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Who is Santa Claus December 23, 2015

One of the most widely recognized Christmas symbols is Santa Claus, the jolly old man who rides a sleigh and brings toys to children around the world. However, Santa Claus was not always known as the toymaker who lives in the North Pole.

 

Santa Claus evolved from St. Nicholas, a Greek bishop that lived around 280AD. He was known as the patron saint of children and the bringer of gifts. His name day was celebrated on December 6th for many centuries. After the protestant reformation in the 16th century, Europe took a less religious approach to Christmas and combined St. Nicholas with the British “Father Christmas,” the bringer of joy and cheer. This fusion led to the creation of Sinterklaas in the Netherlands: a bearded, cheerful older man dressed in red and fur with a resemblance to the Nordic god, Odin. His holiday was moved and celebrated on Christmas day, December 25th.

 

This tradition was carried over to the American colonies by the Dutch settlers in the 17th century, where he became the present-day Santa Claus. Over the next few centuries, American poets and writers turned Santa Claus into an endearing figure and Christmas became a family celebration.

 

One of the most famous pieces of American art that shaped Christmas is Clement Clark Moore’s “A Visit From St. Nicholas”, a poem published in 1822. This poem is also known as “The Night Before Christmas” and has been the inspiration behind many plays and films. The American Santa Claus has been adopted by several European countries and led to the creation of Père Noël in France and Papa Noel in Spain.

santa

 

Category : American culture

Staff member Tamila writes about a special holiday in the United States:

Thanksgiving is the most beloved holiday in the United States;  it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.  This celebration has its historical roots in religious and cultural traditions and was originally recognized as a day of expressing  thanks for the blessings of the harvest and of hope for the coming year.  In many households today, Thanksgiving has lost much of its religious importance and has become a day for preparing and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends.  One of the important attributes of Thanksgiving is a turkey.  According to legend, at the very first celebration in 1621, the colonists and the Native Americans (“Indians”) roasted and ate together four turkeys that had been hunted in a nearby forest.  Since then, turkey and Thanksgiving have become almost synonymous. Also, on the eve of Thanksgiving, many Americans engage in a lot of charity work: they supply meals for the homeless and help out those who have run into misfortune in their lives.  In newspapers, you can see a number of notices that read, for example, “if you donate $1.90, you give one hot meal to a homeless person; if you can donate $19, you supply 19 meals.”

 Thanksgiving banner

This year, Thanksgiving means more than a holiday for PCTECH (New York English Academy).  On Wednesday, November 26, we will say goodbye to our location on 317 Madison Avenue.  Beginning in January 2015, our new location will be at 80 Maiden Lane, located in the financial district of downtown Manhattan.  Thus, this year’s Thanksgiving is for us a time of big changes, new experiences, and unforgettable memories that we will share with our students.  And this is part of what we are thankful for this year!

PC TECH: English Language School in New York City

 


Halloween at PC TECH October 30, 2014

Staff member Tamila writes about Halloween as it is celebrated in the United States:

The season of holidays has officially begun.  And I cannot be happier than I am now. What I love most is the atmosphere before a holiday and the preparation for it.  The next coming “holiday “ that is celebrated and loved by many people, especially children, is Halloween.  It has always been widely celebrated in the United States, and now it is gaining popularity all over the world.

On Halloween night, people wear different costumes, organize masquerade balls and competitions (for example, a contest for the best costume).  The main symbol of the holiday is a scary-looking pumpkin with a burning candle inside (“jack-o-lantern”).  Also, children knock on neighborhood doors and shout “Trick or Treat!”  If you want to protect yourself from these little “demons” and their possible mischief, you should give them sweets.

Here at PCTECH, we eagerly await Halloween every year.  And it is only because we want to show how the holiday is celebrated in the United States, but also to provide great memories and give an unforgettable experience to our students.  We have already decorated the school and made a plan for competitions and prizes.  So come and join us in New York City!  We promise it will be fun!

