Barbara Barry, exchange student.

“In 1977,I had the opportunity to spend a year in Japan as a Rotary Exchange Student. I didn’t know what Rotary was or even speak Japanese! I did exchange in a small village in Northern Japan, where they’d never had a foreign visitor live before. I’m so appreciative of that experience as it shaped my life.” We hear from Barbara Barry, English as an Additional Language (EAL) Coordinator at Northern Bay College (NBC).

“On exchange I lived with 6 different families. I made lifelong friends. There were challenges because I did not speak Japanese and my host families had limited English. However, I dove into the culture and language, learning Japanese and experiencing Japanese society. I’ve visited Japan many times since, the last being in 2019. My host families are now in their 90’s.” 

Barb was the School Captain of Corio Technical School (fondly known as Corio Tech) and proudly instigated the coffee and breakfast club. She advocated for girls being allowed to wear trousers in winter. Barb has fond memories of the school which helped equip her with the skills for life. She’s now an advocate for refugees and asylum seekers at NBC and has led a colourful life in between.

1981 Studied in Japan on scholarship whilst in third year of an Arts Degree at Swinburne University. Her major was in Japanese language.

1982-1988 Worked in trade for the Japanese government at the Japanese Consulate in Melbourne.

1989-2003 Owner of a successful business, Koaki Japanese Restaurant in Rippleside Park, Geelong. Geelong’s first Japanese Restaurant. Barb and husband Mark, sponsored a talented Japanese chef from Japan.

2004-Current. Worked for the Department of Education as an EAL teacher and then leader of English programs for Refugee and Asylum Seekers to Geelong. Now the EAL Coordinator at NBC. One third of NBC students speak a language other than English.

“I’ve always worked with and enjoyed the connection to diverse communities!”

“In 1976, Ted Wooles, NBC Principal at the time, posed a question to the graduating class in the School Magazine. He wrote ‘How have your years at Corio Tech treated you?  You are probably still too close to your school days to answer a question of this nature, but in days to come as you are able to view your school days in perspective, you may be prepared to answer it.”

“45 years later, I can say to Mr. Wooles that my education at Corio Tech equipped me with many attributes for which I am grateful. It taught me to:

  • have a growth mindset
  • foster self-belief
  • dream big and take opportunities
  • be a good person

“These are the qualities all teachers and NBC also hope to instil in all our students.

“I’m an extremely optimistic person, a believer that I can do anything if I put my mind to it and things will work out for the best. I’m glad I took the adventure to go on exchange to Japan. It opened up the world to me!”

Story and photo (taken at the presentation of the Peace Poles NBC): by Jacqui Bennett