Jana talks about how she has been a student (and teacher) in three different cultures.


Peter: So, Jana, you told me that you'd been a student in three different countries and now you're teaching in Japan which is yet another different country. It sounds really interesting.

Jana: Yeah, that's right. Well, I did my undergraduate degree in Prague, in the Czech Republic and as a part of that I did an exchange program in Madrid for one semester and after that I moved to Sydney in Australia and I did my masters there and now I teach in Japan. So, yeah, you're right.

Peter: Wow, that sounds really interesting. I'm curious about the student life in these different countries. Do you think there are big differences in these countries in terms of student life?

Jana: Well, I haven't been a student in Japan but I can sort of compare from my experience. Yeah, I think it is quite different. In Prague it was a very serious study environment sort of thing and a lot of my classmates were a bit older as well so they were like really interested in the subject they were studying and it's more like autonomous learning. So everybody spends a lot of time in the library researching and reading and that sort of thing and the teachers were really good in their subjects but they were great experts but maybe they were not really good teachers.

Peter: Right.

Jana: So at that time I didn't really enjoy that environment. I felt it's too advanced for me. I would have preferred some, a bit more guidance maybe. But, yeah, Sydney was different too because there's so many international students so it was a whole different experience, not just about study but meeting people from different countries. And I guess Japan and Spain might be a little bit similar in a way.

Peter: Really? How come?

Jana: I felt in Spain it was more teacher fronted style of teaching so students taking notes and perhaps not participating so much and I guess it depends on the student but maybe some of them were not that interested in the subject.

Peter: I see.

Jana: And it's a similar kind of feeling I get in Japan.

Peter: OK. How about studying in Sydney? Was that, in that way was it really different? Were people more active and participating students?

Jana: I guess it depends on the student. Some students were more active than others but I suppose they were there by choice. You know, they wanted to experience studying in another country and expand their horizons so I think they were a bit more active.

Peter: You said about that people in Prague were really serious students. How about the students in Spain and in Sydney, Australia?

Jana: Right. Well in Spain I actually found it difficult to meet, to become friends with local students although you would think that, you might think that Spanish people are really friendly and open but actually it was quite difficult to get into the local life so I, most of my friends were other international students too to be honest. But I think they all had, you know, part time jobs and their own activities outside of school that they were interested in.

Peter: Hm. Also another thing that I'm curious about. If you can speak English, would it be easy to move between these three universities? Like can you use English easily like in Sydney and in Prague and in Spain? Or did you have to rely on other languages that you speak.

Jana: Right. Well, I was actually studying English in Prague so when I went to Spain I was supposed to be studying English in Spain which is maybe a bit strange but it was perfect for me because I was also learning Spanish at that time. So, yeah, I suppose you can move with English quite easily.

Peter: OK.

Learn Vocabulary from the lesson

undergraduate degree

I did my undergraduate degree in Prague.

Your 'undergraduate degree' is the first university degree that you complete. It usually takes about 3 to 5 years to finish. Notice the following:

  1. It took him almost 6 years to finish his undergraduate degree.
  2. What are you studying for your undergraduate degree?

exchange program

As part of my studies in Prague, I did an exchange program for a semester in Madrid.

An 'exchange program' is like a study-abroad program, except that there are two schools that send students to each other. Notice the following:

  1. We are hoping to get at least three new exchange programs started by next year.
  2. Our school has a great exchange program in Italy.

autonomous learning

In Prague, it's more like autonomous learning.

'Autonomous learning' is done independently. Maybe each student is responsible for his own studies. Notice the following:

  1. Some classes are too structured. I prefer more autonomous learning.
  2. This is a course to teach students the value of autonomous learning and how to motivate themselves.


I would have preferred a bit more guidance, maybe.

In this case, 'guidance' would be like supervision or advice. Notice the following:

  1. Some teachers are very good at giving guidance for decisions about the future.
  2. His parents gave him a lot of professional guidance.

teacher-fronted style

In Spain, it was more of a teacher-fronted style of teaching.

A 'teacher-fronted style' of teaching would be a class where the teacher is leads the discussions and does most of the talking. Notice the following:

  1. She's used to more of a teacher-fronted style of teaching, so it's strange to her to participate so much in classes.
  2. I get bored in classes that have a teacher-fronted style of teaching.

expand your horizons

The students wanted to experience studying in another country and expand their horizons.

When you 'expand your horizons,' you learn new things or have new experiences because you expand your comfort area. Notice the following:

  1. I decided to expand my horizons and try skiing.
  2. He is trying to expand his horizons and try new foods.

rely on

Did you have to rely on other languages that you speak when you were studying or just English?

'Rely on' is the same as 'depend on.' Peter wants to know if Jana only had to use English in the classroom, or if she needed her other languages. Notice the following:

  1. She relies on her husband to do almost everything for her.
  2. University taught him not to rely so much on his parents.
Answer the following questions about the interview.

Vocabulary Challenge

Complete the sentences with the words below.
undergraduate • exchange • autonomous
guidance • teacher-fronted • horizons relies
  1. Students can achieve high marks in classes with homework and quizzes, but may not know how to do learning.
  2. Nowadays, most employers expect an degree.
  3. It is important for high schools to provide to students who will graduate soon.
  4. He doesn't feel very confident in his English, so he on his wife to speak for him.
  5. You need to expand your and listen to some new music.
  6. Our newest program works with a school in Brazil.
  7. Most of the classes given at schools here are style.