11 Dec 2014

Let the celebrations begin

We all know that this time of year is full of festivities and everyone looks to the new year and new things to come. However, everyone has their own little way of celebrating this holiday, with specific traditions and festivities, mostly linked to good luck. Here are just a few of the traditions that are seen across the world.


Source: www.dailymail.co.uk
In China, they follow the Lunar New Year, which means that their New Year celebrations usually take place a few weeks after western countries that follow the Gregorian calender. In 2015, New Year's celebrations will take place on February 19th and it will be the year of the Goat. There are various traditions, which differ in different regions, usually families make sure as to clean the house to 'sweep away' bad spirits and make way for good luck.

They also use various decorations including red paper lanterns, calligraphy posters and there is of course the Dragon and lion dance which evicts evil spirits. 


In Spain the evening usually begins with a family dinner and then the main countdown is followed from the clock on top of Casa de Correos in Puerta del Sol, Madrid. At midnight, people eat 12 grapes, one at each chime, and each grape signifies a month of prosperity and good luck, making in total a great new year, full of luck!

Source: www.babylon-idiomas.com

Usually after the countdown and the grapes, the parties will carry on late into the night either in small personal parties in bars or large celebrations with thousands of guests in hotels. The following morning, they traditionally eat a winter breakfast of Chocolate con churros. 


Source: www.globalpost.com
Berlin hosts one of Europe's largest celebrations with over 1 million people attending each year. The main fireworks display takes place at Brandenburg gate. As well as the typical celebration with the countdown and fireworks, there is also the tradition of Bleigießen, which involves telling fortunes by shapes made by molten lead dropped in cold water. They also eat tiny marzipan pigs for good luck.


The main celebration is in central London and focuses on Big Ben. When Ben chimes at midnight people traditionally join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne. The fireworks display usually takes place around the London Eye to a soundtrack of British music (usually the Beatles, Queen, Blur etc). The following sees the end of celebrations and the New year's day parade.

Source: www.ghiduri-turistice.info


The main celebration of course takes place in Times Square. At 11:59pm a 12foot ball is released from the roof of One Times Square and takes one minute to descend the 70foot drop. When it is fully descended this signifies midnight and the start of the real celebrations and fireworks. The 'ball drop' attracts around a million spectators every year.

Source: www.ibtimes.com

10 Dec 2014

Students' Stories: Noémie tells all about her last month in Antwerp

Hallo !!!!!

So here we are, December is already here and each week goes faster than the last! I only have five weeks left in Antwerp but I still remember my first day like it was yesterday! My experience is still just as great as in the beginning.

After having taken the CNaVT, a Dutch exam (which was actually quite hard!) which I hope I have passed, the month of November went very well! Still just as many outings, evenings with friends, laughing and unforgettable moments! Memories that will last forever!

Now that December has started it is already the time for ‘goodbye’ for some students – of course some leave earlier than others. The first few departures are hard to swallow, but after all it’s not really goodbye, more like ‘see you soon’!

The month of December is of course Christmas time and the streets are lit up by the Christmas market! I love this atmosphere and Antwerp is one of the most beautiful cities at this time of year! I just love this city!

I am nonetheless very excited to see my family soon for a couple of weeks! That’s everything so far!

Kussjessssss xx

If you want to go abroad like Noémie to Antwerp or elsewhere, just contact us and we will help you find the perfect programme! 

Experience New York with your senses

New York is one of the world's most famous cities and as such is also one of the most visited. The huge skyscrapers, bright lights and bustling people may seem daunting if you do not know where to go, but don't worry help is at hand!

You may already know of some of the more famous sights to see in New York, but here is a brief selection of activities for you to be doing while visiting this great American city, especially useful if you do not have much time there.


We all know that New York has a diverse history and culture, notably thanks to the many different nationalities that have arrived in this city over the centuries. New York's cultural sights and monuments reflect this changing and diverse culture and are not to be missed.

The Statue of Liberty is perhaps the best known monument in New York. It is in the neoclassical style and found on Liberty Island in New York Harbour. It was designed by the Frenchman Fédéric Auguste Bartholdi and was dedicated on October 28th 1886 as a gift from the French. It represents 'Libertas' the Roman goddess of freedom who bares a torch and a tablet evoking the law, upon which the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4th 1776, is written. It is an icon of freedom and the US; a welcoming signal to immigrants arriving from abroad. 


What could be better for your ears than catching one of the fantastic performances on Broadway. There are 40 professional theatres in the Theatre District and Lincoln Centre along Broadway in Manhattan. Theatres did not arrive in the Times Square are until the early 1900's, and popularity only really saw an increase when levels of transport, poverty and lighting improved. 

Motion pictures arriving in the 1920's proved a challenge for Broadway plays, but the 1943 "Oklahoma!" saw the start of the Golden Age for theatre. Today, theatres often employ big names from TV and cinema as head liners for their plays, to attract more of an audience, such as Bradley Cooper currently performing in 'The Elephant Man'. Upcoming performances include: 'Aladdin', 'Jersey Boys', 'Chicago', 'Les Miserables' and 'The Lion King'. 


