Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York campaign, we have taken a similar approach to highlight the stories of the people who make Spring Institute a community.
“I never studied English in Russia. I studied only German in college. The first time I came here, it was a very difficult time for me because in my head, all I had were German words.”
“My family and I moved here almost two years ago. I have two sons and two daughters. We moved in December right before Christmas. Christmas in America is a very big deal and it was hard for me to leave Russia during the holidays. I remember this time.
I never studied English in Russia. I studied only German in college. The first time I came here, it was a very difficult time for me because in my head, all I had were German words. Now I enjoy it because I can speak with people. Two months ago, I started work at my first job. I am very happy because my work is near my home. I can look out the window and see my work. It’s only a five-minute walk. I work in senior living. It’s very good for improving all skills.
I came to Spring Institute’s hospitality class because I saw it on Facebook when Natalia, the teacher, wrote about this course. I thought, ‘Oh, I should go!’ This has helped me a lot with my English. I enjoy speaking one-on-one with my American friends. It helps me. I am still trying to improve my language skills and I hope that I can speak better English in the future.”
“Language barrier is hard for some people…for outgoing people, maybe not as much. But for me, it was really hard to start and go above that barrier. Less thinking and more speaking.”
“I’m from Siberia. I came as a fiance in 2005. I came straight to Denver. I’ve changed a lot of jobs…from selling shoes, decorating cakes, all kinds of things. But the thing I like the most are the administrative jobs.
In the future, I was thinking about starting my own cleaning business. I have a couple homes already and I am trying to find more people to work for me. This would be a flexible job because I can create my own schedule and provide employment for others.
We bought a house in Aurora last year. We have a 5-year-old daughter and she just started kindergarten. I left my full time job in 2012. While I was a stay-at-home mom, I was worried that my English was started to become worse. We go to a Russian church in a Russian community. All of my friends and family speak Russian, so I soon realized that I wasn’t practicing my English as much. I wanted to improve my English speaking skills and maybe find a good part-time job. I thought that Spring Institute could help me with that.
The hospitality class has helped me a lot. Before I came to America, I studied English in school, but the classes focused on the grammar, not practical English. We didn’t have the practice at all and I couldn’t understand people when I came here. It was really hard in the beginning.
The best way to learn English is to find a job with Americans and force yourself to speak. It was really hard to start, but Spring Institute has helped me with this. I had to learn to communicate without overthinking. Language barrier is hard for some people…for outgoing people, maybe not as much. But for me, it was really hard to start and go above that barrier. Less thinking and more speaking.”
“I owe my wife everything because she helped me change my life. But there’s one thing I didn’t change, and that’s my art.”
“My life in Mexico was very different from now. It was a different life; I needed a change. My wife, Maria, saved my life. When I met her, I decided to change. I owe my wife everything because she helped me change my life. But there’s one thing I didn’t change, and that’s my art. I practiced all the time, painting in different forms and trying new things. Art is my inspiration. It’s my life. I started painting when I was a child. My father was an artist, so I helped him paint murals for churches and many other things. Not one piece of my art is the same. I make sure everything is completely different and that I’m trying new things.
I know I need English. I need to practice more, so I come to English class at Spring Institute. I am happy with my new life in America and so thankful that I had the opportunity to change everything.”
“I want to start my own business so I can be an employer and provide jobs for others.” “I’m from Estonia. I’ve been here for 3 years. In Estonia, I worked as an accountant. Here, I stay at home. But I live at the end of Aurora, so it’s pretty far away and I feel very lonely. That’s why I decided to come to this class to meet some new people. Spring Institute’s hospitality class has made me stronger and given me more power to believe in myself. I feel more confident. I think I will recommend this class for my friends from Mexico. They can come and get more education and experience with Natalia or with any of the other teachers. I want to start my own business. Right now, I make my own soaps. It’s my dream to sell my soaps in different shops like Vitamin Cottage and Whole Foods. I want to start my own business so I can be an employer and provide jobs for others. If I was to meet a foreigner who just moved to Denver, I have one piece of advice. Go and start to learn English; not with books, but with people. Learning is through communication. My English got better through communication, especially through Spring Institute’s class. Of course, I traveled a lot and always communicated in English. But it really improved when I would go out and practice it.”
“I want to start my own business so I can be an employer and provide jobs for others.”
