Diplomates: Gabriel Carter
I applied to the SOAS Japanese Diploma course almost as a spur-of-the-moment decision, after getting very bored with education at school. I had for a long time been very interested in learning Japanese, and I felt that my gap year would be best if structured around something like the Diploma, so I didn't fall out of the habit of working before going to Cambridge to read French and German.
I completed the one-year course, and loved it. After I finished, I was so enthused by studying Japanese at SOAS that I turned down my offer to read French and German at Cambridge, and switched to Japanese instead. I would definitely rate the instruction I received at SOAS as the best quality of teaching I have received in any subject, anywhere.
The hardest thing for me was dealing with the pace of the work: weekly kanji tests and a huge amount of new vocab and grammar to absorb in a short time. But this very difficulty also helped in a way, since it was immediately obvious if a week's work had gone astray, and the staff immediately helped put me back on track. I really liked all of the teaching staff on the diploma course, and felt a strong personal connection with them. They encouraged and developed my interests, offered incisive and personally relevant advice regarding my work, and were ALWAYS willing and able to provide me with explanations or help regarding things I did not understand or struggled with.
I am now in my third year at Cambridge, having (on the strength of the
SOAS Diploma) skipped the first year entirely, and am therefore based in
Japan for a year, researching the topic for my thesis (ninjas) and learning
ninjutsu to complement that.
I have been here for four months, and can say for certain that 90% of what I can speak and understand comes from my year at SOAS. The constant speaking of and listening to Japanese offered in the SOAS Diploma gave me a terrific head start at Cambridge, and has this year been a lifesaver in terms of my fluency, accuracy and self confidence here in Japan.
SOAS, the teachers of the Japanese Diploma course - THANK YOU! 11 out of 10 in every area.
Everyone else, especially those thinking of applying - ganbatte kudasai!