There and Back Again.  A Swansea Student’s Tale – by Mike Kettle (MA TESOL 2017-2018)

Trevor Noah, a hilarious comedian and smart cookie, once said that travel is the best way to erode cultural barriers and develop compassion on a global scale.  I’ve got to say that I agree and here’s why…

Stalking the streets of Kyoto during cherry blossom season.

After I finished an undergraduate degree at Swansea University in 2006, I decided to take a job in Tokyo, Japan, as an English Language Instructor.  The roaring buzz of this futuristic metropolis was definitely a change of pace compared to growing up in the quiet embrace of the Devon countryside.

Walking though the sen-bon tori in Kyoto. 10,000 red gates line the mountain and follow a path to the shrine at the top.

Filled with wide-eyed wonder, I began in earnest to learn the language and social conventions so that I could become more than just a tourist during my time there.  However, I learnt something about myself too – nothing fills me with more satisfaction than experiencing other cultures.  The experience in Japan gave me a whole new perspective and taught me that although people all across the world look, speak, and act differently, we share the same basic values and pursue them with the same optimism.

A few years later I left Swansea University once again with an MSc in Business Management and Marketing and found myself writing and teaching business courses at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  Again, the contrast with Devon, and now Tokyo, was stark.  Desert terrain and soaring temperatures of almost 60oC in the summer months made simple outdoor tasks a real challenge and the strict adherence to Islamic convention came with a steep learning curve.  However, the commonality I found with the people I met in Japan was also present here.

Barrels of Sake stacked outside Gēku Shrine in Ise, Japan. Each one represents contributions from local companies to the maintenance of the shrine.

Of course, we often had very different ideas of what is considered appropriate, but this didn’t stop us from becoming friends and teaching each other to be better global citizens.

I suppose this is my (and Trevor Noah’s) point.  Experiencing other cultures provides an opportunity to develop awareness and understanding of other people, particularly when we may all seem very different on the surface.  By pursuing a career teaching both English and business abroad, I have had many opportunities to create bonds with people I never thought possible, and I can say confidently that it has made me a better person.  I was very thankful,
but didn’t want to stop there. So….

Leaning right into life in Saudi Arabia.

In 2017 I enrolled at Swansea University for a third time to acquire a Master’s in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) because this qualification can open new doors with even richer rewards.  I initially chose Swansea University because of the two fantastic experiences I had here previously, but I also found that the MA TESOL was ranked very highly among international institutions – double score!



Truly, the course content and support of the faculty added keen academic insight to my previous experiences and gave me not just more confidence, but a whole new set of tools to exponentially elevate my career.

Within two days of handing in my dissertation in September 2018, the MA has led to unique opportunities, including interviews with prestigious universities in Japan and Aerospace institutes in Saudi Arabia.  On top of confidence and new tools, the course also helped to refine my character. This is because the standards prescribed by our lecturers are high. They expect quality and provide excellent support to students willing to rise to this challenge.  I would like to close by expressing heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the MA TESOL faculty for their support and guidance. Once again, it’s been eye-opening 🙂


Jumping into the MA TESOL at Swansea University