Yokoso: That means welcome in Japanese😊
So yes, what’s going on here, what is this blog all about? Well, you’ll be following me (Estelle) on my JET programme experience in Japan! You might be a potential, new or experienced JET yourself, a lover of Japanese culture… or maybe a friend or family (I certainly HOPE you’ll be following me!) sticking around for any tips, tricks and Japanese adventure.
I’m very excited for this 2017-2018 experience since I’ll be teaching English in Japan. That’s right: ONE. WHOLE. YEAR. Am I excited? You bet! Am I crazy? Maybe! Why am I doing this? Here’s a little bit of my story…
I was originally studying Business and Fashion in Toronto when I was suddenly overcome by a passion for Japan! Up until then my knowledge was pretty limited -sushi, geisha and the (amazing!) Ukiyo-e to Shin Hanga book by Chris Uhlenbeck– but it was most wonderfully broadened to language, history, takoyaki and JRock!
It took me less than 6 months to make a life changing decision: move to Montreal to do Japanese studies. My goal was to be able to work both in Canada and Japan in order to be a bridge between both cultures, and I knew that I needed to learn the language as well as everything I could about the country to make this happen. I survived 6 hours of Japanese class every week (and countless hours of homework!) which has given me a lifelong appreciation for learning a language so radically different from my own (I’m fully bilingual in both French and English, also my kanji skills are still abysmal).
I participated in as many cultural activities as I could, from being a volunteer contributor to Coco Montreal, making mochi at the JCCCM, and devouring the delicious bento at the Botanical Garden’s yearly O-hanami.
Nearing the end of my studies, I accidentally came upon CLC Montreal, a language school* in Monkland. Life is full of happy accidents and this is one for which I’ll be forever grateful. Not only was I lucky enough to work doing marketing, I was also able to teach English to Japanese students! This was more than just a cultural exchange, I made close friendships and became familiar with how the Japanese learn English.
Now you’re probably thinking “Estelle… edit, get to how you became a JET!”
Ok, ok. Life went on as it does after my time with CLC Montreal and I hadn’t applied to the JET programme because the timing didn’t feel right. Although I love Japan and had traveled there many times, I never saw myself living there on the long term. What would I do when I returned to Montreal, 5 years later, with no CV and network? It was really important to me to get proper work experience first.
Looking back on it now, as I get ready to leave, I’m very happy that I made that decision. Had I done the JET programme at that time of my life I may have been too rigid in my expectations and desires for its outcome, whereas now I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity! Fast forward to last fall (2016) and I was finally ready to apply.
And here I am now, about to leave to Japan for a fully 365 days. Let’s do this! Gambarimashou 🙂
*If you’re looking to learn Japanese there are some GREAT language schools here in Montreal:
Nihongo Montreal run by Patrick Chaury, former colleague, friend, and a go-to teacher for the Japanese Consulate and JET programme.
ALI Montreal where you’ll be taught by Daigo Shima, former student and an English teacher himself when he was in Japan.