These days aren’t an everyday occurrence, but they do happen! Don’t regret not having your bathing suit on a warm January day.

Casual clothes

Californians–especially San Diegans–are very casual. Jeans, t-shirts, sundresses, and comfortable sandals or sneakers are everyday wear for practically everyone.


Aviation English Vocabulary + What to Pack for Studying English in SD

Comfortable walking shoes

You will want to see the many sites of the city, and most are best seen on foot. Walk down the Embarcadero, explore the Gaslamp District, walk along Pacific Beach or Coronado, shop in La Jolla, or spend the day walking the beautiful outdoor mall in Mission Valley. Your feet will thank you for wearing comfortable shoes!

Exercise clothing

Californians love to exercise! From hiking to organized sports, there is always something to do. Make sure that you are dressed for these activities (and check out our Guide to Exercising in the U.S. for tips on how to stay healthy while studying abroad).

Light jacket

Even in the summer, San Diego is perfectly cool during the evenings. Always go out with a sweater or a light jacket so you can sit outside and enjoy the cool evening weather.


These are a staple of any Californian’s wardrobe! The year-round sun will always make you want to grab your shades before going out.  


Californians wear sunscreen every day, and you should, too. This is something you can get at most stores throughout the year, so if you don’t pack it, you can buy it as soon as you arrive. Make sunscreen application a part of your daily routine!


Come fly with us in beautiful San Diego! CISL San Diego offers Aviation English classes for students interested in (or currently working in) the exciting field of aviation. The Aviation English course teaches English skills necessary to meet the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) language proficiency requirements. It focuses on improving the client’s ability to communicate effectively and with confidence in all six skill areas specified in the ICAO Rating Scale: pronunciation, structure, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension and interactions. Contact CISL for more information.   


California Life

10 Reasons You Should Study English in California

August 13, 2017


10 Reasons You Should Study English in California

It is the state of Hollywood, Napa Valley, Silicon Valley, Yosemite, stunning coastlines, and some of the U.S.’s most iconic cities . . . do we really need to make a list of OTHER reasons you should study English in California? We will go ahead and try, just in case you aren’t convinced you would have the time of your life on the “Best Coast.”

10 Reasons You Should Study English in California

10 Reasons You Should Study English in California

#1: Culture and diversity

New York likes to claim that it wins the “diversity award,” but California has some of the most diverse cities in the U.S. In fact, the majority of California’s population is made of minority races and San Francisco and San Diego have both been listed in the top 20 cities in the U.S. for cultural diversity. Settlers originally came from China, Japan, and even Russia (have you heard of the Russian River?) Today, immigrants from throughout the U.S. and around the world make California their home. The result? A state filled with open-minded people, many cultures, unique architecture, and delicious foods.

10 Reasons You Should Study English in California

#2: Natural landscapes

California has scorching desserts (Death Valley!), beautiful beaches (too many to count!), and everything in between. In one day, you can start your morning in Lake Tahoe (located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range), then you can end that same day dipping your toes in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. The most beautiful national parks, such as Yosemite and Redwood National Parks, are must-see natural landscapes.

10 Reasons You Should Study English in California

#3: Amazing food

California is famous for its beaches, but many people do not realize that the state has a massive agriculture industry. In fact, California’s agricultural industry is twice that of any other state! California’s 76,000 farms and ranches produce some of the highest quality vegetables, fruits, and meats. (This explains why there are so many great farmer’s markets for residents to enjoy!) Wine regions throughout the state produce world-famous wines, and olive trees are also common in this Mediterranean-style climate: the state has more than 400 olive growers and olive oil producers. Of course, with its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, fresh seafood is always an option in California. All of these high-quality ingredients create the tastiest California foods!

The population diversity’s influence on California cuisine is clear: San Diego’s Little Italy restaurants serve hand-made pastas and wood oven-baked pizzas; delicious Mexican food abounds, and California-style sushi (a unique fusion of California produce and Japanese food) are popular meal options. Of course, when all else fails, there’s the best (and freshest) fast food: In-N-Out!

10 Reasons You Should Study English in California

#4: Exciting cities (and charming towns)

Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego are world-famous favorites, but California also has many small towns with charm and beauty. Explore mining towns such as Julian and Nevada City to feel as if you have been transported back in time; gorgeous towns such as Yountville and Cambria are perfect for weekend trips.

10 Reasons You Should Study English in California

#5: The coolest English accent (and slang)

Maybe we are biased, but the West Coast really is the “Best Coast” when it comes to its accent! The California accent was made famous by Hollywood, and many think it is the most clear and easytounderstand accent. Learn how to speak like a Californian in our article How to Speak Like a Californian and pick up some surfer slang with our Surf Slang Guide.

10 Reasons You Should Study English in California

#6: Active lifestyle

With the beaches and beautiful weather, is it any surprise that Californians love to exercise? In California you can find state-of-the-art gyms, incredible yoga and Pilates studios and instructors, fun classes such as Body Pump and Barre, and Crossfit. You can also enjoy the weather and go hiking, take part in water activities such as surfing and kitesurfingcanoeingkayaking, and paddleboarding. During the winter, try some of the nation’s best skiing in Lake Tahoe, Mammoth, and Big Bear.

10 Reasons You Should Study English in California

#7: Sunsets

There are no words to describe the California sunset over the water. For many Californians, stopping to enjoy the sunset is a daily occurrence: just become friends with a few Californians on Instagram and you’ll see how beloved the sunsets are. Learn how to describe the sunset with our Guide to Sunset Vocabulary.

10 Reasons You Should Study English in California

#8: Laid-back people

Is it any surprise that the same people who stop to watch the sunsets and love to surf are also happy, laid-back individuals? Californians are often told they are the friendliest people in the U.S. Come see for yourself!

10 Reasons You Should Study English in California

#9: Fun neighborhoods

San Diego’s Little Italy was voted one of the best neighborhoods to live in the United States, while San Francisco is home to famous neighborhoods such as the hippie area of Haight-Ashbury. From famous neighborhoods such as these to more hidden gems (like San Diego’s surfer-filled Ocean Beach), there is an area that matches the personality and interests of everyone.

10 Reasons You Should Study English in California

#10: Daytrips to incredible locations

It’s difficult to grow tired of California’s beautiful cities, but if you ever feel the urge to explore, the rest of California is waiting for you! Napa ValleySanta Barbara, Yosemite, Hollywood . . . even neighboring Las Vegas is a quick trip. Where will you go, what will you see, and who will you meet?

Since 1972, CISL has provided students with quality English instruction in the small classroom setting (never more than 8 students per class)! Learn more about CISL’s San Francisco and San Diego locations (and its many programs, including Executive English, Cambridge CAE and FCE, and Career English) by visiting the CISL website