Learning English is tough. Learning any language is tough. Sometimes you just need a break from classes, learning and books and get some fresh air, go for a hike or go to a museum, something. It is no different for the students at Bridge Denver. They study hard. Some study everyday from 9am until 6pm for months. That is a whole lot of learning. The brain can only absorb so much information before it says, “OK! I’ve had enough! I need a break! Take me outside!”
And that is where Tim Samuelson comes in. He is the Activities Coordinator and also the Academic Advisor here at BridgeEnglish Denver. He is the one who plans all of the extracurricular activities so that students can have some sort of reprieve from their studies. But, in fact, the activities impart knowledge to the students just as much as being in the classroom. Plus, they are really, really fun!
AB: Tim, tell me a little about your background and how you got involved with Bridge.
TS: I have always had a passion for traveling and I thought that teaching ESL would be a great way to see the world and work at the same time and so I decided to get my TEFL certification. I actually received my TEFL right here at Bridge Denver in 2006. I wanted to go to Spain and so, after I got my certification, I went to Madrid for a year and taught English there. It was a great experience and while I was there I realized that I actually had a passion for teaching and being a part of the ESL world. When I returned in 2007 I began teaching here at Bridge, at first just part time and then full time. In 2009, I became head English teacher and Activities Coordinator and now I am actually taking on the role of Academic Advisor to help place students in universities.
AB: What exactly is your job as Activities Coordinator?
TS: My job is to find activities here in Colorado that I think would be enriching and fun for the students. I think it is good to expose the students to different types of cultural activities and events here in Colorado that perhaps don’t even exist in their home countries. Colorado is obviously famous for the Rocky Mountains and all of the activities that go along with them like hiking, biking, rafting and skiing. So, I want to show the students how beautiful our state is and I want them to take full advantage of everything that Colorado has to offer during their stay. There are so many things to do here. Aside from the nature aspect of Colorado, there is a multitude of other fun, exciting activities going on all the time. We have gone to professional sports games like the Broncos, Avalanche and the Rockies, we have gone to mining towns in the mountains and to the famous annual Stock Show and Rodeo. That is one aspect of Colorado that the students really enjoy, the “Old West” history of the state. Many of the students have seen movies about the Old West that take place in Colorado mining towns and so, to actually see these locations in person, is very exciting for them.
AB: Why do you think it is good to have extracurricular activities as a part of the students’ experience at Bridge?
TS: The English program can be very demanding with long hours in the classroom and homework. The extracurricular activities allow the students to get the full cultural experience and to practice with native English speakers in real time with real people. They get the chance to interact with people not associated with Bridge, which is good because they can hear the vast differences in the way people express themselves and different ways that non-teachers and non-students speak. Students can also apply what they learn in class during the outings.
AB: Which activities have proven to be the most popular and why?
TS: Well, of course it depends on the students’ own experience and taste but I have found that skiing is always a big hit. Many of the students, especially those from South America and Saudi Arabia, have never seen snow before and so to see the excitement on their faces when they first see snow is just a great feeling and to witness them try an activity that they would otherwise never have tried is just so fulfilling for me. White water rafting has also been very popular. Not only are the activities fun but the locations of the activities are also a novelty for many of the students. For example, Coors Field and the Pepsi Center; huge arenas and the amenities inside the arenas are very exciting and different for many of the students simply because these mammoth structures do not exist in their own countries or, if they do, they are nothing compared to here. There may be ski resorts in some of their countries but they probably pail in comparison to Vail or Aspen, which are world famous and have been featured in movies and international sporting events.
AB: What else do you enjoy about your role as Activities Coordinator and Academic Advisor?
TS: I really enjoy being part of an organization that enriches people’s lives with not only language but with friends and culture. I love hearing the speeches that the students give at their graduation and knowing that I have made a lasting impact on someone’s life through the activities that I have planned for them. It makes my job really special. I also really enjoy helping the students apply for graduate schools and informing them of the process and expectations of the universities. It can be very daunting applying for graduate school in a foreign country, so I help the students get all of their documents together and get them ready for the next step in their education and career. To me, that is very rewarding. To be in collaboration with a school that is advancing students’ lives with excellence, well, that makes it all worthwhile.