“I’m from Estonia. I’ve been here for 3 years. In Estonia, I worked as an accountant. Here, I stay at home. But I live at the end of Aurora, so it’s pretty far away and I feel very lonely. That’s why I decided to come to this class to meet some new people.
Spring Institute’s hospitality class has made me stronger and given me more power to believe in myself. I feel more confident. I think I will recommend this class for my friends from Mexico. They can come and get more education and experience with Natalia or with any of the other teachers.
I want to start my own business. Right now, I make my own soaps. It’s my dream to sell my soaps in different shops like Vitamin Cottage and Whole Foods. I want to start my own business so I can be an employer and provide jobs for others.
If I was to meet a foreigner who just moved to Denver, I have one piece of advice. Go and start to learn English; not with books, but with people. Learning is through communication. My English got better through communication, especially through Spring Institute’s class. Of course, I traveled a lot and always communicated in English. But it really improved when I would go out and practice it.”
“Ever since I was a little girl, I always dreamed of coming to America.”
“I moved from France to the States about two and a half years ago. I made that decision with my husband. We decided it would be a good idea to discover a new country. Ever since I was a little girl, I always dreamed about coming to America. So here I am.
In France I was a family practitioner, so I decided to pursue this career in the States, which is not an easy path to do. The process is extremely long and complicated. Luckily I found the Colorado Welcome Back (CWB) program at Spring Institute, which has been a great help for me during this process.
Ever since I discovered the CWB program, Ben has helped prepare me for my interviews and guided me through the process. Now I am done with all of my exams. I’m super happy because I received good scores. I am applying for residency all over the US. It’s very competitive to get into programs in Colorado. Everybody wants to come here. So I’m really hoping I’ll find a job here because I love this place.
Obviously, the language was probably the biggest challenge for me. When I arrived here, I already understood everything. I had a pretty good level of English, but I wasn’t used to talking so much, so I had to force myself to speak with others. Luckily, my neighbor was able to speak French, so she helped me out with my English and would switch back to French when I couldn’t think of the right words to say.
It was tough to realize that even though you understand something and you want to express it, sometimes you can’t. That’s the difficulty of learning any language, not just English. Recently, I decided to start learning Japanese. It’s just such a beautiful language and I’ve always wanted to try speaking Japanese. One day, I hope to become fluent.
My husband has been really supportive of me during this time of transition. I’m super grateful because since I didn’t have a job right away, I could dedicate all of my time to studying. I’m so glad that Spring Institute has helped me so much. I met a lot of people from other countries through the CWB program. Some of my closest friends here in Denver are the ones I met through Spring Institute. I’m so thankful for them and know that we’ll be friends for life.”
“I’m not scared of speaking English anymore. Before, yes. But now, I understand, so I speak. Life is easier when you speak English.”
“Respect’, ‘love’, ‘school.’ Those are my favorite words in English and the values by which I tell my kids to live. I have an 11-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. I’ve been here for 18 years and I’m still here. I’m married with two kids and I’m happy. My life is good, for sure.
My daughter told me, ‘Hey Dad, in my school, there’s a class in English. Come on, let’s go!’ So I decided to attend. My wife and sister-in-law speak a lot of Spanish because they learned from me, but I spend most of my time at home speaking English.
I work in construction. I’ve been working with the same company for eighteen years. In five years’ time, I hope to be a foreman at my job. I also want to buy a house for my family. Studying more English in the future will always remain my goal. There’s just so much to learn. I speak English at my work, in the store, everywhere. When I came to this classroom, people were afraid to talk and I tell them, ‘Talk! Speak! Whenever you talk, you will get better.’
I’ve been in this class for 3 months and I really like it. The first class, I was nervous. And now, I speak and write more English. I need to learn writing because there’s a lot of problems when I can’t write. I’ve learned a lot, for sure. I need writing if I stay in the United States.
Life will be easier when you speak English. Before, I couldn’t read or write. Sometimes I would be given paperwork at my job and I could barely fill out the form, only my name. This is why I’m here in the class. I need it. It’s really important.
One of my accomplishments is that I’m still here in this class. In January, I’ll be here again, and maybe move up to the next level. I’m not scared of speaking English. Before, yes. But now, I understand, so I speak.”
“The students here have helped and supported me more than I could ever imagine. It’s like a family. If they see you advance, they’re happy for you. If they see that you’re down, they’ll tell you what to do.”
