Many people have asked me why I decided to go to Japan. Here is at least part of the process that I went through.
In 2008 I participated in a study abroad trip through my university. Throughout the semester we spent time in China, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaii. We spent a total of five weeks in Japan, and this was my first experience with the Japanese culture. I loved the culture, the tradition, and the friendliness of the people. I stayed near Mito city in the Ibaraki prefecture (similar to a state) of Japan. The region is considered countryside and is about 90 minutes by train from Tokyo. It was similar to home and different, at the same time. It was during this time that I learned of the AET (Assistant English Teacher) Program, when graduates move to Japan to work as assistants to English teachers in Japanese classrooms. Many students from my university went to Japan after graduation, either as singles or couples. I knew that this would be a great experience and began to consider the possibility of teaching after I graduated.
During my junior year I obtained an internship at a financial company that I strongly believed God provided me with. I very much enjoyed my job and intended to continue my employment after graduation.
In March 2011, Japan suffered the largest earthquake in history. The damage from the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami was widespread and devastating. The earthquake actually took place while I was in Destin, FL with friends for spring break, and I knew little of the extent of the damage. When I returned home and learned the magnitude of the quake and how many people were effected, I was shocked. I quickly reached out to my friends and confirmed that they were safe. They had suffered some structural damage, but were unharmed. The following Sunday in church I was reflecting on the tragedy, the magnitude, and the length of time that it would inevitably take for the country to recover. I began considering the process that they would have to go through, the length of time and amount of time it would take to get back on their feet. It was then that I realized that I was the perfect candidate: I was young, unattached, physically fit and strong, comfortable with the culture, learned the language quickly, and had connections in the area. I also had no doubt that I would be able to raise funds to serve if I needed to. God was definitely opening my eyes to a situation that needed him and His love, and showing me that I was the perfect person to carry that love and service to a desperate people. It was an earth shaking realization that petrified and excited me all at the same time.
I reached out to some contacts I had at the university and let them know of my interest in helping with the relief efforts. I prayed and waited to hear back about more information, but I did not. I decided that God wanted me to be aware of the need and my potential, but at that time it was His will for me to continue to the job that He had led me to. I contributed to a collection, volunteered my time at a relief concert, prayed for the recovery, and continued along with my life.
Throughout the summer, the people effected in Japan continued to be on my mind. I couldn't seem to ignore a persistent tinge that there was more that I should do. I continued to pray for direction and God began leading me to the idea of teaching English in a school in Japan. I continued to pray and research the options and what that would mean. Over time through my prayers God continued to lead me to the idea of teaching and I knew that I could ignore it no longer. I began the process of searching for jobs and contacting various English schools to see if they had any open positions over the upcoming months.
Some of the schools reached out to me, and some did not. I spent a lot of time making international calls through Skype late at night (so it would be during business hours), and learned the phrase, "Eigo wo hanaseru katawa imasuka?" meaning, "Does someone there speak English?" Often the person who answered the calls responded with "I speak English," but that wasn't always the case. I scheduled and completed several interviews, and had one position that I was fairly certain would go through, but another applicant was selected in the end. At this point I had felt God leading me through the process and had quit my job, told my family, and began to deal with the internal reality that I could be moving to Japan. Not receiving the position I had thought would come through, in addition to not receiving a follow up interview I had expected, caused me to become a little discouraged, but I continued to feel God's presence and blessing around my decision. It has definitely been a lesson in faith, as I have had no control throughout the majority of the process. I simply had to let go and trust that God would lead me to the place that He wanted for me.
I knew that time was short before the next semester began, and I was anxious to have something solidified. I was confident that God was leading me to Japan and that everything would work according to His will, but I was anxious about the way that things would come together, especially in a limited time. I reached out again to the director of international programs at the university that placed students in the AET program in Mito. He told me that if I had contacted him a day earlier he would have said he had nothing available, but that only that morning he had received an email from a private school in Mito (different from the usual AET program) asking if he knew of anyone wanting to go to Japan to teach in the fall that he would recommend. He quickly contacted me, I sent him a resume, they scheduled an interview, and before I knew it I had been offered the position! I was so excited, and I could definitely see God's plan in the way everything came together.
I will be teaching at two kindergartens and two daycare facilities in parts of Mito, Japan. The children will be aged 2-5. I will have a Japanese teacher in the classroom with me "to assist with emergencies," which I'm sure will be very helpful. I will have a three month period of training that I will learn the curriculum, schools, and observe the classes. I intend to become involved with a church in the area, and to assist with relief efforts to the Sendai region on weekends or when I am available. I believe that God has blessed me with this flexibility and the opportunity to work and serve congruently.
I am in the process of applying for my visa and completing the necessary immigration requirements and hope to leave for Japan during the last week of September.
I am currently continuing my work at the same company for a few more weeks, then will return home for a few weeks.
Continue checking my blog for updates on my experiences, trials, and adventures. Until then, sayounara!!!