Tag: Japan

‘Where do I go from here?’ From Scotland to Japan

Term has finished now in Stirling but there’s still lots going on, in particular with our two days of events for secondary school pupils next week (more on that later!). It’s also a good point in the year to catch up with tales from current students finishing off time abroad and graduates whose post-graduation paths have taken them in unexpected directions like Brett who has just sent us this great post and who graduated in French and Spanish this time last year: ‘

2019 Borthwick Graduation Photo June19‘If you’re a languages student on the cusp of graduating, you’re probably at the infamous crossroads: translation or teaching. I’ve stared down that path before too, but I just couldn’t bring myself to walk it. I’ve done translation work, and I like it, but I’m not ready to commit to specializing in any field just yet. I’m also quite sure that I don’t want to be a teacher in the UK either. So what does that leave me with? After working for TAPIF (via British Council) in France, and having the time of my life on Erasmus in Seville, I wanted more from language learning before diving into the pool of post-grad uncertainty.

As if Fourth Year isn’t hard enough (specially with studying two foreign languages), I decided to also study introductory Japanese ‘for fun’. If you’re questioning my sanity, you’re right to do so. On Thursdays I used to have a two-hour Spanish class, a two-hour French class, another two hours of Spanish and then two hours of Japanese from 6-8pm. There was method to the madness, however. I’d always been interested in Japan as a teenager, and even at the age of fourteen I knew I wanted to live and work there. I’d heard of the JET (Japanese Exchange and Teaching) Programme, but I had pushed it to the back of my mind, thinking there was no way I’d be eligible to go with basically no Japanese ability. But one day, during our weekly 2-hour Japanese class, representatives from the Programme came to Stirling University. It didn’t take long for me to make up my mind.

I started the application process. That in itself was a journey. Doctors’ appointments, trips to the Consulate in Edinburgh, and mountains of paperwork awaited me (I thought I’d had it bad in France). It paid off though, as I was notified in May that I’d been accepted. But in the afterglow of being successfully hired I was asked the same few questions.

“Why Japan?”

“Urm, why are you going to Japan?”

“Don’t you think it’s a waste after studying Spanish and French?”

2019 Borthwick Tokyo Photo June19
Tokyo

I just gave a smile and said “it’ll be an adventure!” But the truth is I didn’t know what I was doing. Why invest so much time, money, and energy into something if you’re not going to utilize it? I pushed those thoughts aside as I got on the plane and endured the 18-hour flight to Tokyo. But the thoughts didn’t leave my mind during the 3-day orientation. It seemed everyone had studied Japanese, or had at least been to Japan before. Even though I had successfully gone through the same application and hiring process as everyone else, imposter syndrome started to creep in.

After the orientation, I flew to my final destination: Tottori City in Tottori Prefecture. Tottori Prefecture lies in Western Japan, and is very inaka (rural). It’s the least populated prefecture, with a rough total of 570,570 inhabitants. Starbucks finally made its debut in Tottori in 2015 (I’m using that as a measurement of ruralness). Other measurements of inaka-ness include; being surrounded by rice paddies, having to pay with exact change on the bus, and always hearing the hum of the cicadas wherever you go. As for weather, it’s hot and humid (around 35 degrees Celsius) in the summer and below freezing in winter.

2019 Borthwick Tottori City Photo June19
Tottori City

My job is an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) at a high-level academic Senior High School. You may have some preconceived ideas about Japanese students.

“They must be so polite!”

“They’re amazing at English!”

“They’re so clever!”

2019 Borthwick Calligraphy Photo June19Of course, they are, in part. On the whole my students are lovely to work with. They always say “hello” in the corridors, they give me sweets or presents when they come back from holidays, and they often come to chat to me in the staff room. At my high school, every student wants to go to university, so learning English is important for them. This makes my job easier, because it means they try hard to begin with (a welcome change from my situation in France). Outside the classroom, I try to involve myself in cultural activities. I joined my school’s ikebana (flower arranging) club. I’ve also experienced tea ceremonies and attempted Japanese calligraphy.

Maybe you’re thinking, well that’s great, but you’ve not used your skills in Spanish and French. Au contraire. Being a Language Assistant in France gave me my first insight into teaching English as a foreign language. On top of that, my Erasmus semester gave me the courage to speak to people in a foreign language, without the safety net of English to catch me. You might have already experienced these things in Spanish and French-speaking countries, but it can be daunting when your new country doesn’t even use the same alphabet. Thankfully, I also have very kind teachers and colleagues to help me when I’m struggling.

