Anibal Sanchez is a student in the Academic English Program at Bridge in Denver, CO USA. He has been studying with us for seven months and agreed to a short interview regarding his experiences and plans for the future. This is what he had to say:
Josh Mickelson: To start, please tell me a little about yourself.
Anibal Sanchez: Well, my name is Anibal Sanchez and I am 31 years old. I am from Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. When I first came to Bridge to study English, my level was very, very basic. My first score was 27 or 30 on the Michigan test. My level has improved a lot in the last seven months. My last score was 82 and I feel like I have learned a lot. Yeah, I feel really good about my English.
JM: Tell me about your experience with English before you came to Bridge.
AS: During middle school and high school in Venezuela, you have to take English classes, but of course the teachers are native Spanish speakers and you only have one or two hours of English class per week. I watched many movies in English and read magazines in English, and I could understand some words or sentences, but my English was not very good. I would watch movies with English and Spanish subtitles so I learned some English that way, too. But that was my entire background before I came to Bridge.
JM: You have certainly made a lot of progress since then.
AS: Yes! In fact, this school is one reason that my English is so good now. My English is not perfect, and I have a lot to improve on, but if you compare it to my first day here, it is totally the opposite. I can communicate and express my ideas comfortably. It is definitely a very good feeling.
JM: What motivated you to study English in an intensive program in the US?
AS: I came here because I needed English for my profession. I am a graphic designer. When I am working with the software programs, everything is in English. When I was in Venezuela, I needed English for my job since most of our clients were from the United States. We did work for companies like Johnson and Johnson, Listerine, Splenda, and others. Everything within these companies is done in English. I was wasting a lot of my time trying to translate emails or whatever, and for that reason I said, “I have to learn English. If I want to do something with my professional life, then this is what I have to do.”
JM: Why did you decide to study at Bridge?
AS: Well, I was originally planning to study in Boston because I heard that there are a lot of students there. So, I sent an email to the school that I was interested in but two, three weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything from them. One day, I was talking to my brother and he told me to consider a school in Denver that he attended. So, I sent Bridge an email and right away I got a response with all kinds of good information. My brother said he had a great experience so I registered for classes and here I am.
JM: How did your family react when you told them that you were going to study English in the United States?
AS: They were very happy for me. I have known for a very long time that I wanted to study English in the United States, maybe for like 10 years. My dad told me that he wanted me to get as much education as possible. He said that he would help me if I wanted to get my bachelor’s and my master’s degree. Education is very important in my family so they were happy to hear about my decision.
JM: How does the teaching methodology at Bridge compare to what you experienced in Venezuela?
AS: It is definitely very different. This is one of my best learning experiences that I have had in my life. The teachers are amazing and they care about the students and their learning. If you need some new lessons, if you have to improve your grammar, they will help you. My teachers are always asking me “how is your grammar?” and say Anibal, you need to be careful with…this, this and that. They pay attention to me and the areas that I need to improve in. For me, it is good. I am very happy with the school and the teachers. In fact, I have some friends that study at a different English school in Boulder, Colorado. We arrived on almost the same day. When we go out and talk with Americans, they can’t believe that we came here at the same time. This school is 100% better than their school is. I saw their homework and books. I think Bridge is focused on language, on English. I get the impression that at their school, the English program is focused on university preparation but not entirely on English.
JM: What is your favorite class at Bridge?
AS: For me, the writing class is the best because you really have to write a lot. This skill is very useful if you go to a university. Or, in my case, for my career. If you want to get a good job, the ability to write English is very important. I’ve improved a lot in this area. I recently saw my papers from when I first came here and I have improved a lot! However, I still need to focus on my grammar, I have to fix it. As a whole, the way that I express my feelings and my thoughts is totally different. I think it is 100% better.
JM: Yes, I can see that you feel comfortable talking about a wide variety of topics.
AS: I feel good. That is the point. I feel confident going out and talking with everyone about everything. I don’t care if I make an occasional mistake. That is part of learning, that is normal. I’m learning and I will probably continue making mistakes for years to come.
JM: That’s very true. Even native speakers of English make mistakes.
AS: Exactly. Right now, many doors are opening for me because I speak two languages. I think there are two very important languages in this part of the world—English, and Spanish. I was sending my resume to job websites and let them know that I am now bilingual. They always answer me and ask me which languages I speak. When I tell them that I speak English and Spanish, they want to offer me jobs. I feel good about this because the job market right now is very difficult, and some people have difficulty finding jobs, even Americans. But, this silly little bilingual thing has given me a lot of opportunities. People, especially Americans, have to understand the value of this ability.
JM: What are your impressions of the US?
AS: For me, it is the best country in the world. I have traveled a lot. The people, especially here in Denver, are the nicest people. Kind people. People are open and will give you directions and help if you are lost. They are nice, nice people. For me it is not a big city. It is something between a town and a city.
JM: Do you feel safe here?
AS: Yes, I always feel safe everywhere I go. The people here in Denver are very friendly. Even the parts of Denver that you consider ‘bad’ are nothing compared to bad neighborhood in Venezuela. In Denver, I feel that I can go everywhere without any kind of problem.
JM: Do you plan to settle in Denver?
AS: Who knows! Maybe I will have to move to a big city because that’s where the opportunities are for graphic design. But, I really like Denver. The only thing is that public transportation can be difficult. If you miss your bus, you might wait another 20 minutes for the next one. It is a small thing, but the public transportation is not as good as in some cities.
JM: So what is next for you?
AS: Well, right now I am waiting on my papers so that I can work at an American company.
JM: When you came here, did you know that you were going to stay to work?
AS: No, I came here to focus on my English. One day, I was outside my apartment having a smoke and I started talking with this guy. He asked me where I was from and what I was doing here. I told him that I was a graphic designer and that I was studying English at Bridge. He said that he needed a graphic designer at his company so I showed him some of my designs. Well, he really liked them so he offered me a position at the company.
JM: Great! It seems that things have worked out well.
AS: Yes, they really have. Like I said, I am waiting for my work papers but I plan to start my life in the United States. My brother lives in Denver and he likes it a lot. He has had many opportunities and this country has given him a lot. You know, he is now an American citizen and he feels like he is really a part of this country. When they celebrate Thanksgiving, it is not something they do because everyone else has Thanksgiving. He does it because he feels like he is a part of this culture and he wants to embrace it. Of course, you have to remember where you come from, and he does. But in the United States you can be both at the same time. I would like the same, maybe bring the rest of my family here as well. It is a good place to live and start a life.