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New English teacher and 2014 grad reflects on her study abroad, teaching experience in Japan

2014 AU grad Caroline Lee, who majored in Secondary English Education, writes about her experience of learning to teach English in Japan. While at AU, Lee was a Teaching Fellow and a member of the theatre honor society Alpha Psi Omega and the international English honor society Sigma Tau Delta. She will begin her teaching career at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, South Carolina, in the fall.

2014 AU grad Caroline Lee, top center, co-teaches second-graders with Mizuki Yoshimura, top left, at Hokuriku elementary school June 3 in Japan.Most of the international studies trips offered at AU center around a field of study, upon which the semester-long class is based. The students then have the opportunity to tour a country that is directly related to this field of study and gain further exposure to the field of study through visiting landmarks, works of art, etc. This year’s trip to Japan was different in that it allowed AU students to interact with a culture in a truly personal way.

The partnership between AU and Hokuriku Gokuin University (HGU) began several years ago when AU’s own Dr. David Larson, dean of The South Carolina School of the Arts, and adjunct professor Susan Larson visited the city of Kanazawa, Japan, and worked at the university for six months from September 2011 to March 2012. The Larsons knew the experience working with the Japanese people was special, and they wanted to share this with others. This is what triggered their efforts to gain approval from AU to take a group of students to work with HGU in Japan.

The semester-long class focused on learning how to teach English as a foreign language or TEFL. Over the course of the semester, we learned various teaching practices and methods, and then applied what we learned to real lesson plans that we created in order to use in Japan. In addition to working on these lesson plans ourselves, each student in the class was also assigned one or two Japanese partners that we collaborated with on the lessons and with whom we would later teach. In addition to studying the education elements necessary for the trip, we also spent time studying the culture of Japan and how it is different from American culture.

One of the primary differences between this trip and many of the others offered for credit at AU is that we were given the opportunity to stay with students of HGU in their homes with their families. This made the trip personal and emotional. When we left, we all felt that we had left a part of ourselves with our precious host families. We also had the opportunity to interact with many people in classrooms at Hokuriku Gokuin University and Elementary School. The primary purpose of the class and trip was fulfilled when we taught two lessons alongside our teaching partners at the Hokuriku Gokuin Elementary School. I had the unique experience of teaching two second-grade lessons during which the students learned how to name and number their arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet and toes in English! Through this, we applied everything we had learned about TEFL practices and methods in addition to truly experiencing many of the aspects of Japanese culture which we had studied.

Not only did we learn about Japanese culture and how to teach English, we learned how to love deeper and be better people. We learned how to serve God and each other in a fuller way. I left a piece of my heart in Japan that I hope to never get back, because it keeps me humble and reminds me how completely unmatched God’s love is.

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