Cameron Barnett: A year in Japan


CCGS alumni Cameron Barnett with graduating Japanese students

Upon finishing Year 12, CCGS alumni Cameron Barnett (2019) headed to Japan for a once in a life time opportunity to teach English at CCGS sister exchange school Ueda Nishi. In the face of a global pandemic Cameron found unique teaching opportunities and the chance to develop deeper friendships.

After you finished Year 12 at CCGS at the end of 2019 you headed to Japan teach English at Ueda Nishi High School, CCGS’ Exchange Partner School. What made you want to head to Japan to teach English?

During my time at CCGS, I hosted three students from Ueda Nishi so, as you’d expect, I was very excited to go and see them. My exchange experience in Year 11 also played a big role in my decision. I had made so many friends that I knew were excited to have me back. I also knew that I would be studying Japanese at university afterwards. I saw this as an opportunity to develop my Japanese and further experience the culture.

What were you expecting this experience to be like?

I had only ever lived with a Japanese family that was hosting me and had only been treated as a student, so the concept of living alone as an actual teacher was completely unknown to me. The various perks that Ueda Nishi provided me made it very exciting that I barely felt nervous at all. Perks such as my apartment’s cost being covered, being provided with a bike to ride to and from school, receiving a work phone etc. It all felt very professional, and I was always looked after.
A global pandemic hit, no doubt this changed your experience. How was your experience different and what was it like living in a foreign country during this time?

The pandemic was treated very seriously in Japan. At its worst, the school would cycle groups of students in at a time to reduce the spread. My co-worker and I pitched an idea to the school to use an app called ‘Discord’ to host an educational podcast where students could join and ask English questions or get help with their homework which was something they were very impressed by.
What was the highlight of your trip?

By far, my highlight was teaching at Ueda Nishi High School. I was able to make so many friends and watch their English skills improve and progress. I received many letters from students. My favourite was from a student who previously had no motivation to learn English. Through my influence, their perspective changed and they put in enough effort to pass their final exam. Japanese students often overwork themselves. Due to the dense population, universities are very selective of only the highest-ranking students. With this in mind, I tried my best to make sure my classes were as fun as possible. Introducing them to Kahoot felt like a good idea until it was requested every day after that.

CCGS alumni Cameron Barnett with students in Japan

Were there any lowlights?

A year is a very long time to spend away from home. There were often times where I felt too far away from my loved ones, or times where I was intimidated by the amount of time I was going to be in Japan. However, I was lucky enough to have met friends in Japan that I could spend my free time with every weekend, and some of them would even check up on me. I’m grateful to say that there weren’t many bad times at all.
What are your plans now you are back in Australia?

My International Studies course has started at Macquarie University, where I can further study the Japanese language and culture. My classes are all online. Hopefully when the pandemic clears up, I’ll be able to visit the campus more often. And more importantly, hopefully, I’ll be able to visit Japan again and see what my past students are doing with themselves.