“That class was a turning point in my life”

Posted by | June 01, 2022 | Humanities | No Comments
Danial Newman travel photos in Japan - with a plaque and a life-size bear character

It took a trip to Washington for Danial Newman to find out Japan was where he wanted to be.

Unsure what he wanted to do after school, but following subjects he enjoyed and thinking teaching was “a career he could enjoy”, Danial enrolled in a Bachelor of Information Technology/Bachelor of Teaching at UNE.

Importantly, that led to a student exchange opportunity in Washington State University.

“While I was on exchange I mentioned to my boss that I was interested in learning Japanese and she encouraged me to take a class when I returned home to Australia,” Danial says.

“That class was a turning point in my life. When I started learning Japanese, I immediately fell in love with the language, and realised this was what I was supposed to be doing. I did finish my original double degree, but I also continued on with Japanese study.

The teaching degree – and his lecturers – also helped Danial find his way.  

“Given that I would be graduating with a teaching degree, my lecturers, Therese Burton and Kiyomi Yamada, recommended I apply for the Japan Education and Teaching Program (JET) and wrote wonderful references. I got selected for JET and was positioned in Nagasaki, in southern Japan.”

After the five-year JET program working in Elementary and Junior High Schools in Nagasaki city, Danial stayed on in Japan, moving to Fukuoka to work as an elementary school teacher, now as a high school teacher.

“Without the chance to go to America, I probably would not have gained the confidence to travel abroad and live abroad alone. And my classes at UNE gave me an excellent foundation in the Japanese language which I have continued to build on – whilst also developing a pretty convincing Kyuushuu accent!” he says.

Now almost finished a Master of Arts (Japanese) at UNE thanks to the convenience of online learning, Danial does have fond memories of his earliest face-to-face classes.

“One thing I found particularly special about the Japanese program at UNE was the small classes and relationships with lecturers/tutors. To my Japanese teachers, I was not just a student number but a person with dreams and goals that my lecturers were willing to help me achieve.

“The teachers were always understanding and flexible about life circumstances and if the demands of other courses (like practicum) meant you couldn’t be in class for a quiz.

“During my time at UNE the tutors also welcomed us to their offices to read the manga, practise our speaking and listening, ask questions, or just hang out. 

“The small class sizes also meant that we developed an excellent relationship with our classmates and would often hold study meets to help each other prior to exams. This helped ease the stress of learning a language so different to our mother tongues and also helped motivate us all.”

Ten years into life in Japan, Danial now gets reverse culture shock when back in Australia. It’s safe to say, he doesn’t regret his life choice to seize the opportunity and move to Japan. But it’s not how he initially expected things would pan out.  

“Whilst I wouldn’t say the information technology/teaching double degree was the wrong course – I enjoyed a lot of my classes – enrolling in Japanese and the support from my lecturers has led to a life an 18-year-old me could have never dreamed of when I enrolled in university.

“So my advice to others is, take that class you are interested in! Even if it is completely unrelated to your course. You may just discover a life-changing passion.

“Also, ask your if your lecturers questions, not just about your content, about your career goals and jobs. They are a goldmine and usually very willing to sit down and have a chat with a student.”

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