Halloween

PC TECH: English Language School in New York City


Flu Season Is Upon Us October 9, 2014

PC TECH staff member Tamila gives us advice appropriate for the season:

Summer is gone.  No more hot sunny days, trips to the beach, thin clothes, ice cream, and air conditioners.  Even though it is not here yet, we can already feel winter coming.  Seems a little bit depressing, right?  But don’t worry; many wonderful holidays are coming up, so we are going to be too busy to count the days until next summer.  However, don’t forget about a very important thing that you should be prepared for: flu season.  Yes, it has  officially started. Recently, I became a victim of it.  I had been sick for more than a week, having a very high fever and migraine.  I went to the hospital twice, so you can imagine how serious it was.  Thankfully, I am recovering now and feeling a lot better.

So my urgent advice to you is to go and get a flu shot.  Doctors say that it give you 70% protection.  Some people are skeptical about that, since there is still a good chance to become ill; however, 70% is better than 0%.

The second piece of advice I want to give you is that when you are sick and have a high fever, don’t watch the news. Believe me, nothing is worse than watching the news about flu and having a high fever yourself.  You may start thinking that you have all the symptoms of a worse illness!

 Flu

Third, take a lot of vitamins. In late autumn and throughout the winter, with less sunlight, you may lack a lot of vitamins, especially vitamin D.  So make sure you eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and – with a doctor’s advice – take supplements that boost your immune system. Also, you may want to think about exercising more. During exercise , your body releases chemicals (endorphins) that can help your level of well-being.  It also helps you to deal with stress better.

Finally, keep yourself warm (but not with alcoholic drinks).  Wear warm clothes and boots (the season of UGGs, yesss!).   Drink hot tea and a lot of water of room temperature or a little bit colder (Americans are obsessed with ice!).

Here’s to a happy, healthy winter!

PC TECH: English Language School in New York City

 


Arriving on Time September 25, 2014

Staff member Tamila shares some ideas about punctuality:

My mom has always told me that I am totally my grandmother’s personality.  And she is right. There are many traits that she and I share in common.  And one of these things is that we hate being late.  My grandmother used to come to school/college/work/appointment/date always on time and sometimes a little bit earlier.  And for me, it is better to come super-early than to come late.  Of course, it does not mean that I don’t have days when I am late to somewhere: anything can happen – accident, emergency, sleeping over, hangover, etc.  Moreover, being late when you have a date is normal (I usually go on dates on time – just saying), and being accidentally late (not every day though) is also normal for me.  However, when you have a school, job, or professional meeting, it is always better to plan ahead in order to not be late.

 Subway1

Here at PCTECH, your attendance is very important.  You have to be at the class no less than 80% of the total length of your program.  Coming late three times is considered one absence.  So it is very important be on time. The commute in New York City, as in almost any big city is…hmm…difficult at best (let’s be honest).  In the mornings, trains are packed and buses and cars get stuck in endless traffic. However, everything is not that bad.  Among the all types of transportation, the NYC subway is the most convenient.  It usually comes on time and it does not get involved in street traffic, of course. So if you want to be on time, it is better to choose this type of transportation.  For those who live in New Jersey, I suggest not taking a bus or driving to New York City, especially in the morning – the traffic is very heavy. It is better to take a NJ transit train (you can choose between express and local routes), because it departs and arrives almost always on time.  In total, it will take about 30 (express) to 50 (local) minutes to get to New York City, depending on where you live. So the trains can be very convenient.

PC TECH: English Language School in New York City


Choosing a College: Part Two September 2, 2014

PC TECH staff member Tamila continues her list of tips on seeking advancement through higher education.  Here is the second of two parts:

When you finally choose the school that is best for you, it is time to make your attendance there successful and enjoyable.  You may be thinking a lot about being able to make friends at the new place or fitting into the new culture.  And believe me, worrying about that is completely normal.  All you need to do is to concentrate on positive things and don’t let your worries to take over you.  So here are some suggestions that will help you to do that.