I was lucky enough to be placed in a Super Global High School. What does that mean? Our school takes part in international projects (mainly focused on social and environmental issues). We also have students partake in international exchange programmes. Right now, we have an Argentine exchange student who doesn’t speak much English or Japanese. So, I’ve been proactively helping her, translating any information she doesn’t understand and speaking to her in Spanish when she’s struggling. I guess that’s a job that couldn’t be done if I hadn’t studied Spanish at university.

On top of all of this, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places that I otherwise would never have been to. I’ve also made my TV debut on both small local stations and prime time nation-wide programmes. Who would have thought?

2019 Borthwick Kyoto Photo June19
Kyoto
2019 Borthwick Miyajima Photo June19
Miyajima Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living in Japan has given me the chance to reunite with two other Stirling University alumni: Daisuke and Atsushi. They helped tutor me in Japanese and gave me some great advice before I left the UK. If I hadn’t studied languages at Stirling Uni, I would never have met two great friends and developed a support network before I even arrived in Japan.

2019 Borthwick Osaka Photo June19

The obvious thing to mention is the challenge of learning the Japanese language. It’s different in almost every way to English, Spanish and French. Forget the patterns of “Subject, Verb, Object” and noun/adjective placement. I’ve had to unlearn the knowledge I acquired over the last ten years and treat this as something completely new. On top of that, there are three writing systems used in Japanese! Yes, three! Although it’s been a slow process, I feel like I’ve made some small progress in the (almost) year that I’ve been here. In July I’m taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test and aiming for N5 level (the equivalent of A1/2 in the CEFR exams).

2019 Borthwick K-Drama Photo June19
Seoul: K-Drama Dream

I’m still not sure what the future holds, but I know I’m going to be in Japan until at least August 2020. After that, I still haven’t made up my mind. I’m torn between staying in Japan, moving to South Korea or travelling around South America. I guess the biggest lesson I’ve learned from this experience is that there is no one way to do things. So, if you’re standing at a crossroads and you can’t decide which route to take, why don’t you forge your own path?’

Many, many thanks to Brett for this fantastic post – we’re delighted that JET and Japan are working out so well for you and look forward to more updates over the months ahead. Do keep in touch!

 

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Stirling, Spain, Guatemala, Japan: Language teaching around the world

Every now and then, over the past few years since the blog started, I’ve been really pleased to be able to post updates (here, for example, and here) from Susan who graduated in 2011 with a BA(Hons) in French and Spanish. Since then, I think I can safely say that I’ve really never been able to guess where the next update would come from so it’s been fun waiting to see this time and we’re certainly not disappointed by the result…:

‘I was in Spain last time I blogged and I am now in Guatemala after three months in Japan, so yes a blog update is needed.

2018 Susan Peattie Pic StudentsIn Japan, I was teaching at a University in Noda which is an hour north of Tokyo, mainly focusing on communication and presentation skills. With three of my students, we worked on a presentation of a business idea for the Hult Prize and they won an all expenses paid trip to the US for the next round.

Now, though, I’m actually teaching English at the school where I did my six months residency requirement for my degree, with a UK-based charity called Education for the Children. The plan was to only volunteer for two months and return to Japan. However, they were struggling to find a teacher for the upper grades, so I am here in a paid role until October. This is by far the most challenging job ever. The children are all from the slum areas and often their chaotic home lives can lead to discipline and behaviour issues in the classroom. So, planning to get back to the tranquillity of Japan in January, via Mombasa for the Children’s Home 20th anniversary party in November.’

2018 Susan Peattie Pic Sports day

Many thanks, indeed, to Susan for this latest update and we’re delighted to see the travelling (and the language teaching) continues, and that the Children’s Home is going strong! And, of course, we’re looking forward to more updates in the future.

2018 Finalists and their plans for the future

Next week (hopefully under sunny skies) our finalists will become our graduates so we thought now was a good time to give you an idea of what soon-to-be Languages graduates’ plans look like. With thanks to everyone who took the time to get back to me on this and to those whose plans have already featured in longer blog posts and, of course, with congratulations to you all, here goes (with photos courtesy of the students!):

2018 Voigt Sunset during Ramadan Rabat
Fergus: Rabat Sunset

A number of this year’s finalists have plans that include – at least for the short-term – teaching in one shape or another. Fergus, who’ll be graduating in English and French, has applied to spend a year working in France as an English Language Assistant and Brett, who’ll be graduating in French and Spanish, is off to Japan where he has been accepted to teach English on the JET programme. Alexia, whose degree is Single Honours French, will be starting teacher training in the Autumn on Glasgow’s PGDE Secondary French course, a career path she had always intended to pursue and Calum, studied French and Politics at Stirling, is also considering the teaching route but with an eye on the possibility of translation work, too. In the first instance, after temporary employment this Summer, he’ll be shadowing teachers in his local school to see whether teaching really is the career for him.

