I enjoy the way Japanese language is taught the most. The materials are engaging, well thought out, and quite often fun too.

Ashleigh Poole
Ashleigh Poole
Undergraduate Student
BA Japanese Studies
After discovering a love for Japanese music, Ashleigh wanted to learn more about Japanese culture and understand the language so she decided to turn her hobby into a degree.

Why did you choose to study Japanese?

I chose to study Japanese when I discovered the likes of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Perfume when I was around the age of 14. I’d never heard music like their before, and I found myself longing to understand what they were singing about in all their songs, not just the most popular ones that had been translated. As I discovered more niche music that was not yet popular overseas, I began to wonder if there were others in my position, and if that were the case, how great it would be if I could translate not only lyrics, but interviews, TV shows and the likes to create a bridge between Japanese artists and overseas fans. As my interest in the language and translation grew, so did my interest in Japanese culture.

What attracted you to the University of Sheffield?

Though I have some bias, as it is my hometown, Sheffield is a city like no other to me. The modernity of the city centre, the nearby Peak District, the abundance of independent shops, cafes and restaurants, all of these things made me gravitate towards moving out of my parents’ home in the south of Sheffield and engaging fully with my studies by living in the centre. The University of Sheffield, like Sheffield itself, presented a great appeal to me with things such as the convenient layout of the campus, the award-winning Student’s Union, and the 24-hour libraries and the accessibility of resources there. Japanese Studies at Sheffield stood out particularly when we were introduced to the native speakers who would be teaching us, and the professors heading the cultural modules who have years of experience under their belts.

Has your course lived up to your expectations so far?

I believe it has, and in some respects has exceeded my expectations, as I was not expecting our cultural modules to be so in-depth, well structured, and memorable. There are things from early lessons in first year that I still remember to this day, purely because of the amazing teaching from professors such as Hugo Dobson and Kate Taylor-Jones.

What do you enjoy most about your course?

I would say I enjoy the way Nagai-sensei teaches Japanese the most. The materials she makes are engaging, well thought out, and quite often fun too. Whilst I knew I wanted to learn about the Japanese language and would surely enjoy it just because of that, Nagai-sensei, Kittaka-sensei, Whately-sensei (and at the time Takahashi-sensei), have made this course and learning Japanese go above and beyond what I thought it could.

Ashleigh Poole

BA Japanese Studies

How have you found learning a new language?

Although I have found it interesting and engaging, it has also been extremely challenging at times. Though I learnt Spanish at school, it was at a very basic level, and there are many similarities to English within the Spanish language. I found that this wasn’t the case with Japanese, and it must be stressed that you have to put a lot of your own time into studying to ensure you can stay afloat and achieve great results.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your studies?

Throughout my time at university I have been part of the Japanese Society, but outside of university I enjoy playing video games, playing the bass guitar, and indoor rock climbing. I would love to progress to outdoor rock climbing one day, especially with the Peaks on the doorstep!

Do you know what you want to do at the end of your course?

Initially I had hopes of becoming a translator, but I would love to do anything where there is an ability to use my Japanese/knowledge of Japan at some point. I would love to do some funded research in Japan in the future.

About your year abroad 

Which University did you spend your year abroad at?

Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan.

How different was the teaching and course structure compared to at Sheffield?

I found that the teaching was actually surprisingly similar, however from the moment I got there, not a word of English was spoken inside the classroom, so it was a great way to fully engage with the language. It also wasn’t as hard as I was expecting either! The main difference I noted was the length of the lessons; all lessons were 90 minutes at Doshisha, which I found a little difficult in terms of maintaining focus.

What skills do you feel you gained from doing the study abroad year?

I feel like my listening and reading comprehension skills definitely improved. I also found that I became more confident in pushing myself to speak Japanese as much as possible, especially once I conquered the fear of ordinary people pointing out my mistakes, because they never would! (Unless I asked of course).

What did you do outside of studying? Travel? Take up a new hobby?

I spent a lot of time exploring Kyoto, especially in the early days when I was feeling quite alone and homesick. Once I made a great set of friends, we often went on long walks, visited university-run social events, and tried as much Japanese food as we could! When coronavirus was first announced, we found ourselves spending more time in the dorm, so I decided to learn how to crochet!

Can you tell me your favourite memory from your year abroad?

I honestly have too many to count, but one that springs to mind was getting to see Perfume in concert at the Kyocera Osaka Dome with my good friend and course-mate Corinne. It truly was a dream come true to see the group that solidified my desire to study Japanese, I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. To join in with the fan interactions, to understand what they were saying to the crowd, to witness the intricate technology and choreography that’s displayed in their live shows, everything was so surreal. I couldn’t help but think “This is it! You’re really here, 14-year-old you would be so proud right now!”

Four students laughing while sat at a bench, outside the Students' Union

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