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Mitchell Fryer

Writer(s): 
Mitchell Fryer

From this issue, Mitchell Fryer will be taking over as editor of the Showcase column. I have really enjoyed serving as editor of Showcase for the last three years, and I would like to thank all of my authors for their contributions, and the TLT team for their support over the years. I hope Mitchell gets as much out of editing the column as I have. (Kristen Sullivan, former editor of Showcase).

Mitchell Fryer

G’day everyone. My name is Mitchell, and I’m happy to be taking over from Kristen as the editor of Showcase. I’m sure you’ll all agree Kristen has done a wonderful job over the past three years. I’m looking forward to introducing various people within JALT, their experiences, and the projects that they have been involved with in the upcoming issues. In this issue, I will start by introducing myself and how my experiences with Study Abroad (SA) have shaped my life both personally and professionally.

I first came to Japan in November, 1998, on what I thought was going to be a six month SA visit. Like many other people who travel abroad with the intent to learn and experience a new culture, I planned to engage myself in some formal language and cultural study before returning home to Australia. At that time I had not the slightest inkling of how SA would become such an important and central part of my life both personally and professionally. Fifteen years later I’m still here, married and with a young family and with SA an important part of my life through my involvement in high school and university level academic and sporting SA as well as my own family’s sojourns abroad. 

I met my wife as a result of her SA to New Zealand. After spending four years of tertiary study in the North Island and becoming a huge rugby fan, she returned to Japan. We met through mutual friends who played and were involved in rugby and SA and soon realised we had so much in common as a result of living and studying abroad. It was the passion we share for learning languages and experiencing new places and cultures as well as our similar experiences that brought us together and that guide our educational goals for our seven-year-old daughter. As a family we enjoy traveling abroad every year to pursue these goals. 

After spending my first five years in Japan teaching at jukus, kindergartens, elementary schools and junior colleges I received an offer to work at Shigakukan High School, a new coeducational school that was looking to start a SA program to New Zealand. It was a great experience being involved in getting the program off and running and helping the students to achieve their dreams and goals. The program sends students individually to various schools in the Auckland/Hawkes Bay area for one year and has continued to grow and become a well-known high-school SA program in the Nagoya area. Many of my former students now work in jobs using both English and the skills they acquired during their time abroad.

After moving on from Shigakukan High School I began working part-time at other high schools and universities in Nagoya while I completed my Master’s Degree. I began my Masters in Applied Linguistics at Macquarie University in 2010 and I chose to incorporate SA into my MA thesis by investigating self-theory (Markus & Nurius, 1986) and the contextual elements relating to SA and their influence on the participants’ L2 self systems (Dörnyei, 2005). It was also at this time that I was very fortunate to have a chance to teach something I’m very passionate about: rugby. I coached at high schools and universities and through coaching I was able to encourage many players to study English more extensively. Several of my players went on rugby SA to Australia and New Zealand to improve both their English and rugby skills and to chase their future dreams. Once again I was involved in SA, this time through rugby and it is being recognised as an international sport that both promotes and requires language learning.

More recently I have been involved in the SA program at Aichi Gakuin University (AGU) in the Faculty of Letters. I began at AGU in 2011 and I’ve been enjoying my classes in the Global English department incorporating SA preparation type lessons and discussions in my oral communication and cultural understanding lectures. In addition, I am also very passionate about the Oceania lectures, as these focus on my home, Australia. These classes give me the opportunity to discuss with students about their experiences in Australia and with SA in general, and it is very interesting for me to see the ongoing influence their time abroad has on their learning and lives.  

SA continues to be a major part of my life, both for my family as we strive to reach our biliteracy goals, and in my work where I am involved in preparing students for SA and through my involvement in attempting to improve the experiences for students through various ongoing studies. I am currently exploring the contextual elements that influence SA experiences and learning. My aim is to identify how these elements influence the self of SA students in addition to the role, importance, and perceived benefits of self-theory for students involved in SA. Through my own unique journey and experiences I have been able to pass on to my family and to my students the benefits of SA as well as the important and wonderful role it can play in their lives to help them find their direction forward.

References

Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 

Markus, H. & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41, 954–969.

Mitchell Fryer has been involved in EFL in Japan at the secondary and tertiary levels for 10 years. He holds both an MA in Education and an MA in Applied Linguistics and is currently a PhD candidate at Macquarie University. His research aims to identify and understand the role of self-theory for SA students and the contextual factors that both facilitate and lead to changes in L2 motivation. 

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