My Life at Bridge and in Denver by Michiko Ito

Guest post by BridgeEnglish student Michiko Ito.

My first day in Denver was November 17th and I have now therefore been here for about one and half months. I have worked at a paper distribution company in Japan for six and half years, the first three years in a division for subsidiaries, and then in a credit control function.

Because the company has tried to expand its global market, English language skills have become essential for our employees. I wanted to improve my English for my career and so I applied to the business program of my company. I had no idea about Denver and Bridge English before I came here, but I was happy that I could go to an unknown new place.

I heard that it would be freezing in Denver during the winter with lots of snow, but it was warmer than I had expected. As the weather changes a lot, I sometimes even feel hot when the sun shines. Unfortunately, the daytime here during the winter is really short. I was surprised when it got dark around 5pm. I believe this is telling me not to idle away my time.

I have been staying with a host mother whose name is Nancy. She has a Japanese dog (Shiba-inu), and the three of us live together. I am the first student whom she accepted from Bridge. Luckily, she is so kind and always cares for me. We held a house party recently and had a lot of fun with classmates and teachers from Bridge. She told me that she wanted to plan something special for me. She also said that she would cry when I left. That touched my heart. Although I still have one more month before I leave Bridge and Denver, I am sure that I will miss her and all the people I met here.

Talking about Bridge, I have taken two types of classes, – group classes and private classes. In the morning, we learn grammar or we read English, mainly through discussion with teachers or classmates. For example, we recently discussed the theme of globalization. I think that the teachers are flexible to some extent so that they can meet students’ needs. There are several students (five to ten) in each class, depending on their English levels. The students are from all over the world, such as Iran, Germany, Switzerland and Korea. It is interesting to hear their opinion, but, at the same time, I found that the students are so good at expressing what they think or believe, and I am not. I think that is a cultural difference. That led me to think how I sometimes should express myself in public.

In the afternoon, we have business classes in which we discuss various business themes or problems. As most of the students in business class have jobs in their country, the discussion is really enjoyable. I especially enjoy chatting with the businessman who works for Wal-Mart in Brazil because it was interesting for me to hear him express such a clear vision for his company. It was surprising that some of the students have taken vacation from their companies in order to come here and develop themselves by improving their English.

Linked to the business classes, sometimes I have the chance to participate in business executive programs. The first program I took part in was when I heard a lecture by the CEO of Crocs, a shoe manufacturing company. That was followed by an international business discussion about Brazil at a private home in Boulder, a city near Denver. Both of them were very interesting and gave me the motivation to get into international business, although I have to admit I could not understand all the details being discussed.

As well as the group classes, I have also taken private classes. The teachers are randomly allocated, as they are for the group classes, so I can communicate with lots of native speakers. Each teacher has his or her thoughts and way of teaching. That stimulates me to concentrate in classes. The private classes are based on textbooks. I have learned in particular about business English, such as how to communicate in international business meetings or how to negotiate in English. However, what makes private classes more interesting is that the fact that all the teachers in Bridge have experience in teaching English abroad. I personally like traveling and love to hear about their stories. I also often ask them what they think about the US or other cultures and what other countries’ images are for them.

Like the teachers, students can change every week. It is a shame to see classmates’ graduation because I know it will be difficult to see them again. However, each Monday I have the chance to meet other international students. I often go out with classmates, especially on the weekends. In Denver, there are plenty of places where we can find outstandingly beautiful scenery. Because many of us do not have cars, it is sometimes difficult to go far for sightseeing. However, we have fun doing that together. I have been to downtown Denver downtown, Boulder, Golden, Colorado Springs (to see The Garden of the Gods) and the Rocky Mountain National Park, although we could not see any wild animals because of the heavy snow. I think I will also participate in other activities which Bridge provides for students.

I heard that in Denver we could watch many kinds of American sports. I have watched an American football game and felt surprised at the scale of the game and the stadium. I also watched a college basketball game. It was exciting that I could see players so close up. It is sad that the professional basketball league has not started its season because of the strike – I wanted to watch their games too.

Another thing I felt was interesting was to know that so many people in the US use Facebook efficiently as a communication tool. The last time I was in the US, almost ten years ago, there was no Facebook and it was much harder to communicate with each other. The world is always changing and that is part of globalization.

Lastly, I promise that I will do my best to study English here so as to be more confident in using English in daily life or in business situations. I am sure that spending time with all the people I have met in Denver, such as the teachers, classmates and my host family, will be an irreplaceable experience for me. Thank you.