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Friday, December 26, 2008

Plans for 2009

Meet your teachers: George and I warm up for our telephone English lessons

George and I at work

Just one more day of work at the office remains this year. Whilst I usually work alone on Saturdays, taking calls from those students of mine who are unable to call during the week, tomorrow the rest of the office crew will join me. They'll be turning up in their casual clothes for the annual oosouji - cleanup - traditionally carried out at the end of the year in all homes and workplaces in Japan.

I've chosen to work much of my week off at a private school in order to scrape together the rest of the money needed for moving house - we've decided that we'll definitely be leaving our apartment in February. With our current place being very old and not insulated in any way we'd rather not stay here. Had there been no costs involved in staying, we'd put up with it, but with a contract renewal fee of 180,000 yen (approximately £1000) it just doesn't make sense. It's an absolute con, and encourages us further in our mission to become property owners (to create a passive income, and provide a comfortable place for people to stay when visiting Tokyo / temporarily homeless. It's partly inspired by dear John John who always had an open-door policy).

I'm really looking forward to my few days off work next week, as it means I can put some serious time and effort into working on the two web-based projects I'm feeling really fired up about. One is the online publishing company that we started last year, the other is a podcast which I've desperately wanted to create ever since I got back, but have been lacking in a podcast partner. I found the ideal person in the phone booth next to me at work. He's crazy. Crazy George.

I'd also like to redesign The Daily Mumble - move it over to Wordpress 2.7 - but that's going to have to wait. I'm seriously considering using some paid holiday to work on this and the other projects.

Next month will see planning / work commence on a new website (and hopefully podcast) for the company - an idea long discussed but never acted upon, until myself and crazy George got all hyped up it a couple of days ago. I'm excited about that. Another great opportunity to be creative, learn a lot, and have something to show for our efforts at the end of the day.

It also happens to be exactly what I have long-envisioned doing.

I'm getting real excited about 2009. I feel it's going to be a great year.

2008 has been a pretty spectacular though, personally speaking. I got married, graduated from uni, returned to Japan with a proper visa thus successfully completing a five year plan. I've started exercising regularly, I've got a fulfilling job, and earlier in the year I had some big successes in my work at the University of Sheffield.

I've continued to read, courtesy of Audible.co.uk.

I've also got my procrastination under control. This year, I learnt that procrastination can actually be used to increase one's productivity. Realising this, I actively sought to make my procrastination the good sort. This not only resulted in me being able to get a lot more done in the limited time I had, but also relieved me of the feelings of guilt and stress that tended to accompany my procrastination sessions.

I think finishing uni helped too...!

Looking to the year ahead, I aim to make real progress in bringing the projects I mentioned above to fruition, in addition to working more to support *Twinkle* with the further growth of our Amway business. I will avoid doing overtime at the office, but instead be very productive in my allotted hours there. I will also work to be a less grumpy husband - when I'm tired I sometimes turn into a big baby. *Twinkle* is very patient, but she shouldn't have to be.

I also plan to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and run a quarter marathon, an ekiden and a half marathon too. I want to run the Honolulu marathon in 2010.

I don't really have any goals in terms of ownership - it's experiences and personal development that matter, not owning 'things'. (Having said that, I would like a Macbook pro and a mid-range Nikon DSLR, but I think they'll have to wait until 2010).

I see the year ahead as being pretty intense, quite tiring, but with little stress - and a lot of fun and satisfaction. I see myself growing in confidence, being less concerned by the opinions of others, and more understanding of ways of communicating in these parts. I'll be continuing to work on living in alignment with what is 'right', and resisting attempted coups by my ego.

Hmmm, it's all pretty exciting really!

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Phase 1 complete

Tremendous feeling of satisfaction tonight as, at the end of a long day at the office (8 hours + 7.5 hours overtime) I finally completed phase one of my project to digitise / automate as much of the teaching jobs admin process as possible.