2017 Oct Dodds Downey Limoges Pic
Nicole & Catherine: Erasmus in Limoges

He’s not the only one to be considering those particular options together – Nicole, who studied French and Spanish with us, is also embarking on a postgraduate programme, combining the translation and teaching routes: ‘After spending the majority of fourth year thinking about what I’d like to do after graduating from Stirling, it looks like I won’t be saying goodbye just yet. I’ll be returning to Stirling in September to study a Masters in Translation studies with TESOL. After doing the translation theory module during Semester 7, I realised that translation was something I was genuinely interested in and having the opportunity to do it along with TESOL at Stirling seems like the perfect opportunity. The option to choose TESOL appeals to me because I realised just how in-demand the English language is during my time in France and Spain. I’m hoping that this course will give me the chance to work either at home in Scotland or spend more time abroad in the future. Whatever happens, I’m happy to be returning to Stirling to study something which will hopefully give me plenty of options in years to come.’

Translation also beckons for a number of other finalists: Emilie, a Single Honours French student, will be starting the Translation Masters programme at Glasgow University in the Autumn and Anna, who’ll also be graduating in Single Honours French, is also applying for Masters programmes in Translation and Interpreting. In the meantime, her plans include temporary work as a receptionist and also practising her translating skills. Things are still quite open but, as Anna says, ‘no idea where I will end up but if I don’t do a Masters, I hope to work in France for a bit and then apply for jobs in London where I can use French.’ Lucy, who graduates in French and Spanish and who wrote more about her studies and her plans here, will be starting her MSc in Business Translation and Interpreting at Strathclyde in a few months. And Emma, who will graduate with Single Honours French, is currently working hard to save up for her Masters in Translation, ‘destination TBC but currently narrowed down to Bath and Surrey. I am also enjoying the break from education while I can with trips to Budapest, Spain and France planned for later in the year. With my Masters, I hope to go into translation for an important global organisation and, in the short term, I would like to become a reviser and then a translation project manager. Although I am very focused on a career in translation, I want to have a bit of fun first and plan to travel Asia and perhaps also Canada on completion of my studies. Longer term, I would like to get back into education and become a primary school teacher (if they’re still teaching languages at primary school by the time I’ve had children of my own) but plans change over time so I guess we’ll have to wait and see!’

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 2 May18Postgraduate study is also on the horizon for Jeanne, soon-to-be a graduate in International Management with European Languages and Society and planning an MLitt in Transnational Cultures at the University of Aberdeen (more about her plans here!); Amy, who has just completed her degree in French and Politics and is off to do an MSc in Public Policy and Management (more about Amy’s time at Stirling here) and Rebecca, who’ll be graduating from the same programme as Jeanne, and who is embarking on a Masters in European Business in Fribourg, Switzerland. In the meantime, Rebecca will be working at the Montreux Jazz Festival and summer camps with children and, in the long run, hopes to find a job in marketing in Switzerland: ‘Having a language as part of your degree is an obvious positive for employers and life skills in general, so it goes without saying I am grateful for everything the French department has done for me.’ And Anna, who will graduate in French and Spanish, has just accepted an offer ‘to study the MLitt in Publishing at the University of Stirling. Publishing is something I have wanted to do since a very young age and I am happy I decided to go back to Stirling and continue my studies there. In the future, I would love to work in The Rights Department selling rights onto foreign book markets and vice versa. That way, I would hopefully be able to use my undergraduate degree in French and Spanish.’

Chelsea, who studied Psychology and a European Language with us, and who sent a blog post a few weeks back, is applying for care apprenticeships, in the hope of working with vulnerable adults and children. Jean, whose degree is Single Honours French, has applied for a temporary job developing policy at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency where she used to work. This could lead on to something else but, if not, then next winter she plans to teach skiing in Scotland while working towards my next ski instructor qualification. Rachel, who will graduate in French and Journalism in a few days, is putting her French to good use working for a heritage company at Edinburgh Castle where visitors come from all over, including – of course – France and French-speaking Canada, in particular. And Alex, who studied International Politics and Languages with us, is continuing work in his restaurant Napizza. Business is booming, plans are afoot for an Edinburgh branch and, in the meantime, Alex has built a small oven, put it on a three-wheel van and is ‘planning to go around events and spread a pizza happiness’!!

