I have always liked teaching things to my friends informally, so I was interested in TESOL and decided to attend an applicant day. I met the course leader Nicola Halenko who was so passionate and enthusiastic about the course and it made me want to do it even more, so I applied to do Flying Start and that’s where it all began.
On placement in Japan, I mostly focused on my Japanese studies at Ryūkoku University in Kyoto. My classes were challenging and engaging so even when I was stressed, I knew that I was learning. My teachers were amazing, and I managed my time well to get assignments, etc, done to quite a high standard. I often had to do 800+ Japanese character reports each week and some Kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese) tests and homework, so I always had something to do using my language which taught me a lot about how to write academically in Japanese.
I also worked as an English Adviser as I wanted to meet more people and make more friends – one of whom is a current exchange student here at UCLan.
I helped with people’s English fluency and general communication skills since Japan historically has not put much focus on speaking when it comes to English education. It was a fun job and gave me some more experience teaching whilst still learning Japanese.
For my Japanese studies we focused on different skills each day from sentence expression to academic Japanese and from oral expression to optional classes such as Kanji. I took liberal arts classes such as Japanese media, arts and fashion, Japanese society class, and Japanese technology. I wanted to get as much out of this year abroad.
I really enjoyed Kyoto, since it used to be the capital before Tokyo became the capital. It was so full of history and culture, so I went to a lot of the local shrines and temples to learn about them and get the mandatory year abroad photos that everyone takes.
I took part in events including a farming village trip where we visited one of the only places left in Japan that still uses thatched roofing and I visited a Washi factory where they made the Japanese paper and we made some postcards using the same process the workers would. I also visited a lot of elementary schools and took part in the normal school day to see how they run the school and how their classes unfold which was a very lovely experience. It was a little strange when we were asked to brush our teeth with the children after lunch but still it was a nice experience.
I love Japanese with a passion and I have quite a few Japanese books which I would have never been able to read if I hadn’t learned the language, let alone even heard of them, so it has completely opened me up to a whole other world of language, literature and film, and I think that is amazing. I can sometimes struggle with self-confidence when it comes to TESOL but then I remind myself of the feeling that I get when I see my students understand something new for the first time and remember why I enjoy doing it.
I’ve met some amazing friends along my UCLan journey, including my year abroad friends. It really is insane that if I hadn’t decided to go to university when I did, I would have never met any of the amazing people that I have in my life now.
As for TESOL, the best advice I can offer is to practise with some friends, try out your lessons on them. If a proficient speaker of English finds the lesson difficult, then there might be something you need to change. Also, practice the phonetic script that they give you in first year, almost all my friends found it hard to remember the characters and it will help you out so much when it comes to the language awareness tests.
Regarding Japanese, you will find yourself doubting your ability, but I would say try not to worry about it, everyone feels the same way at some point. Try to find what you love about the language, be it grammar, vocabulary, syntax, kanji, pronunciation, you name it and you’ll have all the passion and motivation you need to make your way to your goal. Also, if you are entering at beginners you will still learn Hiragana and Katakana during class but it’s so much easier if you have taken a look at them and try to learn them before coming, you’ll hit the ground running.
I have applied to the Japan Exchange and Teaching programme (JET Programme) and hopefully will end up teaching in Japan for a year.
18 March 2020