For the past two months or so I've been working on my first ever MS Access database. It's not especially complex - for someone who's created databases before it would probably be very easy - it simply keeps a record of all our current jobs, and produces multiple reports detailing the status of the jobs in different ways for different staff.

For me it was a huge challenge. There's been countless times when I've come up against a brick wall, unable to come up with the code that would make it do what I wanted it to do. In those situations I found the best thing to do was to think intensively about the different possibilities ...then let go and sleep on it. I can recall several occasions whereby when I went back into the work the following day the answer was there, hanging in the air, waiting for me - PING! and it worked!

The past couple of weeks have been a little frustrating at times as other work has started to pile up, and I've been unable to put any time aside for making final tweaks to the database to get it from a sort-of-working state to a fully functional bugless thing worthy of putting real data into. Thus the overtime. It's my own choosing - I could not do any overtime and continue along the gradual progression route, but it's reached the stage now where I really want to make the switch.

For one thing, as of this week I'm responsible for managing certain aspects of jobs in progress. Thus, there's a bit of self-imposed pressure to get this up and running asap so I don't have to use the existing analogue recording techniques (paper and whiteboard). The switch has also necessitated the reorganising and renaming of a complex web of files too, something I started last week but was only able to finish tonight after a few hours on the job. ooooh you should see my hierarchical archives now, boy are they sexy!

So yes, tonight I feel good. Following a fair bit of testing I started using the database - and it works perfectly! I'll continue to extend it over the next few months in order that it can help simplify tasks for more people in the office. The hope is that within a few months or so everyone is benefiting from it, being able to immediately obtain whatever data they need to get on with their jobs.

And now it's time for bed.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Why I'm happy Obama will be president in a few hours from now



Wow. Kinda feeling ecstatic tonight. Been reading the news about the US election, and getting very excited.

Whilst having Obama as president doesn't necessarily mean huge changes for the better in US policy (such the entire defence budget being redirected towards peaceful solutions / humanitarian projects / environmental protection), it does give me hope.

For me, it's not the political aspect of the US elections that excites me, it's the human aspect. I admit to knowing nothing about US politics. I don't know the difference between the republicans and the democrats - I couldn't even tell you which George Bush is. That's how interested in US politics I am.

But I do know that John McCain tends to go on about the war. And he's 72. And if he dies in office, Palin would be president - how scary is that?!

So why do I want Obama to be president? For one thing, he's inspiring. Have you heard him speak? He's a fantastic motivational speaker. He knows how to tell stories. He knows how to engage with his audience. How to get them on board. How to get them laughing with him - as opposed to at him.

I'm genuinely inspired by Obama to be all that I can be. He proves that if you're a decent person, if you have passion and belief, and if you try hard enough, if you never give up, you can achieve the 'impossible', regardless of what social norms suggest.

We need people like him in the headlines.

Oh, and did you know, he's good news for tourism in Japan too?

I'm also excited by the buzz. Check out what's happening on Twitter!

(I was shocked when I saw that McCain's campaign crewhaven't updated his Twitter status for almost ten days. Mind you, he only had about 5000 followers. Incidentally, Obama, with 114,143, is the world's No.1 Twitterer in terms of followers- i wonder if he has it update his Facebook status too?)

We need a US president who knows how to update their Twitter status, and make use of the new media in general.

I'm also attracted by his efforts to not conduct negative campaigning (although I am aware that a significant proportion of his adverts have included some negativity). Positive is the way forward. Yay positivity!




I'm buzzing for other reasons too. Tonight I was contacted by the editor of a pretend magazine in Australia, and asked to write another story for them. I say 'pretend' because it's only sent to about 7000 members of a penpal organisation - it's not available in the shops. Nonetheless, I love having my stories published - this will be the sixth in a series; I think I'll write about last year's trip halfway around the world in 28 days.

I've also just taken delivery of my first ever set of professionally printed postcards, thus realising a dream I have had for some 15 years. These aren't for retail purposes though - I got a batch of 60 as a trial, to see how my photos look in postcard format. Perhaps I'm biased, but I like them a lot.

