Matthew BiebaMatthew Bieda
BA Japanese Studies

Why did you choose to study Japanese?
I remember growing up in the 90’s when Japan was still the world’s second largest economy and produced most consumer electronics; British people would often talk about Japan, but due to the cultural and linguistic barriers it was difficult for people to really understand the country. Of course, now there are many developed countries in East Asia, but I think since the Asian cultural exports I grew up with were Japanese it’s still the most interesting country to me.

What attracted you to the University of Sheffield?
A few of my friends had studied at Sheffield and I knew that they had enjoyed their experiences and courses. Obviously Sheffield has a great reputation as a Russell Group institution, but particularly with regards to East Asia, SEAS is a world-leading research centre and the language courses have been refined over several decades. Also Sheffield is consistently rated as one of the best Universities for student experience and having studied here I can see why.

Has your course lived up to your expectations so far?
I would say so, it’s a very demanding programme but you really get out what you put in to it. The course does an excellent job of building reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in tandem so that your language skills are well-rounded which is something that would be difficult to achieve through self-study. Additionally the wide range of cultural modules allows you to contextualize your knowledge.

What do you enjoy most about your course?

The quality of the teaching. The staff are all extremely dedicated and helpful, and always willing to answer any questions you might have.

How have you found learning a new language?
The only exposure I’ve had to foreign languages prior to Japanese was French in school, but since I had no personal interest in it studying was always a chore. I feel like learning a language is a lot like learning a musical instrument, you will become proficient if you put the hours in but if you lack motivation it’s going to be difficult for you to do that. Though a language as complex as Japanese requires a significantly larger time investment than a European language.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your studies? (hobbies, interests, societies)
I like to run and go swimming, and I enjoy following science and technology news and keeping up with current affairs. I’ve been playing the guitar since I was a teenager but it’s hard to find the time to practice these days.

What is Sheffield like to live in? do you like the city?
It’s a good city for students. Sheffield is very affordable but there’s always plenty of events to attend and the nightlife is great. You’ll never run out of pubs and restaurants to go to but the city isn’t so large that it feels alienating, it feels more like a large town and has that kind of welcoming and friendly atmosphere. And with the Peak District nearby you’re never far from the countryside.

What are your ambitions for the future?
I’d like to work on the JET Programme, following that I plan to work in translation either as a freelancer or at a company in Japan. Particularly I’m interested in literary translation.

Do you have any advice for students thinking about doing Japanese Studies at Sheffield?
Although the course is designed for students who had no prior knowledge of Japanese like myself, if you have the time to study before coming here you wouldn’t have to work quite as hard. Also the exchange period in your 3rd year gives you an opportunity to relax a bit before you return for your final year and write your dissertation.