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There’s no doubting the popular attraction of Japanese culture and food, and from a young age Leah Bramhill has been hooked on Japan. Leah’s passion for Japan and learning the Japanese language has been a major part of her life.

 

Leah began learning Japanese in primary school but she ‘use(s) the term “learning” loosely’ as her early studies of Japanese were focused on making sushi, learning origami, basic phrases and counting to ten. Leah pursued with learning Japanese in high school and at the age of 15 she participated in a high school exchange program with a Japanese student from Yokohama.

Leah explains that she still has ‘vivid memories’ of her first time experience in Japan and which ‘definitely changed her view on learning a language.’ While Leah was accustomed to good grades for Japanese in Australia, she was soon shocked by the challenge of comprehending Japanese in a real life situation and where her Japanese family did not speak English. Leah reminisces that one day she had to frantically flick through the dictionary one morning when her homestay mother asked her, ‘Are you ok?’ in Japanese.

This experience motivated Leah to study harder and after graduating from high school she enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts at Monash University majoring in Japanese. After her second year of university Leah completed the Kanazawa program; squeezing in a year’s workload of Japanese language and a homestay program with a Japanese family into three months over the summer.

Throughout her undergraduate studies, Leah constantly found a wide range of opportunities on offer at Monash University to study in Japan and shortly after returning to Australia she enrolled for an exchange semester at the University of Tokyo.

A temporary return to Australia became a recurring theme as Leah returned home to Australia to complete her degree before seizing the next opportunity to go to Japan. This time it was through the Japanese English Teaching (JET) program. During the application process Leah selected her three city preference as Tokyo, Yokohama and Kyoto but instead she was sent to the small village of Matsukawa in Nagano Prefecture.

The JET program typically runs on a 12 months basis but Leah decided to renew her contract three times. Through the JET program Leah worked as an English teaching assistant in a primary school and also as a Coordinator for International Relations at the Matsumoto Regional Office working on various projects, including event management and translation.

Another highlight for Leah was working on the Special Olympics hosted in Nagano. Leah sums up the Special Olympics as the ‘most incredible and rewarding experience.’ During the Olympics Leah was employed as an English announcer.

Her role at times was challenging, as she was asked to announce hundreds of European athlete’s names using only the Japanese ‘katakana’ rendering for foreign words! During the Olympic Torch Run she also found herself running along behind the torch bearer after she grew restless sitting behind in the vehicle escort!

 

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After a four-year stint with JET, Leah embarked on one more adventure through Peace Boat, before returning home to Melbourne to study a Master of Translation Studies at Monash University. Leah soon found employment with the Victorian Government and which supported her to continue her further studies.

In 2013 Leah took up the opportunity to study Mandarin in Nanjing as part of the Victorian Government’s Hamer scholarship. Having already learnt Japanese Sino characters or Kanji, Leah was able to quickly pick up the basics of Mandarin.

 

Leah has an obvious love for languages and living in Asia, and she explains that as long as you know how to ‘sell yourself’ and ‘expand your network’ there are various opportunities out there both in Asia and back in Australia.

 

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Olly Theobald

Director at Asia Options.
Olly works in Hangzhou China and is enthusiastic about entrepreneurship, e-commerce, Asia education, tech and foreign languages. Olly is a graduate from RMIT University and the Hopkins Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies. Olly speaks Mandarin and Korean.

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