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Embassy English 27 November 2015 - by HSU Hsiao-Mei

My Study Tour in the USA San Francisco


Taiwanese Teacher HSU Hsiao-Mei looks back at her own personal diary entries from earlier this year to provide some fascinating highlights from her Study Tour in the USA.  One thing’s for sure, HSU Hsiao-Mei certainly left her heart in San Francisco!  

Slow down and go on vacations, learn English and expand the horizon

Study Tour in the USA San Francisco

I left my heart in San Francisco this July. Instead of saying that I travelled around in San Francisco for one month, I would say that I learned the daily life there and explored the city in the way of long stay.

My Study Tour Goals

For writing down my reflection about this trip, I took a look at my diaries of those days again and found it was still difficult to make a start because this experience moved me too much! Actually, travelling and relaxing were my goals at first, and learning English was the second. But in the process of learning English, I deeply felt that English was so important! In particular, there are so many accents in America. If I could understand as more accents as possible here, it would be a wonderful success for me. So I made a firm resolution — I shall do my best to improve my English with the program here and persevere with it.

Homeless wanderers here and there on the street and their shouting at strangers occasionally were my first impression of San Francisco.  I had heard that the public security in this city worries people, not only the residents but also tourists. All the disorder that I saw in the central district of the city made me feel uneasy or even fearful and this corresponded to what I had heard of. Maybe it was just because my first impression here was so terrible, I found more and more loveliness of the city while days went by. Studying abroad far away from the surroundings I was familiar with could make me learn to live independently and it could also mature me. With this positive attitude, I hadn’t expected that I could ever forget this place where I stayed for four weeks since the end of the course. Until now, any of the pictures taken there can always remind me of the happy days I spent there, the teacher and the classmates I studied with, the English course in expectation, the feeling of leisure walking on the street, and even the comfortable weather with a big temperature variation of 18 degrees between day and night.

Why I chose a Study Tour in the USA + English course

Someone asked me,“Wasn’t it better for you to visit more countries instead of taking an English course with almost the same expenses while travelling abroad?”  For me, going travelling means to live and study in another place but not just to have fun around in a hurry. Besides, I don’t take English to be just a subject for examination but a media for communication. So I put the element of learning English in the trip to America, an English-spoken surroundings, and stayed at the same city for one month to improve my English skills, especially listening and speaking. Then I could experience more of the city life and its culture. I’d like to mention it again that travelling is more meaningful for me while slowing down to relax myself and experience the local life but not hurrying from one sightseeing spot to another and even one country to a different one.

Another one asked me,“Why did you arrange to learn English abroad while you were not a school student of your age and English was actually not so necessary to your job?”  With regard to this question, I’d like to express my thanks. Because I am a teacher, I have the opportunity to go abroad in summer vacation and have such a period of time to take an English course while travelling abroad. During the course, I can not only approve my English skills but also learn how to lead students to study in class. When I go back to my work after vacation, I can always share all the experiences with my students and use the teaching skills that I learned from my foreign teachers. So in my view, no matter in which vocation people are, they should take study tours in their career as possible as they can. It’s not simply for learning a foreign language, like English. It can also bring them new ways of thinking and do them good in their work field.

I took a study tour to the UK in 2013 and the wonderful experience made me desire to take another, so I made contact with my Study DIY agent Jill and told her that I felt like going on a study tour in the USA. She immediately recommended the school“Embassy”in San Francisco. I could use EAST VISA to take“Travel And Cultural Course,”and only have classes in the morning from Monday to Thursday. Then I could have more free time to explore San Frencisco. I accepted this half time program because I wanted my study tour kind of relaxing but not so hard. I hoped to visit as more scenery spots in San Francisco as possible out of class.

Study Tour in the USA - English course

How I prepared for my Study Tour

To take the tour at my ease and make my tour more meaningful, I had read almost all the travel guide books which I could find in the library to understand more details about San Francisco, including the history and sightseeing spots of the city, the maps, routes and transportations. I booked the SuperShuttle on the Internet before I went to the USA, so I wouldn’t have to pull my heavy luggage all by myself. I could use the monthly pass to take the MUNI, going along the undulating streets, to any of the sightseeing spots. It was so interesting and also saved much money. The more details I know about the sightseeing spots I feel like visiting, the more fun I would get while I’m visiting them, so I prepared as sufficiently as I could before I went to the unfamiliar city and it really brought me another wonderful study tour.

My English Course at Embassy

As for the language course, the school“Embassy”gave the new students writing and oral tests to arrange the suitable level for each student. There were morning class and afternoon class in the school. I told the staffer of the curriculum department that I wanted morning class so that I could have more time to explore the city. After the tests, I was in the upper-intermediate class. Because it was in summer vacation, there were more students in each class and many of them were from Taiwan. We even had up to seventeen students in our class.

The Center Director John was so kind that he offer the students his phone number at our arrival, so we could contact him immediately when we had any problems. He also entered the classrooms to chat with the students who came early before classes started. My teacher Erin was quite earnest. She gave us many kinds of activities in class to offer more practice in English conversation. We didn’t have assignments every day, but we had tests on Monday for the lesson we learned the week before. My classmates, coming from many different countries, were friendly and nice to get along with.

