Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Halloween in San Diego: 10 Recommendations for International Students


San Diego is the best Halloween city in the United States. The perfect October weather allows everyone to celebrate both indoors and outdoors while our friends in Northern California and on the East Coast are already starting to freeze.

I've been teaching for years in San Diego, living in San Diego even longer, and celebrating Halloween even longer than that. Over this time I've learned some valuable lessons about how to make sure that your Halloween is safe and mega-fun. As always, I want to help San Diego International Students with my experience. Here's a list of those lessons that you can use this Halloween:

1. Wear a costume. Really.

Dressing up in a funny costume may seem embarrassing at first, but I have surveyed hundreds of students in my time as a teacher. Students who wear costumes have a lot of fun and they tell all of their friends back home about all of the Halloween good times they experienced. Students who don't wear costumes frequently regret it after Halloween is over. Believe me. Costumes don't have to cost a lot of money and don't have to be complicated. There are a lot of options that are not embarrassing at all, but are still a lot of fun. For example, a baseball player could be a great costume that's not embarrassing, not complicated, not expensive, and totally comfortable. Here's a good little list of costume shops and Halloween stores in San Diego.

2. Decide early which events you'd like to visit.

Don't wait until Halloween weekend to make your plan. There are many, many events happening around town. One of my biggest regrets of Halloweens past is having to argue with my friends on Halloween night about which event will be better. It's much smarter to decide a few days before the weekend. Here are a few famous events that are happening around San Diego this Halloween:

Through October - The Haunted Trail, The Haunted Hotel & The Scream Zone

Oct. 30th - Heaven & Hell Halloween Music and Costume Festival (Del Mar Fairgrounds)

Oct. 30th - Halloween 2010 at the Hardrock Hotel (Downtown)

Oct. 30th - Monster Bash (Downtown)

Oct. 31st - Halloween @ The Prado (Balboa Park)

Oct. 31st - 80s Heat presents Halloween Heat Freeze Frame (Solana Beach)

3. House parties are good, but officially sanctioned events are safer and are still a lot of fun.

Organized events around town have security staff and are properly planned so that they can accommodate large numbers of people. If you go to a house party, be prepared for long bathroom lines and the possibility of the police arriving and telling everyone to leave. Most organized events are pretty centrally located, too. This means that they're easy to reach by public transit, and taxis are easier to find afterward.

4. Organize your transportation plans early.

Make sure you have a designated driver or a bus/trolley/taxi plan. Do not drink and drive (ever!). There are so many people walking around town, and so many police. Don't take your chances. It's too easy to hurt yourself, your friends, or even strangers if you decide to drink and drive. There are plenty of safe ways to get around on Halloween if you plan just a little bit.

5. Keep a few taxi service telephone numbers in your phone.

Taxi companies are very busy over Halloween weekend. Frequently it will take more than an hour to arrange for a pick-up. If you have three or four numbers saved in your phone, you'll be able to get home easily.

Here are some taxi company phone numbers that you can program into your phone now:

Orange Cab - (619) 223-5555
USA Cab - (619) 231-1144
Yellow Cab - (619) 444-4444
San Diego Cab - (619) 226-8294

6. Don't wear costumes with masks.

Do you like to eat? Do you like to drink? Do you like to talk? Do you like to see? Do you like to breathe? Imagine how difficult all of these things are when you have a mask covering your face. It's especially sad when the mask really completes the costume, but the person has to keep the mask pulled up over the top of their head most of the time so that they can breathe. You may find some excellent-looking masks at the Halloween store, but believe'll regret choosing them.

7. Don't choose a costume that has big fake props.

Most people spend their Halloween walking, dancing, giving high-fives and sometimes holding beverages. All of these things are a lot harder to do when you have to carry around a fake knife, a rubber chicken, a fruit basket, or some big, heavy part of your costume. Anything that makes it difficult to walk or stand is also a bad idea. Here is one good example of a costume that is probably not very smart. Can you see why? And can you imagine walking around with all this stuff all night? Forget it.

8. Wear costumes with wigs, makeup, funny hats, pockets, etc. instead.

All of these things make your Halloween much more fun and manageable than if you wear a bad costume with a mask or fake weapons and toys that you have to carry around all weekend (#s 6 and 7 above). A purse or a backpack is always a great idea for you or one of your friends to have as well. This way you can keep your wallet, your ID, your credit or debit cards, your camera and your cell phone secure. Can you imagine trying to carry all of those things around while wearing this tiny costume? Be prepared for event security guards to search your purse or backpack, though.

9. Bring a camera, of course!

You are definitely going to want to take pictures of the events you'll attend, the costumes you'll see, the people you'll meet, and the hilarious things you and your friends will do. Want to see some pictures of regular people having tons of fun on Halloween? Here is a website full of Halloween photo albums from all around San Diego.

