A BA (Hons) Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages with Japanese degree set Natalie Donahue on a journey to the Japanese city of Fukishima, where she teaches English to students in the region devastated by the 2011 earthquake.
“I wanted to study both English and Japanese, but few universities offered the combination. After visiting UCLan for an Open Day and being thoroughly impressed with the look, feel and sound of both the course and the university, I enrolled and never looked back,” explained Natalie.
“The course got off to an excellent start with the department trip to Tyn Dwr in Wales. A mixture of students and lecturers participated in outdoor adventure activities such as canoeing and a high ropes course,” recalled Natalie. “The weekend was a great chance to bond with students and lecturers, and it is an experience I will treasure. It fostered trust and friendships that not only lasted throughout the course, but to this day and hopefully for a long time to come.”
Natalie received a Travel Bursary which grants successful applicants money to visit foreign countries so they can develop skills relating to their courses. “Thanks to the Bursary I visited Japan, China and Thailand. I not only had my first taste of ‘real teaching’ but I had the chance to visit the Forbidden City in China, climb the Great Wall and see Mount Fuji in Japan - unforgettable memories.”
“The lecturers were fantastic; they had endless amounts of patience and support throughout the course, especially in the final year when the ‘dreaded’ dissertation deadline was looming. Indeed, I would not have been able to receive the department prize for the best dissertation without their fantastic support.”
Natalie was studying in Japan for six months in during her third year when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck in 2011, before being evacuated to finish her ‘Year Abroad’ in Paris. “The event simply strengthened my resolve to return to Japan and teach English,” she explained. “I was especially keen to get a job in the Fukishima region so I could contribute to the reconstruction of the devastated areas.”
At the beginning of Natalie’s fourth and final year on the course, she applied to be an Assistant Language Teacher on the highly competitive Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme. “Thankfully, after an exhaustive application process, I got on the Programme, and I am now an Assistant Language Teacher in Soma City, North East Japan.”
Speaking about her role, Natalie said: “I create the lessons and materials used for teaching English – especially spoken English – in eight high-schools in the Fukishima district. I am living the dream, and put simply - I would not have been able to do this without my degree. Whilst University isn’t always plain sailing, it shaped me into the person I am today – I confident, outgoing person who can cope with any challenges thrown at me. Something which is imperative when living abroad!”
TOP TIP FOR UNDERGRADUATES: Just do it! Go to University! It doesn’t just teach academic skills, you’ll learn a range of life skills. If you live on campus you’ll learn how to manage your time, money and responsibilities effectively, whilst learning to take care of yourself in a new environment. University can be tough, but the cliché is true – it really is the best years of your life.