Sakiko is 24 years old and she is from Kochi, a small town in rural Japan. She studied law at Kobe University and came straight to Australia after she graduated. She arrived in Byron Bay in June 2016 and has been at Lexis for an incredible here for 52 weeks! I interviewed Sakiko on her last day of school to find out about the remarkable year she has had.
Why did you choose Byron Bay?
While I was at University I was living in a big city, it was very crowded and busy for me. I wanted to live somewhere quiet and peaceful. My agent recommended Byron Bay to me and it is exactly what I wanted. Also I love yoga; I practised it in Japan for many years. Yoga is a big part of life in Byron, I practice yoga 3 or 4 times every week here.
Byron is a great place to come if you don’t know anybody. If you go to a big place it is hard to meet people but Byron is community so it is a good opportunity to speak with local people – it has a very friendly atmosphere here, everyone is happy to talk to you.
What were your weaknesses in English before you came to Australia?
I found listening and speaking the most difficult – I think most Japanese have this problem. We don’t have speaking practise in class at school in Japan so I was not used to speaking. On my first day I couldn’t understand everything, even though everyone was speaking slowly, I just guessed what they were saying. I did not feel ready to speak English yet, I’m afraid to make mistakes when I spoke. After 1 month and 2 months when I made a lot of friends from different places they really influenced me. Especially my Brazilian friends because I saw that they were not scared to make mistakes. I asked them once: ‘you don’t care about making mistakes?’ but they said ‘no I don’t care, I just speak.’ That was a really good lesson to learn.
Tell me about your teachers and your classes.
I started in Intermediate class. I studied a lot of English to enter University, and my grammar was good. I have had so many great teachers. Paul is my favourite teacher because he is so interesting and he always makes us laugh. He taught me pronunciation, how English and Japanese are so different because of emphasis and intonation. It was very hard, I almost gave up, but he never gave up to teach me!
One lesson we went to Byron Bay farmers market (we have this once a week in Byron, in the mornings, we can buy local products: fresh vegetables, fruits etc. It’s a great community atmosphere.) Here we interviewed the people working in the market. I was nervous but they are so kind to us, even though we were still learning. It was great because I often go to the farmers market but I don’t often have the chance to communicate with the producers about the local produce.
What was your favourite activity?
Yoga was my favourite activity. Every Monday at school there is free yoga and I went every week for a year. I think I improved my yoga a lot. I also tried a lot of new activities, like surfing, skate boarding, slack-lining, cooking (we made koala cupcakes). They were very sweet for me but I enjoyed decorating them.
Tell me about your accommodation.
My first 6 weeks I was in homestay accommodation, staying with Gill and John. They were so kind. I was nervous about living with them, but on my first day they took me around Byron Bay, to lots of places. We went up to the lighthouse and to different beaches. We had lots of BBQs at the house and we baked cookies.
Afterwards I find a share house on Gumtree. It takes my five minutes to get to school on foot. At the moment with 2 Australian people, this has helped me to learn English. My host is very kind and speaks slowly and explains what words mean to me and this really helped my English improve.
What are your favourite things to do in Byron?
After I took a surf lesson, I decided to buy a surf board. During the Summer I surfed almost every day. It’s a good life, study and then go to surf. I think I got a bit better and I enjoyed it. I would meet up with my friends at the beach to surf.
I also enjoy going up to lighthouse to see the sunrise. It is the most Easterly point of Australia and the view is amazing. The view always changes as the seasons change. One morning I met my friends at 4:30 am and we walked up in the dark and the stars were beautiful.
I also love yoga here. It is very different to Japan, it seems more difficult and there is more variety of lessons. I can chose which I want to do depending on the condition of my body.
What is your most magical moment in Byron?
While I was doing the light house walk in the morning I saw whales and dolphins. One time I saw many dolphins very close to us on the walk. I was able to take this amazing picture:
What is your advice for people who are thinking about enrolling at Lexis Byron Bay?
You should come here, all the teachers are very kind and there are good quality lessons that are interesting and never boring. It is a very small school here so it is easy for everyone to get to know each other. March was my favourite month, because it is not too hot but the Sun is still out and it is not so crowded here. Winter is also good here, the sky is clear and bright but it is not too hot, you can see beautiful sunrises!
What are you going to do now?
I have 3 weeks holidays now before I move to Lexis Perth. Tomorrow I am going to travel in New Zealand for 1 week. After New Zealand my sister will come here to visit in Byron Bay. Then I am going to do the Gold Coast marathon with my sister. I have heard it is a good route, around the beach but very flat. It is going to be a very challenging event in my life but I like to try new challenges. I am a little but worried about that but also excited. I will study in Perth for 3 weeks and then go home back to Japan. When I go home I think I will look for a job. I would like to live one more year in Australia or New Zealand, I want more opportunity to use English and communicate with English speakers. In Japan I would love to do an international job that involves using English and possibly working with sports, for example I would love to have a job related to the Japanese Olympics in Tokyo 2020.
Good luck with your marathon and your travels Sakiko, you will be missed here at Lexis Byron Bay!
Learn English in Byron Bay. Lexis English students study General English, IELTS, FCE, CAE and English plus Surfing in a friendly and professional school right in the heart of Byron Bay and only 15 minutes from the beach.