Besides the activities the school offered, we could also plan our own itinerary for each day. With my classmates, I always went visiting famous sightseeing spots, like Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, Union Square, Painted Ladies at Alamo Square, and Ferry Building by the maps and the convenient city transportation. I also visited the world-famous University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University, and even Napa Valley and Sausalito. I was also deeply attracted and impressed with the Beach Blanket Babylon and the baseball game at AT&T Park for certain.

Furthermore, the students could choose to participate in the weekend trips to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Yosemite National Park. Because I had only one month in San Francisco, I did not plan to spend time going far away from San Francisco. I stayed in San Francisco instead of joining the weekend trips which were held by the school in cooperation with the local tour agency. I would consider  joining the trips if I stay long enough next time. Even if there were not so many sightseeing activities held by the school, the students still could explore San Francisco with the help of information from the school’s  information center.

Exploring San Francisco as part of my Study Tour

With my classmates, I visited famous sightseeing spots, like the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, Union Square, Painted Ladies at Alamo Square, and Ferry Building by the maps and the convenient city transportation.

I also visited the world-famous University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University, and even Napa Valley and Sausalito. I was also deeply impressed with the Beach Blanket Babylon and the baseball game at AT&T Park.

Furthermore, the students could choose to participate in the weekend trips to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Yosemite National Park. Because I had only one month in San Francisco, I did not plan to spend time going far away from San Francisco. I stayed in San Francisco instead of joining the weekend trips which were held by the school in cooperation with the local tour agency. I would consider joining the trips if I stay long enough next time. Even if there were not so many sightseeing activities held by the school, the students still could explore San Francisco with the help of information from the school’s information center.

Study Tour in the USA - Sightseeing in San Francisco

Where I stayed during my Study Tour

I thought that lodgement was a really important element to decide the quality of studying abroad. Thanks to the recommendation of my agent Jill, I chose the student residence — Kenmore. It was in the residential area and near the Japan Town, so it felt very clean and safe. It took me a ten-minute ride on a bus to the Union Square and then a short walk to Embassy. Another wonderful thing was that breakfast and dinner were included in the lodging. After a hearty breakfast, I went to school joyfully and came back to Kenmore for a great dinner after finishing my itinerary every day. The cooks there tried to cook us delicious meals with a variety of dishes, and they were so kind and unforgettable that they were indeed a sweet part of my life in San Francisco. According to a regular daily schedule, in an excited mood with joy, I seemed to be a happy and real student in the USA. I felt so satisfied with the life here. To make this precious period of memory vivid all through my life, I had myself keep a diary before I went to bed every day, both in writing and with pictures. Even if I have another opportunity to visit San Francisco again afterward, I still shan’t leave these days blank in my life!

 Study Tour in the USA

Why I would recommend a Study Tour

I can’t exaggeratedly say that I have made great progress in English after taking the four weeks of course, but it did strengthen my determination to learn it well. The USA is a multiracial country, so people talk in English with various accents. This was especially hard for a foreigner like me to understand what they were talking about although I studied in a class of upper-intermediate level at Embassy. Besides, I was not able to express myself appropriately communicating with others because my English vocabulary was limited. The grammar I had learned at Embassy was not difficult for me, but I still had trouble using it to speak English properly. I was frustrated a lot in this situation. I finally realized which English level I was really in and what I had to make efforts with. I’d like to recommend that anyone who wants to have a study tour abroad shouldn’t take this as a panacea of mastering a language because learning a language needs continual practicing and using it in everyday life for quite a period. If they see the study tour as a check time of their learned foreign language, then the tour would bring them a sense of accomplishment.

It seemed a long time to stay in San Francisco, a foreign city, for one full month, but it actually was
too short. If I am asked,“What was your greatest harvest from this study tour?” I would
unhesitatingly tell you that living and learning alone in a foreign city far away from home matured
me! I kept curious about everything and enthusiastic in learning all the time and felt that everything
around me was so fresh, so interesting, so charming and so attractive to me. In San Francisco, I
deeply felt the cultural difference between a foreign city and my hometown when I talked or
interacted with native-born Americans or people from different countries. The difference could be
found and felt in such trivials as crossing a street, taking a bus, and even just walking on the
sidewalk. Every day when I faced new things, I thought about them, and tried to understand them
and accept them. Then I found that it matured my character day by day. When it was time for me to
come back Taiwan, I felt I was not who I had been before I went to San Francisco. More courageous
and independent did I become when I finished my satisfying study tour. Throughout the wonderful
month in San Francisco, I came back home with a thoughtful mind, but not just having improved
my proficiency in English conversation, which had beed my main purpose. Then, for me, the study
tour is sure of great worth!


Hsiao-Mei took a Travel and Culture course (now called Vacation and Travel English) back in 2015.  With English courses held each morning, Monday-Thursday and an optional activity on Friday, this gave Hsiao, more free time to fully enjoy life in San Francisco.

Study Tours combined with an English course are at great way to improve your English and discover what life is like in an English-speaking city or country.  Find out more our Vacation and Travel English course at Embassy.

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