Mohamed, from Libya, recently graduated from Bridge’s General English program. Mohamed tells us about his experience in Denver, the next steps in his academic career, and his hopes for his home country.
Can you tell us about yourself, such as where you’re from and what your background is?
My name is Mohamed Almenfi. I am from Libya and I was born and raised in Benghazi, the second largest city of Libya. Growing up dreaming to be an engineer led me to study petroleum engineering as an undergraduate. I worked in the oil fields in the Sahara and in Egypt. However, since the Libyan revolution in 2011, I was engaged in civil society activities and this is why I decided to come to the US and study peacebuilding in post-conflict societies.
Why did you decide to study at BridgeEnglish in Denver?
With my desire to go to graduate school, I needed a place where I could work on my academic English to be ready for the master’s journey and be immersed in the American culture. When I was looking for a school, I put in mind location, quality, and affordability. Denver is a great city to live in, lots of outdoors activities, access to nature, the picturesque mountain views are breathtaking and vibe in the city is unmatched. Additionally, Denver is ranked 3rd in the best cities to live in the USA, according to US News and World Report. These great things made me choose Denver in the first place.
As for the quality, I found that many universities, such as Metro State University, accept Bridge’s certificate as sufficient evidence of English proficiency. I said to myself, if renowned universities recognize Bridge’s quality then they must be good at what they do. Finally, comparing Bridge with other English learning institutes, Bridge was reasonably affordable. Weighing all of these reasons, my decision landed on Bridge and I am grateful it did.
What do you like most about studying English and what do you find most challenging?
What I like the most about studying English is writing. I think studying the different structures of writing can help you develop good critical thinking ability. How you should organize your essay and how to present counter-arguments can make you look at things differently. Studying writing in English made me think of the other side of any conversation I get into, where I seek understanding and exposure to more angles of any topics.
The most difficult is the colloquial expressions, such as idioms. I think learning this part of English means engaging more within the society where not only you need to memorize them but also practice them.
What have you learned about the U.S. that you did not know before arriving?
I think seeing how sociable the people here are was something I didn’t expect. Before coming to the US, I thought life is so stressful so probably people would be too busy to socialize. But living in Denver I found out people are more friendly and sociable than most of the other developed countries I visited.
You’ve been at Bridge in Denver for several months now. What’s your impression of the city?
I have to admit that I have fallen madly in love with Denver. The city is a great place to be as it is a melting pot [or as my Bridge teacher loves to say – salad bowl]. Not only can you meet a lot of people from all over the states but from all over the world. The city is diverse, 300 days of the sun shining, people are so friendly and most importantly it is 30 to 45 minutes of driving to the great Rocky Mountains. If Denver had a beach, I would vote for it to be the best city in the world.
Can you share a funny or memorable experience you’ve had while living in the U.S. and learning English?
Before coming to the US, most of my English words were in British pronunciation. I remember one day I was thirsty and I went to the supermarket to buy water. I asked one of the guys who was working where to find the water aisle. I said ‘excuse me, where can I find water — In the British way [wahter]. He thought I was asking about a guy named Walter so I had to tell him I need H2O and we both burst into laughter.
What do you miss most about home?
I miss my family and the Libyan food. There are a lot of international cuisines in Denver, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find a Libyan restaurant.
You’re beginning graduate school at Georgetown University this fall. Why did you decide to go there and what will you study?
With the spark of the Libyan revolution and the ambition to rebuild Libya on stronger bases, I have become more engaged in civic activities. This engagement has shifted my educational interest toward studying peacebuilding and conflict resolution. During studying at Bridge I applied for a scholarship provided by Open Society Foundation to support social activists from different countries. I got the scholarship and I decided to go to Georgetown to study peacebuilding with closer attention to the international dynamics that affect it.
Georgetown’s international relations program is ranked 1st around the world according to Foreign Policy newspaper. They have a great experience about the Middle East and their location in DC was another great advantage. My ultimate goal is to be a politician and try to contribute to rebuilding my country again.
You’re from Libya, a country that Americans know about from the news, but otherwise are not that familiar with. What do you want people to know about your country?
I believe Libya is a land of history where many civilizations inhabited it before, such as the Greek, Phoenicians, Romans. One of the greatest Roman emperors [Septimius Severus] was originally Libyan. Considering all the history that Libya was part of, its 1099 miles of Mediterranean coastal line, having the largest part of Sahara and the delicious Libyan food, I encourage everyone to put Libya among the first 5 countries to visit after, hopefully, the end of the current conflict.
You’ve said you want to help get Libya “back on its feet” from the current struggles that it is facing. What do you think needs to be done and how do you hope to make an impact?
Peace should always come first in any rehabilitation process and this is the point that I would like to work on first. Restoring the social cohesion and preventing youth from militarization are the main pillars of building peace in Libya. We can achieve this by empowering Libyans to be actively engaged in the society.
We should work more on the grassroots level where citizens need to understand their role in the society and everyone pays his/her share in the rebuilding process. Getting everyone involved can lead to the creation of inclusive communities which will prevent further division. Reaching a strong social cohesion can create a concrete base for the political process to improve and subsequently the economy will improve.
I see myself, after completing my studies, returning back to Libya to work on social projects that can bring people together and empower them such as using sport and music to spread peace.
Finally, what advice do you have for people considering studying English in the U.S.?
My advice to anyone considering studying English in the US is to try to immerse in the culture so the language will make sense and become easy. Make friends, engage in sports activities, be socially active, and finally be respectful and mindful of the people around you.
My Final Words: Beside the teaching quality at Bridge, I loved the connection that teachers and administrators build with the students. Going to a different country to learn is a difficult journey. You will miss your home, family, and friends. But at Bridge, the teachers have filled this gap and made me feel I am part of a family. I remember my teachers helping me with writing my essays for the university application, taking me out on the weekends, and even being beside me when my son was injured.