Actually, I'm thrilled!

This encourages me to move forward with 'doing' something with some of my better shots. I know I'm no professional, and in fact it's no dream of mine to become a professional either. Professional photography is tough, and I think the pressures involved rob the photographer of the freedom to shoot as they please, as amateurs can.

Nonetheless, I'm thinking that perhaps these images can play an important role in helping us achieve one of our goals: the establishment of a perpetual charitable fund. I could decide that any profits derived from the sale of any of my photographic products be placed in a bank account that we set aside for such a charity.

Hhmm, I like that idea. Yeah, i like it a lot. Mmm, it feels like the missing link. This gives me a real reason to pursue my photography. Makes it into a worthy cause, over and above making me (and possibly others) happy.

I like the idea of having multiple revenue streams. This can be one that is specifically for charity, complimenting our full time incomes, our monthly Amway income, teaching work, advertising on TGW, and ad-hoc translation jobs.

Then there's ThreeSeeds too, our online publishing company. The website is all there, ready to go, but has been neglected in the face of the big changes that all three of us partners have experienced over the past few months. Must do something with that. Ha... if only I felt able to make the time for it!

Anyway, it's late, and I must sleep. Up at 7am for the first of the week's three jogs! Then work, and then I think in the evening we're being taught Moroccan style cooking by a pro chef - perhaps I can extend my repertoire so that it goes beyond Wok Bread, miso soup and banana cake!

I look forward to reading the headlines in the morning :-)

[EDIT: Ok, so I know who are Democrats and who are Republicans now. And I'm delighted to see that we now have a President Obama :-)  ]

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Date set for departure for a new life

This morning I decided to have faith in the international postal service and the Japanese embassy in London, and buy my flight to Japan, despite not having yet applied for my visa, or having yet received the documents I need from Japan to apply for it.

Having been granted student status again I was able to benefit from STA travel's 'Blue flights" - £382 to Tokyo, direct with British Airways. I'll be leaving on the 4th of September from Heathrow's Terminal 5.

The documents (Japanese family register, *Twinkle*s certificate of residency, copy of her passport including all UK entry/exit stamps and letter of guarantee from her) are scheduled to arrive by EMS on Tuesday. Provided they do turn up then, I can go down to London on Wednesday (Wednesday being the only day i can really take off from CELTA due to it being the only day that we don't teach on), if everything's in order I should then (hopefully) receive the visa by the 28th of August, about a week prior to departure.

I will have achieved my goal of getting back into Japan on a long-term visa. It will have taken me five years and cost me in excess of £20,000 (US$40k) - but it will have been worth it. I mean, come on, I get to spend the rest of my life with *Twinkle*. Who wouldn't invest that amount in order to be able to do that?

Hmm. So that means that in three weeks from now, I'll be with my *Twinkle* in our flat in central Tokyo, at the start of a long and happy life together. It seems somewhat unreal. We've never been in that situation before. Up until now we've always been on 'one year contracts' - not just in terms of housing, but in terms of how our entire relationship is structured. This will be different. There will be no enforced changes to act as a safety valve. I'm going to have to start working harder on our relationship than ever before. I want it to be the most rewarding relationship it could possibly be, for both of us. I'm also going to have to work harder in a job than I have for many years in order to pay back the debts we have. I think I'm going to be very busy.

Anyway, my eyes are tired, and I want to go to sleep dreaming of what it will be like living with *Twinkle*.

night
xxx

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Monday, August 11, 2008

A CELTA weekend, and Family Planning

So this is what a CELTA weekend is like then: study, study and more study (and a very enjoyable 3-hour trip out to the Peak District to see friends - thank you!)

It's been fun though. You know, I think I'm actually starting to get my head around English grammatical terms, after 30 years of being frightened of them (yep, right from birth). Did you know that a preposition is a word (or group of words) that is used to show the way in which other words are connected? I didn't.

Spent a good few hours on my first assignment too - language analysis. I find it strangely interesting.

