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Natalie Donohue

Course: BA(Hons) TESOL with Modern Language (Japanese)

I wanted to study both English teaching and Japanese, but none of the universities in Scotland offered such a combination. UCLan did, and after visiting the university for an open day, I really liked the look and feel of it and the sound of the course.

I was extremely lucky in that every year possible (1st, 2nd and 4th) I applied for, and successfully obtained, the Travel Bursary scholarship, which grants successful applicants money to visit foreign countries so that they can develop skills relating to their degree courses. In Year 1, I was able to travel to Japan for the first time with 8 fellow students to travel around Tokyo and Kobe, practice Japanese and do some voluntary teaching for two weeks. In Year 2, I was awarded the bursary again to travel to China with another fellow student to do voluntary teaching in Taiyuan and explore Beijing for 2 weeks. Finally in Year 4, I was granted the bursary to do voluntary teaching in Thailand for one month, but unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to complete the trip. These travel opportunities gave me both experiences and memories that I will never forget, and I not only had my first taste of ‘real teaching’, but also had the chance to do things that I may not have had another opportunity to do, such as listen to the Emperor’s New Year’s Address and see Mount Fuji in Japan, and climb the Great Wall of China and visit the Forbidden City in China.

At the beginning of my 4th year, I applied to be an assistant language teacher (ALT) on the prestigious and competitive Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme. I successfully passed each stage of the long application process and was offered a position on the programme in April 2012. At the end of July, after graduating, I moved to Soma City in Japan, and have been working here as an ALT in Senior High Schools ever since.

I now teach at 8 senior high schools throughout the Soso area of Fukushima Prefecture. I team-teach oral communication alongside Japanese Teachers of English. I am usually required to create and prepare the lessons and materials. I also promote grassroots cross-cultural internationalisation in both the schools and the local area.