The Brooklyn botanical gardens are home to a true treat for your nose, the Fragrance Gardens. The gardens were created in 1955 by landscape architect Alice Recknagel Ireys and was the first garden in the country designed for the vision impaired

Source: weedpatchgazette.com
Visitors are encouraged to rub the fragrant and textured leaves. There are four themed sections to the garden: 1) Plants to touch, 2) Plants with scented leaves, 3) Plants with fragrant flowers, 4) Kitchen herbs. The garden is wheelchair accessible and all of the planting beds are at an appropriate hight for wheelchair users. In addition to facilitating access, the gardens have information signs in Braille and a fountain for a calming sound and for visitors to wash their hands after touching the plants. 


It is no secret that the US is well known for its food. New York cuisine specifically is made up of various different cuisines from the different ethnic groups that have entered the USA through the city. In each borough there are various different districts for specific types of cuisine, such as Chinatown or Little Italy.

Source: latimesblogs.latimes.com
There are many different foods associated with New York such as pretzels, bagels, doughnuts or a New York strip, but perhaps the most well known are hot dogs and New York style pizza. You can find hot dogs everywhere in NYC, from street vendors to wandering vendors at baseball games and convenience stores like 7-Eleven (who sells 100 million annually!). They can be eaten plain but most people add condiments such as ketchup, mustard, pickle relish, onion, mayonnaise, tomato, cheese etc.

The New York-style pizza, or the classic 'dollar slice', is characterised by large, hand tossed thin crust, often sold per slice as a snack/street food. It has a thin layer of tomato sauce with mozzarella cheese and then other toppings can be added. The slices are quite big (the pizza is typically 18 inches) so the slices are typically folded in half when eaten. 


In this modern, fast paced city it is easy to get swept up in the commotion and excitement of the city and forget that there are still some calm, relaxing places in the city. When looking for a place to unwind and relax, what could be better than getting your hands on a good book.

Source: www.bronxbanterblog.com
What better place to do this than the New York Public Library. It is the second largest in the US and the third largest in the world with 53 million items. Founded in the 19th century, both its interior and exterior have been recently renovated. Its founding was established as a partnership between the city government and private philanthropy. As of 2010, the research libraries are largely funded with private money. 

If you have any questions about our programmes in New York, don't hesitate to contact us!

5 Dec 2014

Our schools in New York

This month we are celebrating all that is great about learning English in New York, and what could be better than learning a language in one of the most linguistically diverse cities in the world. New York is not just a financial or economic centre, it is also a globally important cultural centre. As one of the most fast paced cities in the world, studying here means that students can be at the centre of these developments and have countless opportunities to practise their English. 

Times Square. Source: www.homedsgn.com

English is a West Germanic language and is considered a global 'Lingua Franca'. It is the national language of the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and many Caribbean nations. It is very commonly taught as a second language around the world and is the 3rd most common native language in the world after Mandarin and Spanish. From the 17th to 20th Century the influence of the British Empire saw the language spread. English literature, world media networks (BBC) and the American film and TV industry have made English the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many nations.

English in New York

This programme is available for students aged 16+ for a minimum duration of 2 weeks. The school is located in the centre of Manhattan near to the famous Times Square and just a 5 minute walk to Broadway, 5th avenue and the Empire State Building. The school has ultra modern facilities with free WiFi throughout the building , 16 bright and spacious classrooms, a common room, IT suite, study room, library and a small cafeteria. 

Students have two options regarding accommodation for this programme, which is booked from Saturday to Saturday. Students can choose to stay with host families in a single or double room (if travelling as a pair). Breakfast is included and the families provide bedding and towels. Students can opt for half-board for an additional fee. The families are located in one of New York's five boroughs, Manhattan being the most expensive of these options. All minors (under 18) must stay with host families.

Residences are available for stays of 4 weeks or more. They offer single or double rooms and shared or private bathrooms. Computers and WiFi are both available in the residences, however no meals are included in this option. Students can choose the budget residence which is 25 minutes by metro from the school or the standard residence which is a 10 minute walk from the school. 

Course options:
  • Standard English: 20 lessons per week, every morning Monday - Friday (45 mins per lesson) with a maximum of 14 students per group.
  • Intensive English: 30 lessons per week, every morning and afternoon, Monday - Friday.
  • Individual lessons: per 2 hour block, can be added as a supplement to Standard or Intensive course.
  • Business English/Exam prep: 30 lessons per week, for levels Intermediate - Advanced. Cambridge (FCE, CAE, CPE) or TOEFL exams.

