Amer Alshaibi is a student in the Academic English Program at Bridge in Denver, CO, USA. He hails form the far-away land of Saudi Arabia and has been studying at Bridge for five months and will continue studying for the next seven months. I had the chance to interview Amer about his experiences here in Denver and at Bridge.
AB: Amer, tell me a little about yourself.
AA: I am 24 years old. I come from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I grew up in a city called Makkah with my family. After high school, I went to university in the city of Jeddah where I studied regional planning. I studied at university for six years. After university I worked for about one year for a company called the Red Sea Company participating in a project called “local plans and details for the region of Hail.” After that, I moved to Colorado and came to study at Bridge.
AB: Why did you choose Bridge?
AA: Well actually, the government of Saudi Arabia chose Bridge for me. I applied for and won a scholarship in the spring. I had a very good grade point average. When I won the scholarship I was very excited because that meant I got to come to the United States and study English! It was great!
AB: What was your experience with studying English before coming to Bridge?
AA: I studied in school in Saudi Arabia but it just wasn’t good and I didn’t learn that much. Then I went to Malaysia after high school for three months and studied English there. I learned more there for sure. Before I went there I basically spoke no English at all. After three months in Malaysia I was at about an intermediate level.
AB: How is the teaching at Bridge compared to the teaching in Saudi Arabia?
AA: In Saudi Arabia, we only had one class of English per day for five days. So that’s only five hours a week, which isn’t much. Here, at Bridge, I speak English all day, everyday with native speakers and with the other students. My Saudi Arabian friends and I also only speak English with each other. When we go out together we make a pact that we can only speak English because that is why we are here! I already know my own language, obviously. I want to improve my English, so I need to speak it as much as possible.
AB: What is your favorite class?
AA: One of my classes is IELTS preparation and that is my favorite class. I need to get a high score on the test so that I can go to university here and get my masters degree. I have taken the IELTS once already and got a 4.5. I need to get a 6 to be able to go to the University of Colorado at Boulder, which is where I really want to go. So I study a lot in the IELTS class. I feel that the next time I take the test I will improve my score. Even if I only improve half a point, that is ok with me! I just want to improve!
AB: How do you think your English has improved since you have been here?
AA: I think it has improved a lot, especially my speaking, however, listening and grammar are the hardest for me. Trying to understand songs is so difficult! They sing so fast! It is easier to understand TV shows and movies. I would say that I understand 70% of what I watch. I don’t even need subtitles anymore.
AB: What do you think of the US and Colorado?
AA: I love Colorado! It is so beautiful. Everything I need is here. I also feel very safe here. I hear about other cities in the US and how much crime they have. I think Denver is a very safe city. I have also made some very good friends here, both foreign and native.
AB: Would you like to live here permanently?
AA: I think I would actually, but I don’t know yet. My family misses me and I really miss them. They might come here to visit me soon or maybe I will go back to my city for one month and visit them. It is hard being away from them but I know that studying English is very important for my future.
AB: And finally, what are your plans after Bridge?
AA: I want to get my masters in regional planning. If I get a good score on the IELTS then I can receive another scholarship from my country for a year and a half of study at CU. Then after that, I might want to continue and get my PhD in regional planning. I also have the opportunity to receive a scholarship for that. But right now, I am not sure about the PhD. I will have to see. First, I just want to get my masters degree. After that, it is possible that I will stay here in Colorado but I just don’t know yet. Right now I am just having fun studying and making friends at Bridge.