My name is Emily Schuster, and I graduated from Georgetown University in May 2013 with a degree in Japanese. Just three months after graduating, I took a wild leap of faith and moved across the world to Japan. I have been here for two months now (though it feels like just two weeks), teaching English with the JET Programme. I am grateful every day for this opportunity to not just live in Japan, but also to make it my home.
My new home is Chippubetsu-cho, a tiny rural town in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island. With a population of only 2,700, Chippu (as the townspeople affectionately call it) is officially the smallest town I have ever lived in. Many Chippu residents work on farms, and Chippu is known for it's broccoli, delicious tomato juice, and sheep. After living in Portland, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco for the past four years, Chippu is a major lifestyle change, and I love it! The people here make me feel welcome, and I love that I can walk to the store and run into my students. In fact, since I am the only foreigner in town, even people I don't know love to come and say hello. Chippu is a community, and I am slowly becoming a part of it.
Chippubetsu is home to two schools: an elementary school, and a junior high school. The town is not large enough to support a high school, so Chippu kids commute to neighboring towns once they graduate junior high. I work at both the elementary and junior high schools. Working with the kids has been an adventure. At first, they were all shy and nervous around me. Then one day, a brave student asked me to come play tag with him at recess. From that point on, I could see a difference. Shyness turned to curiosity, and now they bombard me with questions and literally drag me out to play.
Although I am in love with my town and I feel welcome, there is no avoiding the instances of feeling isolated or different. This is a part of the experience. Luckily, I have a built in support system - a network of foreigners living all throughout Japan. We help each other through the great times, and of course those eventual moments of frustration. Through this network, I have made some amazing friends from all over the world that I never would have met otherwise. I am learning not just about Japan, but also about New Zealand, Ireland, England, Canada, Australia, China, Singapore, and Latvia. Everyone has a different story, but our shared love for Japan brings us all together.
If any Japanese majors, or minors, or even Japan enthusiasts without Japanese language knowledge are looking for a job post-graduation, I highly recommend the JET Programme. Trust me, you wont regret taking that leap of faith.
Feel free to contact me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org