Speaking the same language in learning

19 Mar 2024

From Flower’s House to Ritsumeikan University, Dr Jeremy White (11663) has undertaken an unusual journey from Christ’s College boarder to English Professor in the College of Information Science and Engineering in Japan.

Dr White has returned to College to share his experiences – from Blenheim to Osaka – and insights with students at the latest Career Convos session.

He has also explained the opportunities – and scholarships – available to New Zealand students to study in Japan while highlighting the need to be “lifelong learners” and “not be defined by what you have done at school”.

Jeremy recalls the initial “culture shock” of arriving at College in 1993 and knowing only one other student and then finding his feet and place, along with “good friends”.

“Encountering a rugby-mad school, it was a big change for a boy from Blenheim who played football,” he says. “However, I soon found myself in the choir, and was then made a Prefect, so I enjoyed my time.”

At College, he was a member of the Chapel Choir, active in drama productions, a member of the A volleyball team, and captained the 1st XI football team.

“Christ’s College gave me so many opportunities. It taught me how to study, and I appreciated the small class sizes and teacher-student interaction in the classroom.”

While focused on a post-College business career, Jeremy opted to take a year out – travelling to England and Scotland to work, and Europe to take in the sights – before returning to Christchurch and the University of Canterbury in 1999.

“After shaving or dyeing my hair and experiencing international opportunities, I decided to head home to undertake a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Business Administration and Management.”

After completing his degree, Jeremy pivoted in a new direction, being accepted for the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme and heading to Nara to teach English in a junior high school.

“It was a great opportunity get a taste of life in Japan,” he says. “In the first week, I met my future wife, and ended up staying with the JET programme for three years. Despite never taking Japanese as a subject at school, I gradually picked up the language. Now I am at the N2 level, the second-highest level of proficiency. By 2007, I was teaching English in universities in Japan.”

Jeremy also juggled further education, gaining a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics and a Master of Education in Digital Literacy in ESL from Griffith University in Queensland. While much of his study was online, he also spent time at the university campus, always valuing the importance of having an enhanced “understanding of the teaching of English”.

At Kyoto University, he undertook his Doctor of Education in Game-based Learning.

“While travelling on the train to work, I could see that everyone around me was filling in their time by playing games,” Jeremy explains. “I began to think whether games could improve English language and the learning and understanding of students. So, I found a supervisor at Kyoto University and started work on my PhD. My dissertation research was related to Minecraft and task-based learning to encourage English language communication.”

He has now taught English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Japan for the past 20 years.

Jeremy believes that College offers a great environment for nurturing different post-school pathways, urging students to grasp every opportunity and look beyond New Zealand to undertake a different journey to a rewarding career.