2018 Alex Sorlei Pizza June
Alex: Pizza happiness!

 

I can’t really think of a better note on which to end this particular post! Thanks again to all our finalists for their hard work this year (and throughout their degrees) and for passing on all this information (more to be added as emails come in). We wish you all the very best for the future and look forward to updates on your progress in the weeks, months and years ahead. Keep in touch!

“How I somehow got accepted to do a Master at Waseda University in Japan…”

As promised, following on from Charlotte’s post about life and work since graduating last month, another of our 2017 graduates, Julie Perruchon who just completed her BA Hons in French and English, has sent us an article about her plans for the next couple of years which will see her embarking on postgraduate studies in Japan:

“Like any other student, my final semester at the University of Stirling consisted mostly of essay writing, university applications and general agonizing about the future. I had decided that I was determined to go to Japan; either to do a Master, or as an English teacher at an ‘Eikawa’ (English Language Schools). I had done a lot of research, looking into the universities that offered Master courses in English, as my Japanese abilities only extend to surviving day–to-day life. To my mum’s chagrin, I stubbornly only applied to Universities and jobs in Japan. She might have been right in saying that it would have been sensible to apply to university in either Denmark or Scotland as well, but I happily ignored all common sense and threw myself into my preparations.

I can’t count the times I went to my tutors to ask them to write references for me (which I can’t thank them for enough), how many books I read about Japanese society and culture for my research plan, and how many excruciating hours I spent filling out an endless stack of forms. After being rejected three times (by the JET-Programme, ICU and the GABA Corporation), I got accepted to Waseda University’s Graduate School of International Culture and Communication Studies, where I will be studying under the study plan of Culture and Communication. To my (and my mother’s) huge relief! My directed research supervisor hails from a British University (and is in possession of a decidedly British name), so a little piece of the Isles will be waiting for me in the Far East. On the basis of my research plan, it has already been decided that I will write my Master thesis on the topic of ‘The Intellectual and Literary History of Japan’, focusing on how different societal traditional systems have affected the lives of Japanese youths living in urban areas. Quite a mouthful, and I cannot wait to get started.

Japan being seven hours ahead of Denmark, I could go online and check whether I had been accepted to Waseda quite early in the morning. I was almost certain that my application had been rejected, so it came as a huge surprise when I saw the tiny numbers on my laptop screen that represented my application number. And, as one does, I couldn’t sleep for excitement for the rest of the night and started planning my future venture in great detail (or as great detail as a sleep deprived brain can muster).

And then reality hit. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been to Japan, or lived there, but finding an apartment without a Japanese bank account or phone number is proving to be rather difficult (read: almost impossible). Thankfully, I have the invaluable help of Waseda’s International Office, and I’m sure (fingers crossed) that I’ll be able to find my own tiny 12 square feet apartment squashed away in some corner of Tokyo. In the situations where befuddling paperwork and the promise of earthquakes have me questioning my own sanity, I look back fondly on how easy it was to move between Scotland and Denmark. No visa, no Certificate of Eligibility, no huge language barriers, no earthquakes (yes, I am terrified), and only one hour’s time difference to my native country. Pure heaven.

2017 Julie Perruchon Japan Pic July17My hope is that two years in Japan will help me master the Japanese language, and bring me new challenges both in my personal and University life. Now that it’s sure that I am going over there, it seems quite surreal and I haven’t yet completely wrapped my head around the fact that in less than a month and a half, I will be walking beneath the neon lights of the Shinjuku district in Tokyo. It’s the complete opposite from small and idyllic Stirling, with the most beautiful campus in the world, and nature just around the corner. Japan, and Tokyo, is going to be the next big adventure, and I can’t wait to see where what this decision is going to bring me. It’s terrifying and exciting, and I am overjoyed that I got the chance to go there.

So really, all there is left to say is a huge thank-you to the University of Stirling and everyone there! Mille mercis.”

Many thanks to Julie for taking the time to write this blog post and we’re looking forward to tales of life (and language learning) in Japan over the next few years! Best wishes for the course!