It’s unbelievable that today marks my third week of living in Japan! I arrived in Japan on February 4th, started training on the 5th, moved to Takasaki City in the Gunma prefecture on the 17th, and started work on the 18th. Over a three week span, I’ve met a lot of new people, learned a lot about the Japanese culture, acquired teaching techniques, and explored some touristy sites in Japan. Lastly, I’ve gotten to explore myself better and I believe that it’s already helped me improve myself both personally and professionally.
During training, I met a group of Americans from different parts of the country. Once I moved to my assigned location in Takasaki, I got to interact with individuals from Australia and England. Best of all, I finally got the chance to communicate directly with the locals (in English regardless of whether they can understand me or not)! Even with the language barrier that exists, I honestly think I’ve learned so much from them. I teach English to predominantly business professionals, but I also teach students ranging from high school to retirees. Last week, I found out that one of my students will be turning 90 this year and that another student saved his retirement money just so he can use that towards taking English courses! The quality effort that my students put into their work is apparent and it is obvious that they continuously strive to achieve their English goals. This could mean surpassing a certain score on university entrance exams or acquiring general English knowledge that could be applicable overseas in an English-speaking country. The students’ work ethic serves as a source of inspiration for me. The amount of work my students dedicate towards learning English has definitely made me more determined to learn Japanese and now I’ve been trying to discipline myself by setting myself some goals. Starting with baby steps, I will learn 10 new alphabets in Hiragana or Katakana each day along with 10 new vocabulary words before I move into learning sentence structure and reading Kanji. So, let’s bring on this challenge! Beginning today…
Even though I’ve only been teaching for a little less than a week, I can already see how this experience can be very rewarding. I simply recall one of my classes when I was teaching a high school student. He was sweating buckets when I was asking him questions regarding that day’s lesson and halfway throughout the lesson, he flat out told me that he was feeling really nervous. At that point, I honestly didn’t know what to do because the situation was impromptu and even training wouldn’t have helped me solve this conflict. I was trying to think of ways to calm him down, which heavily involved using my interpersonal skills. I tried to create a relaxed classroom atmosphere, and I think it worked successfully in the end! He actively participated in the classroom activities in the end and started to openly converse with me about Japanese cuisine in Gunma. Personally, I would say that this was the highlight from my first week teaching.
Being in a completely foreign environment, I am quite conscious about myself when it comes to first impressions. During training, I was pointed out some things by the trainers that I shouldn’t do while I’m here. For instance, crossing my legs when sitting down is supposedly viewed as informal and very unprofessional. Another thing that was pointed out to me was erasing the whiteboard using my hands. All my little habits are slowly being thrown down the drain, but I know that this will help me with professionalism on the job! I won’t be surprised if I’m thrown out with some more things to do or not do while in Japan, but it’s all a learning process for me. One thing that I’m still trying to work on is bowing! People here don’t really give handshakes, but bow when meeting with people or meeting someone for the first time.
Overall, it’s really nice that I get to interact with multiple personalities on the job! This definitely allows me to be more open-minded and be more accepting of cultural differences that may exist between me and the students. While I get to share to my students about the Western culture, it’s really nice to learn bits and pieces of their culture and traditions in exchange. I’m beyond excited to explore the Japanese culture and see what this country truly has to offer to its foreigners!
On a more visual note, I finally got the chance to explore Tokyo for a little bit last week. The snow kept falling on my days off, which interrupted my exploration time! I know that there will be plenty of time to explore, and there’s too much to cover in one day. Tokyo is definitely an overwhelming city with so much character to it! I visited the Tokyo Tower, which is pretty much a replica of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
I went up to the main observatory, which is only halfway up. Still, I managed to get a picture of the breathtaking view of the city skyline during sunset. Beautiful, right? Well, I hope you all certainly agree with me on this!
I took these pictures with my iPhone 5 since I currently don’t have a camera, but I’m planning to buy a camera so I can take more quality travel pictures to share with everyone! Hopefully, I’ll score a deal on a nice camera during one of my shopping trips in the city.
Thanks for reading, everyone!