This is an interview with Laurina, a former teammember from UniversalGiving who is now working abroad in Japan.
1) Tell us a little about the program you work with, and what you do. What inspired you to teach abroad?
I work with the JET programme (Japan Exchange and Teaching programme), and I’m an Assistant Language Teacher. Together with a Japanese English teacher, I teach Japanese high school students English.
2）Why did you want to live in Japan?
I’ve always had a strong interest in Asia. I was born and raised in Singapore, and had studied abroad in China as an undergraduate. I really wanted to be back in Asia again, and as it happens, there was a job opportunity in Japan, so I took that up.
3) What was/is the most difficult thing about living in Japan? Was it something you expected?
The most difficult thing about living in Japan, for me, would be the language. I don’t speak or read Japanese, so it can get difficult to navigate around. However, I’m picking words up, so it’s getting somewhat easier to navigate around.
4) What is the best part of living in Japan?
I’ll have to say it’s the food, fashion, the people, and the overall cleanliness and orderliness of the country.
I love their food. You name it, I love it – sushi, sashimi, tempura, ramen, soba, udon, okonomiyaki, yakisoba, nabe, etc
Fashion – I absolutely love Japanese fashion. It is, however, very different from Western fashion. I notice that Japanese women tend to be modest about their curves. Japanese fashion is very creative with their designs and fashion embellishments, but they tend to hide the curves. Western fashion, on the other hand, emphasizes more on accentuating female curves.
And the people! The people are great too. I like how polite and considerate they are. They make living in Japan as a foreigner, a lot less stressful.
5) What’s a typical day in your school like?
A typical day in school goes like this:
8am – get into school. Change into my indoor shoes (you will see this a lot in Japanese workplaces – employees have their own indoor flats, and guests will have indoor slippers).
Greet the teachers ‘Ohayo-gozaimasu’ (good morning)
8:10am – Be at my desk for the daily morning meeting.
Class starts shortly after.
At this job, I have to think very quickly on my feet. There are times when a class doesn’t react to you the way you would like them to, and you need to improvise very quickly. Occasionally, you need to construct an entirely new lesson plan because something unexpected happened.
6) What is your favorite part of teaching abroad?
Working in a different environment and accepting that things are done in a different way. It also gives me a deeper understanding of the culture. I also enjoy my job. I love presenting, interacting with people and making the kids laugh.
7) Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about doing something similar?
My advice would to be adaptable to different cultures and foreign environments if you want to live and work abroad. And be optimistic! There are times when different cultural expectations will stress you out. Also, make friends with people at work and outside of work! They will ease your expatriate life. 🙂