Student Travels to Japan for TESOL Program, Shares Story

Hannah Wehrer

Western Washington University student Hannah Wehrer traveled to Japan in 2017 to teach English to students as part of Western’s TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) program. Here’s her story:

My name is Hannah Wehrer and I am a Japanese and East Asian Studies major with a minor in TESOL. From March until the end of July I had the opportunity to do my teaching practicum at a local junior high school in Nisshin City, Japan. This was a fantastic opportunity to get hands on experience and use the knowledge I have learned throughout the TESOL program with students learning English in a foreign country.

Since entering college I have wanted to teach English in Japan and this program has brought me closer to reaching that goal. At Nisshin Junior High School I observed the classes of five different teachers with students ranging from 7th grade to 9th grade. Students in 7th grade are just starting to officially learn English in school unless they were previously enrolled in a special language school or after school program, so there was a wide range of levels I got to interact with.

Despite only being able to have limited conversation with some students, all of the children were so excited to try speaking with me and I looked forward to seeing them every week. As I would walk between classes throughout the day students would always cheerfully greet me and try to practice the English they’ve been learning, and those to me were some of the most memorable moments. When it came time to doing my teaching demonstrations I was unbelievably nervous, but after starting the class and getting students engaged, their enthusiastic responses lessened my fear and really allowed me to enjoy teaching for the first time.

Not only the students, but the staff was also warm and welcoming. Even with a language barrier, teachers who didn’t speak English were more than happy to help out with anything we needed. The opportunities I’ve had through the TESOL program have allowed me to become more culturally aware and experience teaching English in a country in which English is not the native language. Overall I cannot be more satisfied with my choice to take part in this program and encourage anyone who wants to help others and learn about other cultures to do the same.