STUDENT INTERVIEW: Matthew Sidgwick (UK/AIJP)
Jon: Okay, I'll get straight into it - why are you studying Japanese?
Matthew: Personal reasons mainly and to continue working in Japan. I've been working in Japan for a while and I want to be able to communicate with the people I live with. I'm also getting married next year to a Japanese lady so I will always have a connection with Japan.
J: Congratulations on the marriage.
J: How long have you been in Japan?
M: 7 years, actually coming up to 8.....
J: What have you been doing during that time?
M: I've been working in Tokyo. For the first two years I taught English and for the last 5 I have been a financial recruiter.
J: What was teaching English like?
M: Excellent! I didn't really want to do it for more than than a couple of years but I enjoyed it. The students were very receptive.
J: Why have you decided to stay in Japan for so long. I know many people who say that it was hard for them to stay for more than 1 or 2 years.
M: It seemed like the land of opportunity before I moved here. It sounds cheesy but it's true. You get what you put into it and there's a lot to Japan - not just the cities but the whole culture behind it.
J: You started in the SILAC program and then moved to AIJP at the beginning of July - for you what is the main difference between the programs?
M: Personally, SILAC was too fast for me, and some of the things I was taught went straight over my head. But it was a good review because I knew a lot of the stuff already. There was some grammar and vocabulary that I hadn't studied before. It was certainly good preparation for AIJP.
J: How is the AIJP program going?
M: Tough because of the amount of reading, writing and kanji but it goes at a slower pace than SILAC. The teachers seem to be more aware of your strengths and weaknesses. I had a 10 minute interview with my teacher about my aims, goals etc. Maybe it's because you are studying for a longer period of time, so they get to know you a bit better than the SILAC teachers do. If the pace of AIJP was the same as SILAC I'd be stuffed!
J: Why did you choose Yamasa over all the schools in Tokyo that were much closeer to where you lived?
M: A number of reasons. Yamasa seemed well established, the web site was of course a factor. I researched a number of other schools but they didn't have all the things that Yamasa offered, such as accommodation - it was almost like booking a package holiday. The courses were flexible enough to fit into the time frame that I had and the rent in Tokyo was too high for me stay where I was living if I wasn't working. Coming to Yamasa didn't involve looking for a new apartment, key money and so on. On top of this I wanted to go somewhere new.
J: Are you happy with Residence L where you're staying?
M: It's great. Totally different to where I was living in Ebisu. Near where I lived in Tokyo I could go out for a drink until 2:00am, 7 days a week if I wanted to. Here in Okazaki it is incredibly quiet. It reminds me of a small village in England. It took about a month for me to realize that there's not very much to do in Okazaki though!
J: And your thoughts on Okazaki as a city?
M: It's a good place to study. It's not a big city but it's not the countryside either - it's something in between. It's fine for the 6 months I will be studying but I couldn't stay here for a long period of time without a car.
J: You climbed Mt. Fuji with other students from Yamasa recently, did you enjoy it?
M: Yeh, it was an excellent trip. I was totally exhausted afterwards.
J: Would you do it again?
M: No! Would you let someone hit your legs with a baseball bat?
J: I agree with you. And finally, any message or advice for people coming to study at Yamasa?
M: First of all bring very little with you. If you're going to join SILAC buy the books before you come and learn the vocabulary. If you're going into AIJP then learn kanji. And last of all get involved; you only get out what you put in.