Today I'm creating my lesson plan for tomorrow afternoon, a 40-minute class teaching listening skills. My theme: "Mysteries of Everyday Life". Looking forward to it. :-)


Joseph and Twinkle do purikura

Spent a while on the phone to my darling in Tokyo today. Crikey I think I'm rather in love with her. Anyway anyway, we've set aside a weekend soon after my arrival to make some life plans / family plans together. What we would like to achieve in life both individually and as a family, when we'd like to have children (being conceived in Paris so I'm told), that sort of thing. Once that's done we'll look at what we need in order to accomplish those goals, how we need to improve (or bring in outside help) to achieve them.

Of course we've both done this as individuals several times over the past couple of years, but this will be our first family plan as such. It's very exciting!

Caw blimey, I'm going to be living with my cutey by a big pond ten mins from Shibuya in four weeks!

I love life.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Graduation photos

Live from the Little Chef on the M6 heading south from Sheffield... some shots from today's graduation ceremony.

Well done all of us. Thanks Sheffield!

seas on the steps_9125

joseph graduation ceremony_9102

joseph and twinkle graduation_9119

joseph anne peter twinkle_9148

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

CILASS for Students website (private launch)



This mumble features a fair bit of bathing in my own glory (so no change there then).

I'm delighted to say that the CILASS for Students website is complete. It won't be officially launched until the next academic year, but I won't be around then, so I thought I'd quietly launch it to my friends now ...as I made it :-)

http://cilass-students.group.shef.ac.uk/

The aim of the student-targeted site is to promote an understanding of and engagement in Inquiry-based Learning, raise
awareness of the work that CILASS does, and provide an opportunity for the amazing Student Ambassadors to tell the world about the incredible things that they do.

It's based upon an original site created last autumn by all of the CILASS Student Ambassadors, with further input from the CILASS core team. Being an 'official' university site, last year's attempt to communicate with students was severely limited by the uni's CMS (Content Management System) which basically guarantees that even the most exciting of ideas end up looking about as interesting as a pile of rotting onion skins. Here's the most exciting page on the university website :-p

I think it was around March when I proposed that we do our own thing. Take it out of the university template. Create our own site from scratch. I wasn't really imagining that I'd end up creating a 50-page site. Bloomin' crazy idea if you ask me, end of my final year and all. But it was something I really wanted to do, so it just sort of happened. I was able to use the material supplied by the SAN for the first site, and benefited from lots of feedback from them during the development process - special thanks to Emmy and Ali.

I must say, I'm really pleased with the result, and I'm delighted by the response it's received. The CILASS core team have been very complimentary; seeing the site for the first time the director told me it had made her day. The university's Pro-vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning also emailed to say how good he thought it was, whilst central support staff were also very impressed by how comprehensive it was - yet studenty in appearance.

I should add that it is still in need of a lot of padding. My goal was to create the basic structure and core content - the plan now is for the SAN to fill in the holes and make it into a great resource.

I'd like to thank Sabine and Nicola for allowing me to do this, for giving me the freedom to pursue the project in google 20% time style.

I'm now in the process of creating support materials for the site (using the gorgeous Screenflow - OS X 10.5 only). One fear of mine (and of the core team) is that without me there to supervise the site might fall into dissaray (look what happened to the beautiful site I created for Milky House 5 years ago! Talk about cannabalisation). Thus, support material is vital.

I'd like to be able to use the site as a part of my portfolio. I don't see myself going into website design for a living, but nonetheless, I think it's a good demonstration of versatility (and I don't want to be pointing employers at TGW now do i?!).

Thanks to everyone who contributed, a great team effort! I look forward to seeing it being developed further over the next year.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Degree result

information commons exterior_8500
Google Alert: Information Commons, Sheffield (tee hee)

I worked out what I got for my degree the other day. Whilst grades aren't officially published until the 14th July, with the results for all but one of modules (language) having been announced, it's not hard to tot it up. I've guessed my mark for the language module based on my previous results and my feelings about how it went (it went very well!)