 College2

  1. Always attend college orientations.  Prior to the beginning of each semester, every school holds orientation for new students, during which you will be informed of what you need to know about the college in general.  Usually these orientations include campus tours, advice, helping with registration, schedule for your classes, etc.  Plus it is a very good way to meet with other new students and become friends with them.
  2. Join a club!  Every college has many different clubs you can join.  It can be a movie club, video games club, literature club, stamp collectors club, etc.  In short, it can be anything; for example, my college has over 60 clubs!.  Also, joining a club is the fastest and easiest way to make friends and just simply enjoy spending your leisure time doing something that you really like.  And if you don’t find a club for your interests, you can always create one!
  3. Participate in your classes.  Professors love students to participate in their classes. That tells them about students’ interest in their subject.  Also don’t be afraid to ask questions if there is something you don’t understand.  Most professors will appreciate your interest and will always be willing to help you if you are struggling to learn something.
  4. Visit the tutoring center.   Your first semester at the college may be a little difficult for you. Another language, another atmosphere – and rules!  You may be struggling with your homework, or with a particular subject.  Colleges understand that and sponsor tutoring centers. I remember that during my first semester of college, I visited these centers every other day.  I even won a prize for the most visits!  The tutors there were so helpful!

These are the tips I want to share with you.  Following them will help you choose the right college for you, as well as succeed while you are studying there.  Remember that learning is fun, but learning in another country is even more fun!  If you want to add something, feel free to comment on this post and share your ideas with us!

PC TECH: English Language School in New York City


PC TECH staff member Tamila shares some tips on seeking advancement through higher education.  Here is the first of two parts:

We all know about the importance of education.  It is the key to success, self-confidence, money, and simply a better life.  In my family education has always been the number one priority.  So the question of attending or not attending a college was never raised after I graduated from high school. I completely agreed with that; however, my only wish was getting my higher education abroad. Thankfully, for my parents it wasn’t a problem at all.  One thing you have to know about studying in another country is that every country’s system of education differs from that of others, and you have to follow it if you want to succeed.  If you do so, you will not only have a great learning experience, but also can enjoy being around people from various cultures.  So based on my personal experience, I want to describe few simple rules that will help you to choose a place of higher education and to succeed if you decide to study at a college in the United States.

 College

  1. Choose your college carefully.  Choosing a college that you want to attend is never easy, unless you have dreamed about a particular one since you were ten years old.  The first factor you want to consider is if the college offers the major you want.  And if so, how good it is at this particular major?  For example, the University of Pennsylvania (“Penn”) is famous for its nursing and engineering programs, Rutgers University has a great business program, etc.  You can always visit specific websites that give you the relevant information.
  2. Tuition. You should plan for the money you are able to spend on education. You also may want to compare tuition fees of several schools that you like and choose the one that suits you best.  Also, almost all colleges in the United States can offer help for the payment of tuition, such as grants, scholarships, and work-study programs.
  3. Location. Do you want your school to be located in a big city, such as New York, or in the countryside where it is quieter?  Think about what you prefer more:  what do you want to see while getting your higher education?  Some colleges are located near cities, often have bigger campuses, and offer dorm living.  Some are located in a city, and you can choose to rent or share an apartment without worrying about everyday commuting, using convenient public transportation, such as trains, buses, and subways).

PC TECH: English Language School in New York City


About Stereotypes August 22, 2014

PC TECH students have come to us from every continent except Australia…(and Antarctica, so far!).  At times friendly discussions about national and cultural stereotypes come up in class.  Acknowledging and defeating these stereotypes can lead to increased understanding of and respect for the various customs of the English language learners who share their traditions with one another.  Here is an example from Russian-born Tamila:

As I have written  in previous posts, learning English in New York City gives you a great opportunity to meet many different people from almost every part of the world.  You understand that every culture is unique and has its own traditions, customs, and lifestyles.  Moreover, many are victims of stereotyping.  So now I would like to break some stereotypes about people from Russia.

  1. All Russian people are Russians.  Alright, I know that it sounds a little bit weird, but that is true. Being Russian means being a citizen of Russia; it does not refer to the ethnicity (russkiy  refers to that).  It also includes 21 republics, each with its own culture, language, and customs.
  2. All Russian people (citizens of Russia) drink vodka.  No, not at all.  In fact, many of us don’t like it and try to avoid it.
  3. In Russia, bears walk on the streets. This is one of the funniest one.  I have never seen a bear walking on a street in my life.  Only at the zoo, in a cage.

 Bears

  1. It is extremely cold in Russia.  Winter is not the only season in Russia. There are four seasons, and summers can be really hot there.  Although in some northern regions the temperature may be lower, overall the climate can be really quite pleasant.
  2. Russian people smile very rarely.  Well, there may be some truth to that; however, it all depends on the individual.  I do smile and I smile a lot!

