Teach Enrich Empower
Teaching abroad is a remarkable and life-changing experience
For as long as I can remember, I always had a great desire to live in a foreign country, to meet exciting people and to learn a new language.
My experience teaching English on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program was so rewarding that on my return; I completed a TEFL qualification with The TEFL Academy and will be applying to teach English in South Korea with the EPIK Program early next year. Life is just so full of surprises…
I will never forget calling my parents up and announcing that shortly after graduation I would be moving to Japan to become an English teacher. Dead silence. I don’t believe that they thought they heard me correctly. “So, you’ve studied law for five years and you’re moving where?”
When I first discovered that I was being placed in Kumamoto, a rural Japanese prefecture far, far away from the bright neon lights of bustling Tokyo or Osaka – I was terrified.
I had very little expectations – and certainly very little practical classroom experience. Nevertheless, I packed away my nerves and boarded a bus to my very first Japanese elementary school. My first impression was wonderful. The staff and students had lined up to greet me. I was welcomed by smiling elementary school children and beautifully decorated cards. This was going to be a great year!
One worry I didn’t anticipate was how to deal with my newfound celebrity status. As a new foreign person in a town of mostly Japanese people, I was suddenly thrust into the local spotlight without doing anything. It was not uncommon that I’d sign autographs at the end of my lessons. And who would have thought that my signature could be used as a “reward” to students for doing well in my class!
“Complete a TEFL qualification for more varied teaching opportunities. You’ll never regret it!”
For most of the students and staff members that I worked closely with, I was the only foreigner that they had ever spoken with. To add to my exotic appeal (and to their confusion), I was South African. Thankfully, my country had hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and so the memories associated with the infamous vuvuzela were still fresh in their minds. I used this to my advantage during my self-introduction lessons. The vuvuzela’s roar was not the only sound rushing through my new school’s passages… word got out… and by the end of the school day, I was known as the cool new teacher from Africa!
Working as an assistant language teacher (ALT) is a lot of fun and it’s great when the students understand and take part in the lesson. As the only foreigner in the school you’re instantly liked by the students because you’re so alien to them.
I don’t think that there will ever be a day that I don’t think about my wonderful time in Japan. It truly changed my world view and has provided me with so many new opportunities.
Teaching abroad is a remarkable and life-changing experience. Take a leap of faith. Complete a TEFL qualification for more varied teaching opportunities. You’ll never regret it!
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