I got a 2:1, approximately 66~68%. That's what I was aiming for, so I'm happy with that. Well done me. 5 years of study have paid off.

I remember Earl Nightingale talking about how we react to reaching our goals. Reaching goals doesn't give us half the sense of satisfaction / happiness as working towards them does, and I'd say that that's certainly the case here. I have this idea that I ought to 'feel more' about this result, but the truth is that the real achievement was in doing it. For me, the happiest days were those when we were in class, doing stuff. Those were the days of real accomplishment.

After all, what do we do when we reach a goal? Set a new goal! I find that knowing that now helps me deal with the unexpected a little better than I did in the past. With no goal ever being 'ultimate', if plans do go eschew, I know that that's ok, that the goal was just a guide, and really it's all about the journey.

That was certainly the case with my degree. It's all been about the journey.

inverse vapour trail_8512

Inverse vapour trail - I've never seen one of these before

Today was my last day working at CILASS. The morning was spent with a group of staff from Hong Kong who are on a study-space research trip. That was good - the vegetable samosas were particularly tasty, and I'm always a sucker for those cheese and tomato stick things. :-p

This afternoon I created a few screencasts for next year's webgroup (is Screenflow the sexiest Leopard app in the world or what?!), and spent some time with Emmy. I like hanging out with her (I mean, how could I not - she has the same Macbook as me!). After that it was off to the pub, drinks on the house. I did enjoy that. Such a groovy bunch those CILASS folks. I will miss them.

Leaving the University Arms I was well and truly lost. It was the first time since arriving at Sheffield in 2004 that I've had no 'place' at uni. Two pints of beer had to be factored in as well: they'd made me feel desperately lonely and in need of *Twinkle* - confirmation that not drinking has possibly been the cleverest thing I've done this year.

Ho hum. I'm off to London tomorrow, staying in a capsule. Best get some kip.

xxx

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

LTEA Conference 2008: Long Live Inquiry-based Learning!

It’s now the day after the closing of the LTEA (Learning Through Enquiry Alliance) conference 2008, and my head is beginning to clear. I attempted to write about my experience of this event last night, but I was “all conferenced out” as fellow student ambassador Barbara put it - my mind was just a sea of tags:
conference tag cloud
It was an intense week. In the days leading up to the event’s opening on Wednesday, I worked with the CILASS core team to help prepare the conference Wiki, a virtual space in which delegates could share, discuss and reflect upon their experiences of Inquiry-based learning. Aside from passive use of Wikipedia, I had no prior experience of working with Wikis, and thus found myself engaging in an intense IBL activity on my computer. Once I’d familiarised myself with the basic structure, I was surprised by how easy it was to manipulate; this has encouraged me to contemplate how I might include a wiki within my own website (another project to add to the IBL-inspired list!).

In addition to co-ordinating the wiki, my duties (most of which were of course shared with my amazing friends in the Student Ambassador Network) included: taking photos (that was a self-assigned role! Thanks for indulging me, CILASS), processing and uploading them to Flickr throughout the conference; ensuring that the technology was working for those presenting; uploading powerpoints to Slideshare (still a lot to do there); facilitating sessions; being available for delegates should they have any problems; watching over the luggage, drinking coffee, and eating chocolate.

Thinking about it all now, a few episodes come to mind. I’d like to share those with you.

It’s Wednesday morning, 9am. As the other Student Ambassadors arrive there’s a feeling of great excitement and happiness in the office: the months of preparation are over, and it’s too late to worry about anything. We’re blowing up balloons to tie to lamp-posts in order that delegates don’t get lost on their way to the Keynote in Firth Hall. Turns out that Jamie is a Balloon-mungster, and prior to joining the CILASS team was at the forefront of a new movement which campaigned to promote the simultaneous blowing up of multiple balloons. Jamie’s love of balloons spreads across the office, and before long the balloon bath is the hottest attraction in Sheffield.

jamie sabine natalie and the balloons

natalie balloons balloons_8061

11am, and the delegates are now arriving. They are greeted by the blue T-shirts and big smiles of the Student Ambassadors - a welcome sign of the kind of atmosphere that will embody the entire three-day conference.

