Alumni partnership talk about their shared passion for teaching and for Japan

From Preston to the Pacific, teaching graduates Maya and Liam are working in Japan as English Teachers as part of the prestigious JET Program.

Maya Bewsher and Liam Rafferty both studied BA (Hons) Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language (TESOL) with Japanese. They graduated a year apart but that seems to be the only thing that divides them. They both came to the University of Central Lancashire as mature students, each with lots of life and work experience behind them.

Maya had worked in customer facing roles, as well as care work and volunteering in education, helping children and teenagers with learning difficulties. She said: “Through my experiences I knew I wanted to be able to work with both children and adults in the future and so looked into a pathway which fit with my aspirations. Before University I studied in Tokyo for a year to learn Japanese. Whilst over there I volunteered to teach friends English on an informal basis. This led to me applying to UCLan to study TESOL with Japanese.”

"I came to UCLan not confident at public speaking. Through teaching practice, I was able to push myself and gain confidence. It’s been such a treat to see the impact I can have on students and how happy it makes them to learn English. "

Maya Bewsher, BA (Hons) TESOL with Japanese

For Liam, an Access to Higher Education course in Education and Childhood Studies was his stepping-stone to UCLan. He said: “From what I learnt on that course, I wanted to continue to develop my knowledge and so completed two years of Teaching Practice at UCLan.” Like Maya, he also had the chance to complete the Trinity CertTESOL and Cambridge: Teaching Young Learners qualifications.

Liam and Maya met at the University of Central Lancashire in 2020 and their first date was just as the Covid-19 pandemic was about to kick off. Now, they’re both a part of the prestigious Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) programme, which aims to improve foreign language education in Japan’s local communities.

Maya said: “Having learned about the JET Programme around 10 years ago I intended to apply after university and feel very lucky to have been accepted.” Maya now teaches at two elementary schools (6–12-year-olds) and two junior high schools (12–15-year-olds) in rural Yamaguchi. Her school sizes range from 30 to 300 students and assisting with teaching in the classroom, planning lessons and organising a weekly English club in the local area keeps her busy.

Liam’s placement is very different. Close to central Okayama, he’s working at four senior high schools (15–18-year-olds), where he’s acting as the main English Teacher. He said: “I’m lucky enough to have two technical schools: one Business and one Agricultural! I’ll also be busy with a weekly English conversation club.”

Maya is now following up her hard-earned degree, which she says prepared her well for her JET role, by tackling the Japanese Language Proficiency Test at N2 level. And Liam has expanded his knowledge further, completing a Postgraduate Diploma in TESOL, also at the University of Central Lancashire.

And their advice to anyone thinking of following in their footsteps? “Teaching is a job unlike many others,” they say. “It’s a rewarding challenge which is truly fulfilling. Always put your best foot forward and try to sign up for any teaching practice possible. Also, utilise your tutors and mentors as much as possible. They are incredible fonts of knowledge and will help guide you throughout your journey.”

Maya and Liam
Maya and Liam