Our guest today has a Master’s in International Education Management and is currently working at the Consulate General of Japan in Detroit. She is originally from California and was placed in Yamanashi as a high school ALT while on JET. Read on to learn about her family heritage trip, the hobbies she took up in Japan, and career advice.
Where are you from in Michigan or Ohio?
I am originally from Southern California, but I recently moved to Royal Oak, Michigan in April!
Where was your placement, and how long were you there?
I was placed in Minami Alps-shi, Yamanashi-ken from 2013-2017 (Fun Facts: Minami Alps is one of the few cities in Japan that uses Katakana in the name. Also, I could see Mt. Fuji from my window!)
What was your school setting like?
I worked at Koma High School and taught conversational English to first-year students. As a high school ALT, I was lucky to have the freedom to be in charge of all my lessons and acted more as the lead teacher with the JTE as my assistant. My school was deemed a super science high school for a 5-year period. Each grade consisted of 6 classes, one of which was the “science class” meaning they had special science-related courses. Having majored in Biological Sciences as an undergrad, it was fun to be able to teach Science English and blend my interest in science with my ALT position. I was also in charge of the English club, preparing students for the speech contest – as well as being a judge at the middle school speech contest, and teach special lessons for students traveling to Iowa on the sister-city exchange.
What is a memory you have in Japan that sticks out to you?
I am a 4th generation Japanese-American on my dad’s side. One summer my family – mom, dad, and sister – came to visit me in Japan. We decided to make it a heritage trip and visit the prefectures my family was from. Both of my grandparents’ families immigrated to the US before the war, so quite a long time ago, and aren’t aware of any direct relatives living in Japan. But we do know that my grandfather’s family was from Hiroshima and my grandmother’s family was from Shimane. Luckily, those two prefectures are right next to each other, so we were able to visit both places over a week-long trip. Going on a journey together with my family to discover our family’s roots is one of my fondest memories in Japan.
What are you doing now that you have returned?
After returning from JET back in 2017, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Some of my main takeaways from the JET program were the realization of how much I enjoyed introducing different cultures to others and supporting and preparing students for their sister-city exchange trips. With that in mind, I decided to go back to school and get my Master’s in International Education Management from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS). While obtaining my Master’s degree, I had the opportunity to be an intern at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU).
I am now currently working at the Consulate General of Japan in Detroit as the Cultural and Public Relations Coordinator.
Do you have any future plans you’re working towards?
Since I just moved to Michigan recently, my current plans are to find some good local food and visit the UP sometime. Mainly due to the pandemic, I began to do many outdoor activities and am looking forward to discovering hiking trails around Michigan. I am especially excited for the fall season and can’t wait to see the leaves start changing. In the future, I would love to connect with more JET Alumni in the Midwest and join more JETAA events.
Is there something Japan-related you wish you could get involved within your area?
When I lived in Japan, I joined the Kado-bu (flower arranging club) at my school. I practiced Kado for about 2 years alongside some of my students. I would love to continue learning flower arrangement here in Michigan. I also thought the Kyudo club was the coolest sport at the school. Their practice area was right next to the street so I would try to catch a glimpse of their practice every time I rode past them on my bicycle after work. I would like to try my hand at Japanese Archery someday as well.
What advice or help would you like to give to other GLJETAA alumni?
Career-wise, I think the best advice I have received is to do informational interviews. People love talking about their experiences, so if there is a job you are interested in, reach out and ask if they have time to answer a few questions about their job and how they got there. It’s not only a great way to network, but also a chance to find out if the job is what you thought it was and possible steps to take to get there. If you are interested in going back to grad school or thinking of pursuing a career in higher ed., reach out to me anytime.
What konbini food do you miss the most?
This isn’t really a food, but it is Konbini-related. I loved the campaigns they held at the Konbinis where you had to collect the stickers usually found on sandwiches, bread, and dessert items. If you collect, I think, 50 stickers within a set time frame you would be able to get a free gift. My favorite character is Rilakkuma, so whenever they had a Rilakkuma themed prize I would always go to Lawson to grab some bread so I could get the free item. Sometimes the other teachers at school would notice I was collecting the stickers and give me theirs too. One time, I also had a competition with another teacher trying to collect the stickers. Good times. Well, now I have quite a collection of Rilakkuma plates, bowls, glasses basically a whole kitchen set! As for the actual food…I miss all of it!
Please do reach out if you have any questions for our alumni. Thank you, Megan D., for sharing your story.
Alumni Spotlight is an outreach activity through the Great Lakes JET Alumni Association seeking to build stronger connections between alumni and to provide bridges for networking. If you or an alumnus you know would like to be featured in an installment of Alumni Spotlight, please email Kyle Belanger at firstname.lastname@example.org.