Photo: James Gould

It’s now Wednesday afternoon and I’m facilitating a presentation by four members of Sheffield Hallam University’s CETL. They’ve all been using Inquiry-based technologies to help enhance the learning and teaching experience. As I sit there hearing about their successes I find myself getting tremendously excited and inspired - the work that these tutors are putting in to help students become autonomous learners really is something to be shouted about. When bringing the session to a close, I think it might be appropriate to offer a quick bit of feedback as the only student in the room:
“I’m very happy to have just completed a four-year degree, and am looking forward to moving on into the workplace. But I tell you, hearing what you’re doing with IBL inspires me to such an extent that I’m thinking I’d like to start another undergraduate degree!”
And I meant it. I am so impressed by the effort that is being put in by IBL-orientated staff to help students engage with their subjects, and by the positive results they are achieving. People must be told about IBL! It should become a norm for prospective graduates attending university open days to ask, “Could you tell me what inquiry-based learning techniques are employed within the department?”

We’re now between sessions, the busiest time for me and my USB stick. Myself, Pam from the CILASS core team and Pepe the penguin have to make sure that the presenters in all five of the simultaneous sessions hosted in various spaces around the IC have their presentations/videos lined up and are ready to roll. Remarkably, there’s not a single problem with the technology at any point during the conference - it all goes like clockwork.

pepe and the conference flash drive_8470

The next parallel session has begun, and I’m back in the office processing photos and slides. We’re all buzzing - things are going really well. I’m starting to think about what a great team we make, students working with the core CILASS staff. I reckon we could be hired out (at great expense, of course) to dazzle and amaze conference delegates around the world!

Conference GCHQ:

Conference GCHQ

Tom, Barbara and Nat point delegates in the right direction:

the road to the keynote_8356

It’s nearing 7pm - time for the conference dinner at Whirlebrook Hall. Myself, Nat and Sabine have a true Inquiry-based learning journey to the venue as we don’t know where it is: we stop at two pubs and a private house to Inquire as to where we might find it. Finally we locate it, and we’re actually almost the first to arrive (further proof of the effectiveness of IBL)! Champagne in hand we move out to the terrace, where I soon whip out my camera once again to try and capture the atmosphere. Dinner is then served: a melon slice creation, soup and then a main dish of goats cheese wotsit on rice. Delicious. Finished off with a dessert, and more wine. I must come to these conferences more often… I’m really happy to have the chance to talk with Pam and Sabine. I learn about giving birth, and breastfeeding, things I feel I ought to know about in preparation for the birth of our children in 2010 / 2011.

Nat, the new CILASS Student Co-ordinator for the Student Ambassador Network

conference dinner_8267

Tom, and Laura: Clearly the stress of being the outgoing SAN co-ordinator is getting to her

they weren't always that way

Day two of the conference, and we’re on the coffee. It’s going to be a long one, but with a timetable in my pocket detailing what needs doing when, it’s actually pretty relaxing. It offers reassurance that things are going to happen as planned anyway, just do your bit: the power of teamwork.

Now and then someone will come into the office raving about this AMAZING session that they’d just been to - onto the award winning CILASS student blog it goes.

The delegates are happy. The keynote address, given by the President of the University of Miami, is both relevant and thought-provoking. As the day moves on so notifications of changes to the Wiki increase in number - it’s being used as hoped!

