Want to teach English in Japan? Even after all the research (I assume) you’ve done, chances are you still have some unanswered questions.
And considering there’s so much information out there about teaching English abroad, it can be easy to lose yourself in a sea of uncertainty.
How’re you supposed to find a company, trust the company, its job description, even its testimonies from current and past teachers (which, by the way, have been carefully screened by said company)?
One option to find out the nitty gritty is to go to a direct source. A direct source that isn’t being solicited by the company they work for.
Enter Somer, English teacher extraordinaire.
Somer and I met during a study abroad semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where we were both beefing up our Spanish skills at the Universidad de Belgrano.
Originally from the Big Island of Hawaii and an alumna of the University of Chicago, Somer moved to Japan right after graduation and has been teaching English there ever since.
Yeah, she’s really cool.
And to give you some authentic insight as to what it’s really like to teach English in Japan, Somer has graciously answered several interview questions as candidly as possible.
Without further ado, here is Somer’s unsolicited account of her experience teaching English in Japan.
What It’s Really Like to Teach English in Japan
1. What’s the official title of your job?
English Staff Teacher
2. Where in the world are you working?
3. What program are you working for?
AEON- Eikaiwa (English Conversational School)
(Addition from Kaity: AEON is a chain of teaching companies–specifically for English conversation–throughout Japan. It has over 300 branches within the country, and as of 2013, it has enrolled 100,000 students.
For more info on the company itself, you can check out the AEON website.)
4. For how long have you been working for this program?
November 2017 – Currently
5. What are your job responsibilities?
- Teach 50-minute lessons (5-7) per day, preschool to adult discussion level classes.
- Know [English] details and sell self-study material to students.
- Help school achieve numbers and quota monthly by performing interviews [and] recruiting new students while maintaining student number as is.
6. How did you find the position/what led you to apply to teach English in Japan?
I found it on my university’s database, which displayed different job opportunities for recent graduates.
I wanted to teach English abroad after I graduated and did extensive research on countries, types of English schools, etc.
7. Were there any education/work experience requirements before applying?
The main requirements are a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited university and being born a national citizen of an English-speaking country.
(Addition from Kaity: For more info, check out the website’s application requirement page.)
8. What was the application process like?
I first submitted a basic application, which included my resume, recommendation letters, and cover letter.
I then did a multitude of Skype interviews, which eventually led to the final step, which was a 1-day, in-person interview, which included a group portion as well as a “standard” one-on-one interview.
Group interview included mock lessons and learning about logistics of the company.
9. What are the logistical perks of the job?
There is an allocated stipend you are given in your first paycheck, which is intended to cover your flight to Japan. Compared to other English companies in Japan (and throughout Asia), I think the salary is competitive.
They find the apartment for you, set up your visa, [and] help you set up a bank account and Wi-Fi service.
They made it very convenient to live there. Apartment bill is subsidized through your paycheck each month.
10. How much is your salary?
270,000 yen per month, not including many taxes and apartment fee taken out.
(Addition from Kaity: As of today–Aug. 27, 2018–this converts to exactly $2433.20 per month.)
11. How much have you been able to travel?
I came here with the intention of traveling a lot throughout the school year. The truth is, I haven’t been able to do so.
The vacation is three set weeks throughout the school year (Golden Week, Obon, and New Year’s). So, you are unable to choose the dates to take vacation.
In Japan, everyone gets the same three weeks off, which in turn leads to sky-rocketed flight prices to leave the country because everyone is leaving at the same time.
I was able to go to Vietnam over Golden Week, have traveled to Kyoto and Nara in Japan, [and] intend to travel around Asia after I finish my contract.
12. What do you think are the top 3 most important qualities to have for this job?
1. BE FLEXIBLE.
Japanese work environment is completely different from that of the United States or any Western country.
You need to be able to adapt to different personalities, different customs, and accept that even though you may think one way is right, you need to be able to do it their way.
In other words, go with the flow.
2. Going along those lines – take everything with a grain of salt.
I guess this should be applied to life, but the job requires strenuous hours, meticulous tasks, and lots of energy.
You need to not take everything so seriously and be able to separate your work life with your personal life or else you will have a miserable time.
You have to take time for yourself.
3. Lastly, it does require a lot of energy.
You have to constantly be smiling, upbeat, and basically be the face of the company. You have lots of monotonous conversations and have to be able to be patient and not get frustrated.
Again, don’t let it consume you.
13. What is one of your favorite memories from this position?
Not a specific memory, but when you see a preschool kid be able to say a sentence or even a vocabulary word and be able to memorize it and say it the next week. It’s the little things.
14. What is one of the biggest challenges that you have overcome (or not) while on the job?
Dealing with the schedule and working a lot of overtime.
My working hours [are] about 11:30-9:30 so I get home late.
You have to put in a lot of effort to live a healthy lifestyle (i.e. cooking and not getting a bento at the convenience store every night).
15. What’s a lesson or two that you have taken away from this position?
Life is short, take care of yourself, take advantage of the weekends, pay attention to the highs, and let go of the lows in life.
16. What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in applying to teach English in Japan?
Make sure you do a lot of research about different companies and the different things they offer.
You need to know what you are getting into and have the right mindset.
You must know you are moving to a different country [with] a completely different work environment, but in return you get to live in Japan, have your own apartment, and experience the amazing culture.
Round of applause for Somer.
Her insight is like gold in this potentially overwhelming process of trying to find a job in a completely different country.
As you start to apply to teach English in Japan, feel free to reference her uncensored testimony as often as you like.
And if you want to find out more about legitimate opportunities to teach English abroad (either in person or online), you can head over to these 12 teaching English abroad programs, as well as my personal testimony of how I travel the world by teaching English online.
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