(Above: Jodi, pounding mochi for New Years in Hyuga-shi, Miyazaki-ken)
Hi Jodi! Thanks for taking some time to talk a little about your time during and after JET. Could you tell me a little about why you decided to go on the JET program?
Going to Japan was always a dream of mine. I started teaching myself Japanese in high school and started taking Japanese classes after my first year of college. I was drawn to the language and the culture and couldn’t wait to visit. I was set to study abroad in the spring to 2011, but I had to change my plans when the tsunami struck. I’ve always loved working with kids, so JET seemed like the best way to have my Japanese experience and give back.
That’s so cool! Where was your placement when you finally got to go?
I was in Hyuga-shi, Miyazaki-ken.
(Okay, admittedly I knew that since we were placed in the same prefecture!) What was your favorite part about Hyuga-shi or about Miyazaki in general?
My favorite part about Hyuga was that I lived a 20-minute bike ride from the mountains on one side and the beach on the other. I know this gets said a lot, but my favorite part of Miyazaki in general were the people.
I would have to agree - the people are so warm and kind in Kyushu! What was your transition like coming back from Japan?
I won’t lie, the first month was rough. My parents generously let me move in with them until I figured out my next steps, but they had moved while I was in Japan. So the first few months I was dealing with reverse culture shock at being in the US again, culture shock from being in a completely different part of the country, jetlag, a bit of altitude sickness, and grieving the loss of my JET life. But I got out of that the same way I always do: by choosing a new goal. I moved back to the US to spend more time with my family, but I knew that eventually I wanted to go to graduate school somewhere. Having that goal helped everything fall into place.
And now here you are, almost finished with your Master’s! Congrats! Do you feel like your time on JET influenced your current path?
JET helped me figure out what I want and don’t want in a career and a job. I loved working in the international environment and being able to explain different cultures to my students. I don’t ever want to be a high school teacher again, but I still want to be a teacher in some capacity. My role as an ALT helped me realize that I want to be a trainer and a facilitator. I genuinely enjoyed writing lesson plans and seeing how the students reacted when I put those plans into action.
That’s so great to hear. Outside of your professional/academic life, I know you do a lot of rock climbing and marathon running now - when did you become interested in these activities? Were there any hobbies you took up when you were in Japan?
Rock-climbing is something I’ve done off and on my whole life, but didn’t start consistently doing until I moved to Colorado. I’ve climbed a few times in Japan, but I broke my ankle while bouldering and that sort of put a stop to it for a while. Funny enough, breaking my ankle was what made me start running more. Hyuga didn’t have any good gyms at the time, but running was free and something I could do on my own schedule. I had just started getting into running when my injury happened. Physical therapy after my injury and surgery was incredibly frustrating and I felt like giving up a few times. PT is already rough under the best circumstances, but I was trying to do it in a language I wasn’t fluent in and in a different medical culture than I was used to. I was mentally and physically exhausted and I needed a win. I decided to sign up for a local 5k as a goal to give me something to build toward. The running community in Japan is great and after my first race, I was hooked. I just finished my first half marathon a few days ago. The only other hobby I picked up in Japan is taiko. I played with a taiko group for three of the four years I was living in Hyuga. I’m not always confident in my Japanese abilities, so trying to keep up with my teammates’ Japanese was pretty difficult sometimes. That challenge ended up being exactly what I needed, though. Even though I was living in a city with a pretty small foreign community, I had managed to get away with primarily speaking English. Joining the taiko team was the push I needed to immerse myself in the language and really try to improve.
That is so cool! What a great way to get involved. Is there anything else you want to tell our alumni community?
One reason I went on JET was that I knew I would have a great alumni network to tap into when I returned. Sometimes the scope of our network still surprises me. I know at least three JET alum who are working at the same university as me and several who are in the same graduate program.
I couldn’t agree more! I am constantly meeting new alumni in the most surprising places. I hope we’ll both continue to meet many more - through JETAARM or otherwise!