Cool summers, steep rolling hills, cable cars, definitive landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, high technology and entrepreneurship - you can only be referring to the city-county of San Francisco! Literally meaning ‘Saint Francis’ in Spanish, San Francisco’s beginnings, right from 1776 when Spanish colonists built a fort and a mission named after St. Francis of Assissi, are shrouded in exploration, adventure and above all, spectacularly rapid growth. A full-fledged population and infrastructural boom followed the California Gold Rush of the mid-nineteenth century and San Francisco was at one time the largest city on the West Coast of the USA.
Things have changed since, but San Francisco
remains a highly popular tourist destination and is among the top 100 visited cities in the world. The multicultural flavour of its population, a feature ever since its founding, was reinforced with the dotcom boom of the early 1990s with scores of immigrants coming over from Asia and Latin America, especially China, so much so that nearly 40 % of the city’s current residents were born overseas.
The growth story
The Silicon Valley boom, named after the place where most of the IT companies are currently located, led to two major developments in the region: it gave the economy a big boost and paved the way for the gradual changing of the social landscape. Poor or middle-class neighbourhoods began their journey towards upward mobility as hordes of white collar workers - software specialists, application developers, sales and marketing professionals, entrepreneurs - all contributed to high-rise development and a steep increase in household income and property values.
To maintain the pace of growth and to keep the professionals coming in, the establishment of world-class educational institutions to serve as a large recruitment pool was always going to be the key. San Francisco is home to top-ranking schools in virtually every professional discipline. The University of California System Medical Center features among the top 15 hospitals in the US, while the Hastings College of Law is the oldest law school in the State. The San Francisco State University awards degrees at the undergraduate and postgraduate level in more than 100 disciplines, to over 30,000 students.
Other institutions include the Academy of Art University
, the largest art and design institute in the country and the California College of the Arts which offers a wide range of programs in fine arts, design and architecture. There’s also the San Francisco Art School which is the one of the oldest art schools in the region. For those planning to study at a community college, the City College of San Francisco, with around 100,000 students on its rolls, is one of the largest 2-year community colleges in the whole of the USA.
A swinging scene!
Such a dynamic business and student population needs other attractions to stay on. San Francisco’s quality of life and the standard of living is second to none. Be it entertainment, nightspots, fashion, cuisine, culture or even the outdoors, the city and the surrounding county are well-equipped to cater to every choice and need.
A vibrant and upscale restaurant and retail scene means you have plenty of options to shop and eat. Visit PIER 39 for family fun and a unique shopping experience. The list of attractions includes an up-close look at California's playful sea lions, an encounter with a street performer or just pure, delightful dining.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes many of San Francisco’s beautiful parks and beachfront commercial properties, gets over 13 million visitors a year. Walk along Ocean Beach and try your hand at a bit of surfing on the Pacific Ocean, or stroll down to Baker Beach and snuggle up in the cove. Cap your seaside sojourn with a visit to the spectacular San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Those more inclined to leisure can choose from any of the 200 parks maintained by the Recreation and Parks Department, including the expansive Golden Gate Park with its Conservatory of Flowers, Botanical Garden and Japanese Tea Garden.
Fashion, though fairly recent as an industry, has a distinguished history in San Francisco. World-renowned labels such as Levi’s, The Gap and Espirit were born here and symbolise the essence of what fashion means to this fascinating city: sustainability, environmental consciousness and style. Walking down Sixth Street, you can sense the potential of this particular industry while also laying your hands on some amazing stuff.
The thriving and jiving night scene in San Francisco ensures you have plenty to do after sunset as well. Union Street, 24th Street in Noe Valley, Valencia Street, Irving Street, the SoMa neighbourhood – all provide a fantastic selection of bars, pubs, music lounges and cafes to choose from. You could also head to North Beach and sample the trendy hideaway bars located there.
As is the case with all major cities, especially those which host students, there are plenty of housing options in San Francisco if you need to stay outside campus. Homestays, studio apartments, dormitories more than cater to students needs and are fairly reasonably priced too, more so if you are sharing it with a friend or friends.
A fun city with lots to do both indoors and outdoors, great opportunities for higher education and above all a great spirit - Viva San Francisco!
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