Thursday evening sees us take a coach from the IC to The Edge, the new student village where the delegates are staying. I’m happy, relaxing with friends, eating olives and parsnip crisps, chatting with a member of Sheffield Hallam’s CETL. We’re then ushered through to a large room adjoining the bar: time for a bit of entertainment and reflection with Playback Theatre (York).

conference playback theatre_8387

Playback Theatre are quite remarkable. Consisting of teachers, counsellors and actors, they literally play back to the audience thoughts and feelings that have arisen from the conference. An academic might express her feeling of fear that arises from embarking upon new adventures in IBL, and the joy of then seeing students come into their own through the new module. The actors listen to the story, and then spontaneously create a short performance that sums it up. There’s little in the way of ‘lines’ as such,rather, movement and sounds take centre stage. I was delighted, amused and entertained by their production. Others in the audience were deeply touched; tears were shed. For me, it highlighted just how much passion the delegates had for what they were doing, how, at the end of the day it’s about doing the best one can to make a difference, and finding satisfaction though helping others.

The closing plenary saw us once again in Firth Hall, summing up the questions and ideas that had arisen through the conference. Thanks were then given, with special mention made of the CILASS core team, and the Student Ambassadors. My mind flicked back through the previous few days, and indeed us SA’s really had had a positive impact upon the entire conference. By participating to the extent that we did, we were able to not only paint the place with bright happy blue t-shirts, but also to provide the student point-of-view in many of the discussions - this of course is vital as students are half of the equation when it comes to Learning and Teaching.

I feel that this conference was a model for what a conference should be, and I hope that everyone who attended from other universities goes home and sets up their own Student Network!

Me, demonstrating the brand new CILASS student website - made BY students, FOR students

san skills session_8408
Photo: Sabine Little

The overall feeling I have looking back on the LTEA Conference 2008 is one of gratitude. Gratitude for having been able to take part in such a fantastic event. Gratitude for having been a part of such an amazing team made up of such genuinely lovely people.


Photo: James Gould

There was very much a feeling of partnership between students, staff and visiting delegates throughout, with little sign of hierarchy. I felt very much valued and appreciated as a student: this makes me feel incredibly positive about the future of higher education in the UK, and I won’t hesitate in moving back to the UK from Japan 10 or 15 years down the line in order that my own (as yet to be conceived!) children are able to benefit from it.

Long Live IBL!

This post is cross-posted on the CILASS Student Blog

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Into the recycle bin



Busy bee, spotted on the way back from the exam.

13 hours into freedom

So, I spent much of the afternoon feeling somewhat lost, before deciding that what was called for was assertiveness. I need to move on. No point in lingering in some in-between state. It's too easy to comfort oneself with the idea that change takes a long time. It doesn't. It takes a split second. The time it takes to make the decision.

Thus, I've spent the last few hours sorting through four years of handouts, reams of notes, kanji tests, pink essays, green essays and blue essays, and selecting a few choice morsels to keep. Included in my archive for posterity are select examples of all types of homework from the language course over all years, some classic examples of the handouts we were given, and the results of all the essays I handed in for non-language modules. This means that thousands of pages have been reduced to one folder's worth.

Here's just some of the work that will be going in the recycle skip in a minute.

my degree

You know what though, I am absolutely staggered how much work we've done. The amount of effort that went in to some of those modules (especially in the second year) beggars belief. How did they get me to sign up for all this?!

I'm glad we covered so much though. Not just in terms of language, but history, politics, social issues. I remember when I first went to Japan I didn't have a clue about any of this stuff. It helps, to know one's context. Still a lot to learn though, stuff that can only really be picked up by spending several years living there.

It would be nice to be there now really. Having completed the course it kind of feels natural that I go back to Japan and be reunited with *Twinkle*. No such luck though - 3 more months till that (very) happy day!

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sophie Mei in the semi-final of Britain's Got Talent

Shout out to all those TV owners resident in the UK:

On Monday night at 9pm on ITV1, Sophie Mei, daughter of a good friend of mine here in Sheffield, will be one of 8 performers in the first live semi-final of Britain's Got Talent.

She's made it through to the final 40 - out of 100,000 hopefuls.

Selection for the final is based on audience votes ...so you know what to do!

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Friday, May 23, 2008

We Did It! Graduation Ceremony (No.1)

Our teachers will not be able to come to our graduation ceremony at the end of July as they will be in Japan. Not wanting to miss out on such an important occasion, they decided that in our last ever lesson with them, they put on a special Japanese graduation ceremony for us.