How about you out there?  Do you have any stereotypes about your cultures that you want to break?

PC TECH: English Language School in New York City


Two of the best things that you get when you study English as a second language in the United States are (a) how many interesting people you can meet – people from so many countries with different cultures and interests; and (b) how many amazing places you can see.   It has been almost six years since I finished  my studies at a language school, but I still keep in touch with the people I met there.  One of my best friends lives in Japan.  She is a very talented clothing designer (Hi Yohko, if you are reading this!).  Unfortunately, we don’t see each other very often, since we are both busy with schools, jobs, and – the major obstacle – are separated by thousands of miles.  However, every time we have an opportunity, we talk on Skype, KakaoTalk, WhatsApp, and other instant messengers.  Having said that, I think you understand how we get excited when she or I come to visit each other.  Yohko was in NYC last October.  She was here for only few days, but we still had so much fun!

 Park

First of all, we decided to visit Central Park.  This was one of the most wonderful trips I’ve ever had.  With the map and a Starbucks coffee in our hands, we started the exploration of one of the most beautiful places in New York City.  Of course, I’ve been in Central Park before; however, I never really tried to see its real beauty and learn its history.  And there is so much to see!   We started  walking at the duck pond, where Salinger’s character Holden tried to figure out where the ducks go during winter; we visited Belvedere Castle, built in 1869 and now a weather station; John Lennon’s memorial, Strawberry Fields, where I could finally find the name of my country; we saw The Obelisk that is known as the oldest monument in the park (it dates back to 1450 BCE!).  We gazed on beautiful sculptures of Alice in Wonderland and Balto; and finally took a walk on the Bow Bridge, which I knew about, thanks to the famous movies.  Of course, there are many other famous and beautiful places in the Central Park, and one day is definitely not enough to see all of them.  However, even seeing at least some of them as my friend and I did will bring you so much pleasure.  And it is not only about having fun, it is much more; it’s like becoming a part of history, a part of something exciting.   My friend and I took a lot of pictures that day, but even all of them cannot show how beautiful Central Park really is.  You must see it with your own eyes!

PC TECH: English Language School in New York City


Dinnertime Etiquette August 19, 2014

Students in PC TECH’s ESL classes find that comparing customs and etiquette from various countries and cultures can be fascinating.  Here is an example:

People from different countries have different cultures.  When you have friends from different countries, it is very important to know some of their traditions and the basic rules for what they consider good manners in their countries.   Nobody wants to come to somebody’s house and make a bad impression on the whole family.  And that would not be because you don’t know the simple rules of etiquette.  It would be because you don’t know enough about their culture.  I want to write about the simple rules of etiquette when you are invited to dinner in the Dominican Republic.  So if you want to make a good impression, follow these suggestions:

Let’s say you are invited to a dinner at 5 p.m.  The first question is what time should you arrive?  In the Dominican culture, never arrive early because hosts would not be ready to greet you.  The best time to arrive is on time or around thirty minutes late.  You should bring a gift too.  It can be good liquor or an additional dish that you cooked yourself.  Dress in something nice and attractive, but don’t dress in an overly casual style, as in jeans or a t-shirt.  Don’t take off your shoes when you enter the house.  It is bad manners in the Dominican Republic.  In Dominican culture, on a traditional dinner table you will always will see two kinds of rice (white and brown), beans, salads, and two kinds of meat.  Drinks can vary: soda, wine, water, or fresh juice.  Dominicans serve their table in family style, so you can put on your plate whatever you want.  After you finish your first plate, always ask for seconds, because in this way you show that you really like their food.   Never take your dishes to the kitchen.  Hosts could consider that disrespectful, because you are their guest.  Smoking after dinner when nobody else smokes is also bad manners.

 Dinner

Now one of the most important questions is how long you should stay after you have finished dinner.  Usually, if hosts invite you not only for dinner, you can stay late.  If not, stay around thirty minutes more.  Never leave immediately after dinner!  Hosts can think that you come only to eat and they won’t invite you again.   Topics for conversation can be varied.  But do not discuss political points of view.  The Dominican people are very passionate about this and usually different political points of views can cause arguments or even fights.

I hope that after you read these simple rules you are ready for dinner with Dominican friends.  Follow these instructions and you will make a very good impression!

PC TECH: English Language School in New York City