My interest in Japan began at a young age…
OK, not that young, but I was around the ripe age of 10 when I first really discovered Japan. I suppose I should be more specific, what I did not discover was Japan but a show called 美少女戦士セーラームーン, but it better known to American audiences as simply Sailor Moon.
Yes, I will admit it, I am one of the thousands of people who have become interested in Japan thanks to anime and manga. Sailor Moon not only helped me wake up in the morning, but it also sparked my interest in Japanese culture. Despite being dubbed, there was no way that Dic (or whoever took over the dubbing) could “erase” elements of Japanese culture. Up until I was a high school student, I can honestly say that everything I knew about Japan, I learned from Sailor Moon – check out this book to see what I mean! While still in elementary school, I watched Sailor Moon and couldn’t help but notice some small things like characters taking off their shoes before entering someone’s home. Then there was Rei being called a Shinto priestess and I had no idea what Shinto was. This quickly lead me to the power of the internet where I looked up Sailor Moon and found out that the show was originally from Japan. I then wanted to learn more and more about Japan. I also made it a goal of mine to be able to watch Sailor Moon in its original Japanese without subtitles. This dream would not be realized for some time as my only option for foreign language was Spanish until I went to college. However, it was not only Sailor Moon that had an impact on me, but also Revolutionary Girl Utena and the films of Studio Ghibli – heck, my college entrance essay was about Utena!
Once I went to college, my interest in Japan hit its peak. I had been teased in high school for being interesting in anime and manga, but I managed to find a few people who shared my interest. For the most part, I had to keep that side of my “under wraps” and focussed on other interests, mainly soccer, to fit in socially. I am not saying that I was ostracized or anything for my geeky interest, but rather that no one else really understood the “obsession” as it were minus a few people. Anyway, once in college I was able to start studying Japanese and became fascinated with the language while also becoming frustrated at how difficult it would be to master it. I actually picked my university for its sister school relationship with Tokyo International University as it not only gave me the opportunity to study abroad my Jr. year, but every year about 100 exchange students from Japan came to my school – among these students was Jun, my fiancée. I also got very lucky with my roommate who, like me, was interested in Japan and Japanese culture. We had showings in our room of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (the live action drama) and learned dances from the Sailor Moon musicals. We went to Sakura Con together in 2005 and won the amateur category of the masquerade with our skit and dance number of “La Soldier” (see above picture). My Jr. year, I was able to study abroad in Japan as a member of the Japanese Studies Program (JSP).
I had a great year as an exchange student thanks in large part to my host family (who I am still very close with). During my one-year abroad, as I immersed myself into a culture so different from my own, I grew in my self-confidence, independence, and more importantly, my ability to adapt to any situation thrown at me and to handle it with confidence, grace, and humility as well as greater understanding of my own language learning process. Living there reinforced my passion for Japanese culture and language. It helped me better understand Japan’s culture, language, and society and more about myself and my own abilities. Upon my return to the States, I hoped to return to Japan and give back as much as I could, as a teacher.
Just to keep things simple, here is an excerpt from my application(s) to some ALT positions:
I never played house as a child. Instead, I would line my stuffed animals into rows, use my wall as a chalkboard, and play classroom. As I grew up, I came to realize that this game was more than it seemed; to teach had become a passion and a mission for me in life. Upon completion of the [insert program name], I hope to become an elementary school teacher or perhaps continue to work in Japan as an English teacher or in international business as a translator and consultant. I look forward to bringing what I learn from working side-by-side with my host institution to my own classroom and to further develop my own unique teaching style. I believe that I have the determination, maturity, and experience to thrive in this program and am very excited to be presented the opportunity to work in a country that has stimulated my personal growth.
I believe that I have the determination, maturity, and experience to thrive in this program and am very excited to be presented the opportunity to work in a country that has stimulated my personal growth. I also come with four years of work experience as an Academic Peer Tutor at Tokyo International University of America, where it became my belief that a key to achieving fluency in a second language is exercising your weak points to further develop them. I used this approach to help my students understand their own second language learning process and recognize their own strengths and weaknesses. I encouraged students to come to tutoring sessions with questions already in mind. With a problem identified, I was better able to address issues and provide guidance. Our discussions ranged from small grammatical mistakes or vocabulary misuse to larger concerns involving understanding the very fabric of American society and/or the culture on the Willamette campus. My goals in these interactions were to enable students to take their education outside of the classroom and to further enrich their study abroad experience as they developed their English skills. During my sophomore year, I was a Spanish bilingual Assistant Teacher in a second and third grade classroom for non-native speakers of English who were being taught through an immersion program. For six years I have been a soccer coach and camp director at Santa Cruz Soccer Camp in California. These two positions have taught me the importance of being flexible and thinking on your feet, especially when working with young children. I always came into each week with a full schedule for what I would accomplish with the next new group of children. However, more often than not, I would have to adjust concepts and my coaching/teaching style to best suit each group of children. Typically what I actually did with the children only somewhat resembled my original intention. Within these two positions, through my interactions with children, I was able to realize and foster my personal versatility as an educator and mentor.
During my senior year of college, I applied to a few programs and was accepted to all of them. I chose a program through my school that would ensure a placement in the same city I had studied abroad in and the rest of that story is being told on this blog.
This has become a lot wordier than I intended it to, but I hope I got the point across that what started as a simply being enthralled with a TV show turned into a lifestyle and profession. If I can do it, so can you! Never think that your dreams or ambitions are being set too high, because, chances are, you can actually make those a reality. Finally, thank you for taking the time to read my blog!