“It was my New Year’s resolution to get my GED and I am so excited to have accomplished it! I started volunteering at the school where my son and daughter attend. There was a little girl in my daughter’s class who had a bit of a learning disability. I worked with her one-on-one and helped her learn the alphabet. It was so exciting to see that I contributed to her learning growth. I feel so excited to know that I have helped other kids learn. I enjoyed volunteering so much that the teacher told me I should just work here. She said that I needed my GED, which I didn’t have. But as soon as I heard about Spring Institute and that they offer GED classes, I thought, ‘I have to do this.’
I’ve been in this class for about a year now. The students here have helped and supported me more than I could ever imagine. It’s like a family. If they see you advance, they’re happy for you. If they see that you’re down, they’ll tell you what to do. Miss Heidi has done so much for me. She’s pushed me and I feel like if I don’t do it, I’ll fail her and everything she’s done to help me.
Hopefully next year, I will finally be working at the school. This job would help me pay for graphic design school. I’m very artistic in certain ways because I like to think out of the box. I like the challenge. In five years’ time, I hope to have a business where I can be using my graphic design skills.
I’m on my last test and I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it this far. My husband has been one of my biggest supports during this process. He has pushed me to continue going to class, take my tests, and keep on studying even when I fail.
The most important reason for getting my GED is for my kids. By going to school, I am showing them that education is important and that they shouldn’t drop out like I did. When I do my homework, they do their homework with me. When I pass my tests they tell me how happy they are that I did it. I just feel that going back to school, I am doing something right as a mom.”
“The major expectation for everybody, including myself, in coming to America is that you’ll be able to build upon your previous life and be more successful. It doesn’t work like that. But people shouldn’t get discouraged. Sometimes you just have to re-imagine your life from zero…and that’s the tough part.”
“I’m from Russia. I came to the United States in 2004. I came because my husband was here. We were both exchange students in Germany, which is where we met. I came straight to Colorado and I’ve lived in Denver all this time. I really like it here.
I remember my first week in the States. I thought, “What am I doing here?” When I walked down the street, I felt very out of place because nobody really expected me to be anywhere. It just felt very different.
The first year, I had a very different lifestyle from what I did before. I had more free time, so I started to do a lot of volunteering. I felt really connected to the library in Denver, so I spent time volunteering there. If you can’t find a job right away, it really helps to volunteer. You can build those contacts, get to know the local people, see how they live their life and what their passions are. It’s very important to build those relationships with others so you feel that you belong. It’s great to meet people, even the ones you may never talk to again.
About a year or two ago, I started feeling passionate about refugees with the new refugee crisis going on in the world. I’m pretty engaged on Facebook and I found some local organizations to see what they’re doing with the issue. I started to follow Spring Institute’s Facebook page and saw an opportunity to apply as an instructor.
I feel really passionate about educating immigrants, especially with the hospitality program. It works well with my background as I have been working in the hospitality industry for quite some time. I think it’s a great organization and I’m so happy to be an instructor here.
I shared information about this class on Facebook, which is where the students heard about the program. Since I have been so active on Facebook, I was able to spread the word about Spring Institute’s hospitality program. It’s important to network and I’m glad the students are looking at this opportunity to try something new and meet others. Some people will really need to re-imagine their careers when they come to America. This is why it’s so important to try something new and make contacts. Networking will help to brainstorm how to start a new life in this country.”
“At first, the class was difficult because my English wasn’t very good. Now I can understand more, especially when the teacher explains something. It’s helped because Paula has been here in the class with me. She’s my best friend.”
When I came to America, I had many problems because I didn’t have a job or money. I eventually found work, but it wasn’t easy. I had to play the role of father and mother while raising five kids. My life in the USA is not easy. It’s never been easy.
I lived in California for 10 years and then I decided to move here. I really like Colorado. I came to this hospitality class because my other coworkers were attending it. I decided to come because Paula was also here. I like the class and that Maggie teaches it. Unfortunately, I didn’t come for four classes because I moved apartments and visited my family in California. Because I missed those classes, it made me realize that I need to learn more. I want to keep learning.
As far as future plans, for me, I don’t really make plans. They come to me. Usually when I try to make plans, they change. So now I have decided to allow life to throw anything at me. Maybe I’ll like it, maybe I won’t. But that’s ok. Plans always change.
I haven’t been to my home city in 24 years. My city is about 9 hours away from Mexico City by bus. I came with my sister, my dad, and my mom. We left one sister in Mexico. Ever since I’ve come to America, I have been working all the time. I have no kids, only work. But I’m happy with my life. I have almost always worked in hotels because it is something familiar to me.
