'I have always enjoyed learning about the world...'
Bachelor of Arts in Japanese and Political Science with a minor in Chinese
Studying towards a Master of International Relations and Diplomacy
Assistant Language Teacher, JET Programme, Japan
Aidan believes that by studying languages at UC, students have access to a range of opportunities that will make their university and life experience even more enriching, and this serves as motivation to become as fluent as possible.
‘Take every opportunity you can to use your language and improve it,’ says Aidan. ‘The key is to enjoy it. You can make friends with the international students here, you can go on exchanges, or make your own overseas experience.’
Aidan’s interest in global societies has led to his clear career goal of becoming an interpreter or translator at the United Nations.
After winning the Japanese government-funded Kizuna scholarship in high school, Aidan spent some time in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami-hit region of Japan, and later in an unaffected city, Kyoto. His interest in the country was sealed, and helped to make his choice of university education straightforward.
‘I have always enjoyed learning about the world – how it has developed and how it works – as well as studying different cultures and lifestyles,’ he says. ‘At first I chose to major in Political Science and Japanese because it provided a gateway for these things. And then I enjoyed my first year so much that I chose to add a minor in Chinese.’
Originally from Shrewsbury, England, Aidan moved with his family to Christchurch when he was eight years old. He was keen to attend university in the city so he could remain near them and his friends.
‘There are so many things I like about studying at Canterbury. Its atmosphere is one of them. It has such a beautiful and neat campus. The community here is real fun too. So the time I‘ve spent there hasn’t felt like a chore at all.’
Since completing his undergraduate studies, Aidan had the amazing opportunity to return to Japan with the JET Programme, as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT). Aidan teaches at three different schools in the city of Nagasaki, one an elementary school for ages 6-12 and two junior high schools for ages 12-15.
‘Being an ALT, I’m seen quite differently from the other teachers at my school. The students really see me more as a “big kid”. I’ve found this has made it easy for me to get along with the students.
‘In the junior high schools the English classes are mostly planned and run by the main language teachers at the school. I support these teachers during the lesson. I may be required to organise a fun activity to encourage the kids to use English, instruct the class on pronunciation for speeches or textbook readings, or perform a skit with the teacher to demonstrate, and so on. There have been a few times where my teacher has asked me to prepare a lesson plan to teach a new grammar point.
‘In elementary school I am the main language teacher, but there is a homeroom teacher inside each class who will help guide the lesson and control the students. English classes in elementary school are a lot more activities and games-based since the students are very young. The main thing is to have the students not only listening to English but speaking it too.
‘In all my schools, I am occasionally allowed a few minutes to teach casual English, stuff the students would only hear if they went overseas.’
Aidan also makes a point to speak English outside of classroom activities for students to get practice in every day settings, including during break times where he has introduced students to international sports like rugby and ultimate frisbee.
‘I remember how much I wanted to practice my Japanese outside of class during my undergraduate studies in Japanese. So, I really want to maximise the student’s opportunity to use English outside of the lesson,’ he says.
With club activities being such a big part of the school culture in Japan, Aidan has made sure to get involved as well to get to know his students better.
‘My junior high schools are particularly big on ekiden (駅伝), which is a type of long-distance relay race unique to Japan. This has been one of the highlights of my experience here. I was nervous about joining it at the start. But it was a good laugh and actually helped break some of the tension when I didn’t really know my students so well.
‘One of the best parts about joining a club activity is that I got to know a different side of the students since they are a lot more relaxed outside of the classroom. Overall, it’s a real fun experience, especially if you make an effort to connect with the students. My advice for any upcoming ALTs is to recognise that and get amongst it.’
The travel opportunities outside of teaching have been an especially big bonus to being an ALT in Japan.
‘It’s pretty mint,’ he says. ‘Despite it being small in size, Japan is a country that offers a variety of areas to explore. Of course, there are Tokyo and Osaka which are internationally well known for being the place to experience Japanese sub-culture as well as thrilling amusement parks and large-scale electronic and clothes shopping districts.
‘Nagasaki is very different. The city is a lot smaller in size and has a warmer sub-tropical climate. There are heaps of small islands to see here, the closest being just a 20-minute boat ride away from the city centre. Living in Japan also puts you in a closer proximity to other Asian countries. It’s an 80-minute plane ride or a 3-hour ferry ride from Kyushu’s main city of Fukuoka to Busan, South Korea. Many people in the JET program also visit other places like Vietnam, China, Taiwan and Cambodia.’
Once back in New Zealand, Aidan will continue studies with the Master of International Relations and Diplomacy (MIRAD).
‘I chose to do the MIRAD because I really enjoyed learning about the international relations of countries in Northeast Asia during my undergrad. The course gives me a chance to hone in on that interest specifically.’