This act of kindness really sums up just how caring these teachers are.

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We are the Champions! Out of over 45 people who started this course 4 years ago, we are the 16 that made it to the end. WE ROCK! (Check out my teeth-grin. I'm not sure what I was thinking...)


It was lovely. We sang, we gave mini-speeches, we received graduation certificates. We received words of advice for our future lives. There was laughter, and tears.

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Receiving my graduation certificate


What made it even more memorable was a special guest ...live via streaming webcam from Japan- TANAKA SENSEI! Tanaka sensei was much loved by all of us in our first two years, but had to return to Japan a couple of years ago. He'd not used Skype before, but we managed to get through just at the start of class. It was so exciting, such a great surprise!

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Skyping with Tanaka Sensei


Seeing him, and his wife (who also taught us for a time) was a real treat. I think our teachers were just as excited to have the opportunity to see and speak with him, having not seen him since last year.

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Our teachers having enormous fun talking with their ex-colleague Tanaka sensei, much missed by both students and staff


There's more photos of our ceremony on Facebook.

We have one more class left on this course, tomorrow afternoon. Then that's it. Just the exam.

I can't quite get my head round the idea that we've finished, and that we're all going our separate ways. I've not really thought about it. Until now. I'm not so sad about leaving the teachers, because I know that I'll continue to keep in touch with them, and see them when they come to Japan or I visit Sheffield. I'll probably spend much of my summer in Sheffield in any case, so it really is a while until that goodbye.

But with my classmates, it's different. The chances are that I won't see some of them again, and that really upsets me; I can't help but shed a few tears thinking about that. They've been such a huge support over the past few years. Whilst I don't often socialise with them, they mean an awful lot to me. It's been so difficult at times, but together we got there.

In our little graduation speeches, quite a few of us mentioned the importance of our friendships. Another recurring theme was that of persevering, of battling on through the tough times. By doing so, you can conquer the most difficult of challenges.

The photo above of all (but one) of us carries with it enormous meaning, and is one that I shall really treasure.

We've really done something incredible here. Well done us.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Dissertation Done and Dusted

Yay! I am Happy. Very happy (and very tired!).

It's been a 14 hour day in the library, but we got there. I'm pretty pleased with it as I've been able to keep my 3000 word history - well, at least for the version that I'll have bound for myself. The department will get the 8,200 word abridged version!

Caw blimey it's over. Only one translation and a three hour exam between me and graduation.

Thanks so much to mum and dad who have put in a lot of time to proofread it over the past few days. Much appreciated.And thanks to my supervisors too, couldn't have done it without you :-)

Bed time for me now. I actually have a DAY OFF tomorrow!

:-)

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Awards!

Yipppeeeee! I just won a university photo competition, my prize being a £200 digital camera! I've missed having a small point-and-shoot as I gave mine to mum and dad at New Year so they could play with digital photos with their new Macbook. Unfortunately though, the one I gave them was a Japanese language model. You can imagine how they have struggled, technology not being their strong points as it is! Thus, I can give them this brand new English camera, and they can take great photos of the family to send to me when I'm in Japan - Hurrah!



I also won £30 in music vouchers for another couple of photos which won different categories - one of a rainbow over Sheffield, taken from the Arts Tower, and another of the Japan Soc Soran Bushi dancers performing in front of the Union.




I'm also honoured and humbled to have have been nominated twice for the Chancellor's Medal. I'm not sure what to say about that, but thank you so much to the people who nominated me. I couldn't have done what I've done without your inspiration and enthusiasm. Thank you.




To top it off, I've just had word from the library that the two library books I desperately need for my dissertation have come in. Yippeeeee!

OH OH OH and Bjork just emailed! She's coming back to play for us on the 2nd July! Yippppppppeeee (again)!

Off to the Society Awards now - Japan soc entered for 'Best National Society' - and we've been shortlisted!

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