October Lessons Learned

October has come and gone so quickly! My theme for my lessons learned this month is “Be more confident”. I think being more confident opens up many opportunities that you might otherwise miss. For a long time I’ve had a hard time making decisions, even with the smallest things such as picking which icecream flavour I’d like to try. Faltering in my opinions usually results in me losing an argument that I could have possibly won, taking way too long to make a decision and overall just losing self-confidence in myself.

Here are some ways how I’ve learned to be more confident:

Mom might have said “don’t talk to strangers” when we were younger, but we’re no longer young soooo it’s kind of okay to talk to strangers now… How else are we going to make friends now?

My first encounter of being more confident happened when Callum and I went to see a rugby game in Oita city at the beginning on the month. We were sitting down and this middle-aged Japanese man was looking for a place to sit. We had space at our table so without hesitation I ushered him to sit down with us. His face was a bit flushed, probably because he had been enjoying the beer that was being served by the stands nearby. I will never forget how happy he was to sit down with us. He offered some of his pickles and cheese to us (Callum ate some, I did not) and we somehow managed to have a conversation with him. I came to Japan with zero knowledge of the Japanese language and at the time of this encounter I probably only knew about 300 words give or take in Japanese, but definitely not enough to string together a full sentence. The man knew a few words in English and somehow we managed to have a decent conversation about how much he loved watching the New Zealand team play rugby and he was so excited they were here. He talked about how his hobby was watching rugby games and it was his dream to watch them in a live match. This whole situation might have seemed insignificant to most onlookers, but to me it was very encouraging. It reminded me that even with limited language and conversational skills, you can still create a conversation with a stranger as long as you try!

I really don’t like learning from a textbook by myself so I ask for help when I can..

So, I’ve decided to learn in a less conventional way. I’m trying to watch youtube videos and attempt to read simple picture books in Japanese along with learning the grammar and building vocabulary. Becoming more confident meant that I would try to write my own sentences using the grammar I learned and ask the teachers if they were available to correct my grammar. At first it was a little bit intimidating to ask them for help, but they’re really willing to help and they find it cute when I get excited over getting a sentence right. It helped me understand much quicker than learning on my own. In return, I’m always happy to help them out with their English written or spoken!

I learned that when I want to take initiative for the classroom, to be more confident about it.

At school, I’m not told that I need to make activities for the students. I’m usually just helping out with the lesson plan that they’ve made and I don’t want to overstep them. But, I’ve noticed that the students have weaknesses in their command of the English language, especially when it comes to listening comprehension and speaking. They excel at reading and writing, but really struggle otherwise. It might seem like a small thing, but I learned to ask the teachers how I can help. If I can think of a small activity, such as writing/finding a small passage and offering to read it out to the 3rd graders at the beginning of the class, that small act might help them. Or it might not! At least we can say that we tried it. I made sure to ask for feedback so that we can constantly improve the activities I attempt to suggest for the classroom.

I mustered up the courage at one of my junior high schools to start an “English Hangouts” club.

No commitment necessary for the students! They would come whenever it was convenient for them. I would prepare different activities for them or help them with their homework. It took me about a week and a plan of ideas before I approached my JTE. The idea was well-received and I worked really hard to think of different activities that we could do. I was scared because my level of Japanese is still very low and I wasn’t expecting the JTEs to be present at the meeting and be able to help me. Today, on October 31st, I had 6 students stay after school and participate! It meant a lot to me because I honestly did not expect any student to want to come. We watched a Halloween episode of Spongebob, reviewed Halloween words and played Jeopardy. The language barrier wasn’t a problem, as I’m learning how to phrase ideas more simply and maybe mix in a few Japanese words. Having a list of vocabulary prepared in advance was also really helpful. I was super happy when the students said they enjoyed it and they asked me if we were doing something again next week. Ahhh… I’m looking forward to the next week!

Here are some other things I learned that are not as relevant to being confident:

Cleaning is such a great way to possibly make you feel better.

I know this seems lame but I learned that I actually love and take so much pride in cleaning the small things like my kitchen sink or my apartment floor. Organizing my apartment and dusting away everything is just so satisfying. Getting rid of unnecessary clutter and mess also helps you do the same to your brain. Is this a weird thing to be so happy about? Maybe not!

Writing positive things from your day is a good way to appreciate your day.

Earlier this month I decided to start writing 2-3 positive thoughts from my day. I mentioned these in an earlier blog post but I think they’re so important to do. It doesn’t even take that long to write. You could be on the toilet or on the bus putting it in a note on your phone. Looking back at my thoughts from previous week I would then think, “I thought that was a hard week! But actually, it was pretty good.”

Use Transferwise.

I emptied out my Canadian bank account before I left to pay off student loans (woo!) and to make sure I had enough cash on hand in Japanese yen. But, for websites like Amazon I like to use my credit card. Thus, I had to re-transfer money back to my Canadian bank account. This post is not sponsored in any way BUT Transferwise is a super easy way to transfer money from my Japanese bank account to my Canadian bank account. I would highly recommend it to anyone that is living in a different country and wants to send money to another bank account in another country.

I have a poor tolerance to coffee. Sorry to disappoint ya Raneem!

I should only drink it when I absolutely need to, such as driving late at night or super early in the morning. I discovered that I have a lot of trouble sleeping even if I have a little bit too much at the wrong time of day. I’ll just stick to no-coffee for now!

I really missed reading.

I read a lot of books while I was in elementary school and high school and then read maybe a total of 10 – 12 books in university which is pretty pitiful. Now that I have more time I’ve been putting effort into catching up on all the great books I’ve been missing out on. This month, I absolutely loved reading “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think” and “The Culture Map”. I would highly recommend these books to anyone looking for some non-fiction! I also finished reading the Hobbit and started reading Dracula which has been such a fun time. I’m always looking for book suggestions so please let me know if ya find an awesome read. 🙂

You must watch Haikyu!!

That’s all I’m saying. You can thank Tori and me for it later.

Well, that’s my review of lessons learned in October. It’s been a great month and I’m looking forward to November! This might sound cheesy, but I’d love to hear how your October went and how you strive to be more confident… leave a comment below or PM me 🙂

Lots of love always,


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