The first time I went to an English class was when I first moved to the US. I didn’t want to go because I couldn’t understand English. But then, I noticed that there was an elderly couple that attended every single class. I saw them and they inspired me. I thought, “If these people are so interested in learning English, why am I, who is younger, afraid to learn English?”
Since then, I have decided to try and try. I keep on understanding more as I attend more English classes. When I found out about Spring Institute’s class, I was so excited! I’m really happy I stayed in this class. The longer I stayed, the more I learned. A lot of my coworkers can’t understand much English. So I tell them that they need to come to this class. It’s been really good for me. I try and try. I start to understand a little more. The longer I stay, the more I learn.
“Our dreams come true when you believe in exactly what you want. If you just sit around and dream, it will never happen. You have to do something.”
“Whenever I come home from vacation, I always say, ‘Home sweet home.’ It’s my favorite English phrase, so I say it all the time. I really love Colorado. I first arrived in America a long time ago as a Russian exchange student in university. I went back to Russia after one year and then returned to America. When I came back to the States the second time, I really thought I would be going back to Russia permanently. But I met my husband and he changed my life.
My husband and I moved to Colorado in 2011. We have a 5-year-old daughter who goes to Kindergarten right now. We have our own company and I do all of the paperwork, working from home. Since my child is now in school, I started to have more free time at home. I wanted to do something new for me…something interesting to meet other people.
That’s why I decided to attend the hospitality class at Spring Institute. Since I have a master’s degree in tourism and hospitality management, it was quite interesting for me. This class also is a great way to improve English speaking skills. One of the reasons why I first came to America was because I really wanted to learn English. English is the international language and allows me to meet people from all over the world.
When I came to America, I didn’t have anything here. Now, thanks to God, I have everything. But it was through hard work and gaining a lot of experience. If you are new to the country and are struggling, never give up. This is just an opportunity for you to see what you can do, how you can do it, and then you will realize that those problems were the best way for you to grow. Our dreams come true when you believe in exactly what you want. If you just sit around and dream, it will never happen. You have to do something.”
“You can finish this bracelet in 5 days…only if your hands are quick.”
I love business. What I love about business is connecting with people who are interested in buying my products. Spring Institute lets me sell my jewelry at the Spring Café, where I also work as a barista. As of November 26th, I will have been in the States for 1 year and 3 months. I have many siblings in America, some in Chicago and others here in Denver. It is normal in my culture for the father to have multiple wives, so my family is huge. Sometimes I will go on Facebook and find someone who shares my last name and realize that he is another one of my brothers.
I miss a lot of things from my country, but I also like a lot of things here. I like the weather in Denver. Sometimes I like the cold, but I especially love the snow. It’s beautiful and shiny, which is why it’s so nice to have during the winter. Sometimes when I’m upset, I just look out and see the snow and suddenly I am happy again.
I learned to make these bracelets in Ethiopia. I also spent 11 years and 6 months in Kenya, so I can speak Amharic, Swahili, and English. This bracelet is from my country. The design is the flag for my state of Gambela. I like making the American flag because it only takes 3 days to make. I will continue to sell my jewelry at the Spring Café. In the future, I hope to expand my designs on purses and sandals. I want to sell more jewelry and grow my business in Denver.
“I knew that I wanted to continue practicing medicine in the US, but I had no idea it would be so difficult.”
I am a doctor from Iraq. I came to the US in 2008 when I was forced to leave my country because of the increasingly dangerous war. I knew that I wanted to continue to practice medicine in the US, but I had no idea it would be so difficult. Medical knowledge is the same everywhere – it’s the system that’s so different. A teacher at my children’s school introduced me to Spring Institute’s Colorado Welcome Back (CWB) program and they helped me navigate the system.
I passed the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) on my first attempt. I was so excited, but then I had to apply for a residency. When I applied in 2014, I only received one interview and I didn’t match. Ben at CWB told me I needed more US clinical experience. I was very motivated not only to become a doctor again, but to practice in my field of pathology. I built up my network and resume by doing lots of volunteer work. When I went back to CWB, Ben helped me edit my resume and personal statement. I spent lots of time doing practice interviews with the whole CWB team.
That practice paid off because when I reapplied in 2015, I got 6 interviews. I’m happy to say I was accepted into the pathology program at the University of Southern Alabama. I am feeling great that all my hard work paid off and I can’t wait to start my residency!