It is pleasure to introduce you to LTS student Kunie Kellem!
Kunei presenting at the LTS poster session.
Hi Kunie! Please tell the world a little bit about yourself.
Hi. I’m Kunie! I’m from Osaka, Japan. I like running, working out, playing and watching basketball, and eating delicious food!! I came to Eugene with my husband and son in August 2016. Before I came to Eugene, I taught English at Japanese high schools for 14 years. I loved my job, students, and my coworkers, but I was always struggling with this dilemma between ideals and reality of English classes in Japan. I wanted to change something. I wanted to see my students communicate in English confidently. I wanted to have confidence in my skills and knowledge to support students to realize their goals. That is why I decided to study in the LTS program!!
Kunie with her son and Puddles the Duck.
Well, we sure are glad you made that decision! So how has the LTS experience been for you?
It was a big decision for me to come to U of O to study since I had to leave my work, and my family had to change their life styles dramatically. What I was most worried about was my son; if he could adjust to the life in U.S., if he could get new friends, and if he could improve his English to keep up with his school work. I was not so worried about myself at the start point of my new journey. However, it turned out the first 3 months here were the hardest time in my life. Since it had been for such a long time after I graduated from university, everything was new and different. I was surrounded by young, enthusiastic students who were always actively involved in discussion in class, whereas I, who was not used to discussion style lectures, was always at a loss about what to do. Being an international student made things more difficult.
Kunie with her son at the Grand Canyon.
I still remember for the first few weeks I woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning to work on my reading, take notes, review the lecture notes, and prepare for the classes. In addition, as I had expected, my son also had a hard time at his new school because of the cultural and language issues, which made me feel terrible and responsible for taking him all the way here with me. I literally cried a lot for the first few months. However, things started to get better after 3 months. My son started to enjoy his school life and made many friends. (At first, he could not read English, but now he is in the advanced spellers group!!) My husband finally got a job here. I gradually got used to student life here. After that “dark time” passed, I started to enjoy my life here more. I started to hang out with my friends more, go hiking more, go to watch Duck’s games more, which made me realize that Eugene is such a beautiful place surrounded by great nature and great people. I don’t think I could have gone through this far without support from my family, friends and professors at U of O and I am so grateful about it!!
Kunie with LTS friends Aska (2017) and Krystal (2018).
Kunie in her UO duck gear.
Glad to hear you and your family made it through that transition period and grew from it! What are some key things you’ve learned in your time here?
Of course, I have been learning very important principles and pedagogy of language learning and teaching, but at the same time I really appreciate that I get the perspective of how it is like being a student and learning new things again; what students think, what they struggle with, and how they deal with learning. I almost forgot those perspectives, and I am sure this experience will help me to become a better teacher when I go back to my work. Also, I have learned from my professors how to create the comfortable atmosphere to learn, how to support students, and how to assess students’ learning based on objective-based assessment, which is very motivating. I would like to incorporate what I learned here into my teaching!!
And I know you have been teaching Japanese, how has that experience been?
Kunie at a beach in Newport, Oregon.
Yes. I have been working as a Japanese GE at U of O for 6 terms. I really enjoy teaching Japanese and I like when the students show me “aha! moment” expressions when they understand and use the structures well in a communicative practice. One time, at the REC center I bumped into a student whom I taught before, and he gave me a high five and talked to me in Japanese. I felt extremely happy!! I think this is one of the (rare) rewarding moments for language teachers. Teaching Japanese has also given me a great insight about language teaching. Although Japanese and English are two different languages, I am learning a lot about teaching techniques, curriculum designs, assessments, and classroom managements from Japanese instructors and actual lessons. Now I can see Japanese language and its culture from a different perspective, which I am sure will be a great asset of mine when I go back to Japan. I appreciate that I was given this opportunity to teach Japanese here.
Are you excited to have started working on your M.A. project?
Yes! Actually, I have been worried about it for a long time, but once I started writing literature review for MA project, I really enjoy it. Since I am on the two-year program, I could spend more time thinking about my project than many of my cohorts who are on the 15-month program. On my first year, I spent most of my time, energy and effort on just doing well in a class. However, after one year passed, many things I learned from each class started to make sense, and they started to be connected with each other.
Kunie with her son biking around the Golden Gate Bridge.
Now I feel like I am working on puzzles; a small puzzle for literature review and a big puzzle for MA project. I will keep reading and learning from professors and cohorts to find the best pieces for my puzzle. I am really looking forward to seeing what kind of picture my puzzle will turn out to be.
What a nice connection between the final project and puzzles! Any final thoughts?
I know most of my LTS cohorts live busy stressful days with a lot of school work. I also feel the same way. Although it is very important to be organized and work hard on our project, sometimes it is also important to release our stress by doing/eating what we like. We are now 4 months away from the end of our journey. I am sure it is going to be busy and hard 4 months, but we are on this together. I hope each of us can see our own beautiful picture on the puzzle at the end of this journey!!
Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview and best of luck in your completion of the program!