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Returnees Edition「THE WAY Spain ✖️ Japan✖️ Australia」(EN)

THE WAY Returnees Edition introduces women who continue to shine and empower themselves even after returning to their home country by making use of their experiences abroad.

This time we meet high school teacher, Ami, who is originally from Sydney, Australia and has lived in Ito (Fukuoka Prefecture), Japan and Valladolid, Spain.

Ami is half-Korean, half-Chinese and was born and raised in Australia. She started studying Japanese in high school and is now a Japanese and English as a Second Language (ESL)/English as an Additional Language (EALD) teacher at a school in Sydney.

Ami shares her experiences of living in Japan and Spain and how she made the most of it all.

A lifelong interest in language and culture

When Ami was younger, she had family friends who were Japanese and was curious to know what they were saying. This made her want to study Japanese in high school because she not only wanted to understand what people were saying but also communicate with a new group of people and learn about their culture. She wanted to speak Japanese fluently so continued to study it throughout university. Ami’s always had an interest in language, people and the lessons we learn during social interactions which is what has motivated her to keep going.

With her Japanese class (Ami first row, first from the right)

Finding a second home

Ami’s first experience of living abroad was in Japan at Kyushu University. As she is Chinese-Korean, there were many similarities with Japan and she didn’t find her experience negative at all. She’d been to China and Korea long before she went to Japan so nothing was shocking and she adjusted well. Ami admires how Japan is organised and ordered even though there’s so many people. Japanese people are so polite and everything is clean. When she thinks about Japan, everything is positive.

Since Ami lived in a dormitory, making friends was quite easy and the organisation of her exchange program was set up very well. International students lived with Japanese students in the same dorm and there were plenty of social activities. On top of this, there were dorm leaders who would organise events and they were paired with a Japanese student buddy. There were lots of opportunities to mix with the local students who were all very keen to make friends with international students which was helpful.

It’s always easier to speak with people who speak your mother tongue fluently but because Ami’s university was in the middle of nowhere there were lots of social events organised for the students. Sometimes, living in the countryside can mean you have better opportunities to practice your language skills and meet locals.

In Japan, Ami felt no homesickness whatsoever. She didn’t want to go back to Australia and felt like she could live in Japan forever. It was like finding a second home and it will always be a time she’ll look back on as being a highlight in her life.

At a yutaka event (Ami second row, fourth from the right)

Post-graduate decisions

After coming back to Sydney and graduating from a five-year university degree, Ami knew she wanted to travel. She still wanted to do something teaching-related and applied for programs that let her teach English abroad.

She applied for anything she knew of, including the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program but didn’t get an offer. She then heard about Auxiliares de Conversacion or the Language and Culture Assistant Program in Spain through her university and was applying for other programs at the same time but an offer from the Spanish Program came through first. Even though she had never learned Spanish or had anything to do with Spain before she thought it’d be different and exciting to experience a new culture. Ami went into it blindly and thought when else would she do something like this?

With the other teaching assistants in Spain (Ami third from the left)

Surviving on limited Spanish

Ami got assigned to work in a small town called Valladolid, two hours north of Madrid where English was not prevalent. She originally