Why Japan? It’s been asked by my family, my friends, complete strangers, and, of course, by the three people who interviewed me for JET back in February.
If you look at my past, no one would guess that I would end up in Japan: in fact, all signs point to an alternate destination of France. For the past nine years (NINE YEARS), I’ve taken French classes in school. Last year, I studied abroad for 10 months in Strasbourg, France, taking all my classes at Universite de Strasbourg with other French college students and living with a wonderful Alsatian host family (if you want to read my blog on that adventure, click here). And if anyone is familiar with the the TCF, I scored a B2 level last April, putting my French language skills officially at “Advanced Intermediate”–which translates in my mind to “nearly fluent.”
So, since I seem so France-bound, why Japan?
Well, it started years ago. In 2010, when I was 16 years old and a junior in high school, my mom’s pharmaceutical company was preparing for a business trip to Japan. As someone who jumps at any opportunity to travel, I took a week off school and tagged along. I was so excited that I read cover-to-cover Doing Business with Japanese Men: A Woman’s Handbook in the weeks leading up to our trip, since it was the only Japan-related book in our house.
My mother and I spent only six days in Kyoto, but I fell in love. I explored Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines; I wandered through markets and bookstores (where I was the recipient of many curious glances, as I clearly couldn’t read any of the Japanese books); I strolled through gardens and was even interviewed by a little Japanese kindergartner who was learning English (“What is your name? Where are you from?”). On one of our last nights, my mother’s company held a traditional Kaiseki dinner (11 dishes!) in a beautiful restaurant near the Gion district of the city. There, for the first time, I tried eel, sea urchin, and rice topped with tiny, salty fish that stared at me.
It’s been nearly five years since I traveled to Japan. But from the moment I got back to the U.S., I was determined that I would return. I scoured the internet for about three minutes until I found out about the JET Program, and my heart has been set upon it ever since.
So yes, a more obvious choice for my future would be to teach English in France. In fact, I applied to TAPIF–France’s version of the JET Program–and one of my best friends, Kat, will be teaching in Grenoble next year through TAPIF (check out her blog!). However, I have already lived and taught in France; oh yes, besides studying and traveling last year in Strasbourg, I also taught English conversation classes at EPITECH, a French Technology and Computer Science University (more about that experience later!). Therefore, I really wanted a new challenge.
And it will be a challenge.
I’m not a trained teacher. Yes, I taught a little in France, and yes, I’ve been a volunteer ESL teacher to Vietnamese immigrants for the past few months, but I’m not an expert. Additionally, I DON’T know Japanese, which will undeniably be a huge obstacle to everyday life.
After all that, though, I can’t deny my excitement. Japan, here I come!