10. Carve pumpkins!

If you have the chance to carve pumpkins, do it! You'll have a lot of fun. Pumpkins can be bought at your local Vons, Ralphs or Albertsons any time in the month of October. Connect English will have a pumpkin carving event/contest later this month, so keep your eyes open. You will never forget it!

Do you have more advice for San Diego international students this Halloween? Please write a comment below. With your recommendations, we can make sure that even more people have as much fun on Halloween as I have had in my life. Wow, I'm getting excited!

Pass this information along to your friends. It's the goal of Connect English for all international students to have a fun, memorable and safe Halloween in San Diego.

Are you looking for a school that gives you the complete experience in San Diego? Connect English Language Institute is more than just a basic language school. Our events and activities help students explore and enjoy San Diego, and our special services assure that your education investment will help you improve your English. When you want a school that does more but costs less, contact Connect English.
Phone: (619) 283-2811


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Change of Status Success: Marina Receives F-1 Status in Only Three Weeks

International students frequently come to Connect English Language Institute for help: They need help with passing the TOEFL; They need help with improving their English for their career back in their home country; They need help with homestays and accommodations in San Diego. Many international students also come to Connect English because they would like to change visa status, become full-time students in the United States, and eventually achieve great things with their education. This is the case of one of our newest success stories, Marina.

Marina arrived in the US from Russia in July with a J-1 visa and worked part time in retail. She quickly realized, though, that her English was not improving much. Without formal English training from a language school in San Diego, she was communicating okay, but her grammar, reading and writing skills were not strong enough. She decided to contact Connect English for help.

Connect English took the time to meet with Marina and guide her through the difficult and sometimes confusing change-of-status process. Instead of making mistakes and guessing about the documents to submit to United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS), Marina received consultation from the Connect English staff. Working together, Marina and Connect English were able to submit her documents quickly, completely and confidently. This confidence means a lot for international students. Why be uncertain?

Within only a month, USCIS approved Marina's new F-1 (student) visa. She is now fully enrolled in English MAX programs at Connect English, and she will soon move into TOEFL courses. After she studies and passes the TOEFL, Marina will attend a university in the United States and eventually return to Russia with the education and experience that she needs in order to get a high-paying career for the rest of her life.

We are happy to have you on Team Connect, Marina! We are ready to guide you as you improve your English, pass the TOEFL, and get accepted to a university in the United States.

The change-of-status process doesn't have to be difficult or scary for students. With the guidance of Connect English Language Institute, students do change of status from J-1 to F-1, like Marina did, or they can do change of status from B-1 or B-2 to F-1 like many others have. Once students are approved, they can get the serious education from Connect English that they want. Don't let an excellent opportunity escape. Contact Connect English today to get the assistance that you need and join the excellent ESL program in San Diego that everyone is talking about.
Phone: (619) 283-2811


Monday, September 20, 2010

Meet Laura, TOEFL Student at Connect English

Connect English Language Institute is always proud of hard-working students. We encourage our students with every step they take, and we always want to give credit to students who achieve success thanks to their great attitudes and their focus on their goals.

This month Connect English would like to shine a light on Laura Petrella, who came to Connect English while she was on vacation in San Diego. She didn't want to spend her time just relaxing on the beach or playing in Balboa Park. She wanted to improve her English skills and get ready to pass the TOEFL as soon as possible. Here is a short interview with this superstar student:

Where are you from, and when did you arrive in San Diego?

I am from Rome, Italy, and I arrived in San Diego from Italy with my boyfriend on Sunday, September 12th. I have been in the United States for only one week. When I arrived in San Diego, I started my TOEFL course the next day because I didn't want to waste any time.

Why did you select Connect English for your TOEFL training?

I read about Connect English in internet and decided to study here because the TOEFL programs seemed very interesting.

What did you expect from your program at Connect English?

I expected to understand how the TOEFL test works and to have useful instructions and strategies for passing the test.

Were you happy with the courses?

Yes. I have found what I expected and more. Connect English has given me the possibility of practicing strategies for the TOEFL test and taking a practice test that is like the official one. This way I will better understand my level and my capability of passing it. The instructors also helped me sign up to take the test.

What are your TOEFL goals? When will you take the exam?

I need to pass the TOEFL examination to study in an American university. I will take the exam as soon as possible, maybe in October. After that I will begin my applications.

What have you enjoyed the most about the city of San Diego?

I like very much San Diego. I have enjoyed this lovable weather, the beautiful beaches, and the many restaurants, shops and places to have a good time. It is a safe city and the people are friendly and helpful when visitors have questions or need help.

Thank you for joining Connect English, Laura. We have loved having you in our classes and around the school, and we will continue to support you as you prepare to pass the TOEFL.

The best students in San Diego go to the best English school in San Diego. When you are serious about passing the TOEFL or improving your English to reach your life goals, contact Connect English. We will sit down with you and create a plan for your success in English.
Phone: (619) 283-2811