Yukari So

Japan, MA Education (TESOL)

“...the tutors, they don’t only help me with the academics, they actually give me a lot of advice on how to make the most out of my student life here... everyone here is really supportive. I already feel this is my second home”

When you were considering universities, what were your reasons for choosing the UK and specifically Oxford Brookes?

I chose the UK because I already knew that I wanted to study English language teaching so I wanted to study in a place where I can study English and I thought the UK would be the perfect choice because the language originated here. The reason I chose Oxford Brookes, to be honest I was looking at the administrative factors like tuition fees, accommodation, especially when I looked at Oxford Brookes’ overview of the course I strongly resonated with what it said there so that was my biggest reason for choosing Brookes.

How do you plan for the course to shape your future, do you have any careers in mind?

I’m studying Education right now but before this I was working with numbers and data, which is not really related to teaching so I’m here to change my career, to get myself into the field of education and I really hope that after my study here I get to have another job for teaching, a teacher job at a school or maybe at an education firm. I’m open to anywhere in the world but I think I’d prefer to stay here for the first few years because the student visa is a great system they have in the UK. When we graduate we can extend our visa by two years and I just think that would be a really great chance to work outside my home country.

What do you enjoy the most about your course?

During my past experience and study I didn’t have much opportunity to talk with my peers and discuss with other students but here at Brookes I find I have to talk a lot, to discuss a lot and I’m actually enjoying that because it really helps me to deepen the understanding of the topic I’m studying and it’s really interesting to share ideas with the others. It’s a great way to get new insights that you’d never think of on your own.

How do you find Oxford Brookes?

I enjoy it. I was actually really surprised how the tutors and staff are really supportive here. Before I arrived here I was corresponding with the staff and tutors via email and I really liked how they were quick with the response, I really liked that. I was glad to see them in person and still find out that they are really supportive both in emails and in person. What I was surprised at the most was the tutors, they don’t only help me with the academics, they actually give me a lot of advice on how to make the most out of my student life here and that’s how I got to start my volunteering work at this charity called Jacari. At Jacari I tutor English to migrant students studying at primary schools here and I did do some teaching jobs in Japan too. There I would only teach Japanese students but here I get to meet pupils from all over the world which is really challenging to me because we don’t share the same first language, but at the same time it’s really worthwhile because I get to put my theory into practice which is a really difficult thing to do in the real world, the context is not on paper. I’m there as a teacher but I’m actually learning a lot from the pupils and school environment. I do my volunteering work once a week, it’s only an hour thing, still an hour it seems short but there’s so much to learn within that hour.

How did you find settling in and making friends?

I was really nervous, I always get nervous when I go to a new environment, when I put myself into new cultures. I was excited but at the same time I was really nervous because I was away from study for a few years and I wasn’t confident with my academics, but after arrival my flatmates were really friendly and really nice, the tutors are really supportive as well. So once I found them I just felt really confident that I’ll be ok here, that I’ll have someone to ask for help anytime.

How would you compare the teaching style in Japan to the UK?

In Japan, I liked my university experience there too, but in Japan - the teacher and the students, the distance between us - I feel a lot more distance between the teachers and students there than in the UK. In the UK, I feel like the tutors here are more like a teammate, in the same team, it’s like they aren’t teachers, they’re just peers to study together and I really like the closeness I feel here.

How have you found Oxford as a city to live?

Coming from the safest city in the world, that was one of the things I was worried about. I didn’t know if I would feel safe here but I am feeling really safe here. The day I arrived here I could already tell that it’s a student city and I like the scenery, the architecture, I think it’s beautiful. I feel a lot more calm and serene here compared to Tokyo.

Are you staying in university accommodation or outside university accommodation?

I’m staying in university accommodation. I’m studying in Harcourt Hill and I live in Harcourt Hill campus. It’s really quiet here and I really like the quiet because I prefer the quiet when I’m studying.

Have you travelled anywhere else in the UK?

I’ve been to London a couple of times. I really like how the museums here are free. Many other places I would have to pay money but here you can go for free and I think that’s really fantastic. Ashmolean, the other day I went to the Natural History Museum and saw the t-rex casting!

Has your English language improved while in the UK?

I lived in the United States when I was young, I was there from age 7 to 14, so that’s how I studied my English. But then I did work on keeping it after going back to Japan after age 14. I was a bit nervous about coming here in the UK because I speak American English and I never lived in an environment where everyone would speak British English. So, I sometimes do have a bit of a problem with listening, I need to take time to comprehend what others are saying but so far the people I meet here are all really nice. If I just ask them to repeat or ask questions they would just politely answer or repeat. So, it’s not as hard as I thought it would be.

Do you have any advice for future international students who are coming to Brookes?

I always get nervous, I would be the one panicking throughout the year before starting something new. I’m sure there are others like me as well but then I want to tell them that there is nothing to worry about once you come here. They will find someone to ask help from, they will help you, they will be willing to help you. The staff and tutors, everyone here will be really supportive. It wasn’t that hard to settle in here, it feels really comfortable, I already feel this is my second home.

How long is it until you finish your course?

I’m planning to finish next September.