Summer Camp in New York

This programme is available for students aged 16-20, who are looking to improve their English, participate in a full activity programme  and have free time to explore the city. The school is located in central Manhattan, near the main tourist sites with modern facilities

Students stay in a recently renovated residence in central Manhattan around a 15 minute walk from the school. Students share fully furnished  rooms (2, 3 or 4 students per room) with half-board. There is always a member of staff present in the residence for supervision or if the students have any questions. 

On the programme...
  • 20 English lessons per week (45 minutes each), alternating between morning and afternoon lessons with a maximum of 15 students per class.
  • 3 half days and 2 evening activities
  • For all stays of 2 or more weeks, full day excursion on the weekend.
  • Example activities include: Natural History museum, Art museum, Yoga classes in Central Park, Shopping on 5th avenue and Picnic in Bryant Park. 

Cultural Immersion

This programme is available for students aged 14 - 18 for durations of 2 to 6 weeks. They stay with American host families, in one of the five boroughs of New York, generally in Long Island. The families are all in safe neighbourhoods, near public transport, generally with a child of a similar age. Students have a single room, full-board and airport transfers included on the programme. The families organise at least one excursion per week for the students. 

The aim of this programme is for students to discover the American culture by sharing daily life with an American family and visiting the local tourist and cultural sites. 

If you have any questions about these or any other programmes, contact us! 

3 Dec 2014

New York, New York!

This month we are jumping over the pond and to one of the world's most famous cities. New York City, NYC, The Big Apple, or The City That Never Sleeps, how ever you want to call it, this city is one of the most popular tourist destinations worldwide and one that everyone has heard of, and that is why we have made it our new destination of the month!

New York City postcard. Source: www.flickr.com

General Info...

New York City is located on the East coast of the USA in the State of New York. It is the most populous city in the US and one of the world's most populous urban agglomerations, the 2013 census estimated a population of 8,405,837. The United Nations headquarters is found here and the city is known as a global power and the centre for commerce, finance, art, fashion, research, technology, education and entertainment.

Illustrated map of New York. Source: www.behance.net
New York is one of the world's largest natural harbours and is made up of five boroughs, each of which is a county of New York State. The boroughs are: Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island, these boroughs were made into one single city in 1898. There are as many as 800 languages spoken in New York, making it the most linguistically divers city in the world. It welcomes over 55 million annual visitors and comprises over 120 colleges and universities, including Columbia, NYU and Rockefeller University, all of which were ranked among the top 35 in the world.

A brief history...

The city traces its roots to its 1624 founding as a trading post by Dutch Republic colonists and was named New Amsterdam in 1626, it later fell under English control in 1664. New York was the capital of the USA from 1785-1790 and has been the country's largest city since 1790.

Perhaps the most famous picture of Times Square,
"The Times Square Kiss", Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1945.
Source: http://time.com
The famine of 1845 drove many Irish immigrants to the city, resulting in 200,000 in NYC by 1860. In addition, 25% of the city's population was made up of German immigrants in 1860, who were driven over by revolutions disrupting societies. By the early 20th century, New York was a prime destination for African American immigrants during "The Great Migration" from the south.

By the 1920's NYC had overtaken London as the most populous urbanised area. It emerged from the war unscathed as the world's leading city and Wall Street led America as the world's most dominant economic power. Constant development and changing political strategies saw the city through difficult economic periods and rising crime rates. In 2000 and 2010 the population reached all-time highs.

Sights to see...

There are of course countless things to do, see, taste and try in New York, but here are just a few of our suggestions.

Times Square's famous billboards. Source:
  • the Empire State Building: finished in 1931 in the Art Deco style, this building takes its name from New York's nickname, 'The Empire State'. At 380 metres tall it is the 4th tallest skyscraper in the USA and is listed as one of the seven wonders of the modern world, and it has been listed as a national historic landmark since 1986.
  • Central Park: 883 acres in size, it is the most visited park in the US with 25 million visitors per year. It has several lakes & ponds, 2 ice skating rinks, a zoo, the conservatory garden, the Jackie Onassis resevoir and the famous carousel.
  • Times Square: Known as a major commercial intersection and nicknamed "The crossroads of the World", Times Square sees 39 million tourists every year. Originally named Longacre Square, it was renamed when the New York Times moved its headquarters in 1904. It is well known for the many ad billboards, including Coca Cola, Budweiser, Hard Rock café and Planet Hollywood, just to name a few.
  • Statue of Liberty: You cannot think of NYC without thinking of the Statue of Liberty. It is a neoclassical statue on Liberty Island, designed by Frenchman Fédéric Auguste Bartholdi and was given to the US as a gift from the French in 1886. It represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of Freedom and was a welcoming sign to immigrants. 
  • Watch the Knicks play at Madison
    Square Gardens. Source:
  • Other notable sights (but not all!): Ellis Island, Washington Square Park, Bronx Zoo, Coney Island and Madison Square Garden.

If you would like to know more about out Destination of the Month, don't hesitate to contact us!

In the mean time take a tour of New York with Frank Sinatra