From Uni to Teaching English in Japan – Simon’s Story

The few months running up to starting your TEFL adventure can be very busy and daunting: there’s the anticipation of doing something totally new and exciting but there is also the question of packing your whole life into one (or if you’re lucky, two) suitcases.  Here at i-to-i we love hearing from you about all aspects of your experience so, meet Simon: he’s gone from university to TEFLing in Japan.  He’s going at the beginning of next year and he’s got some great advice for you on what to expect once you’ve been offered your TEFL dream job. Take it away Simon.

1.  Where are you originally from?

Well I live in a town called Felixstowe.  Don’t worry if you’ve not heard of it, it’s not that big, but you may have heard of our neighbour Ipswich.  Felixstowe can be found on the east coast of Suffolk, England.

2.  Why have you decided to teach English abroad?

Initially I did the course just to see if I could.  When I was at university a few mates suggested I should do teaching but I wasn’t keen on doing it here in the UK, I wanted to go abroad. Back then I did go to a few meetings about teaching English in China, but it was my final year at university and I was focused on my dissertation.  It wasn’t until a friend of mine went to China to teach that I started thinking about it again.  I did the course to see if I was still interested, to see if I could do it, and by the end of it I had such a great time that I decided to go for it and start a TEFL course.

3.  Which i-to-i TEFL course did you complete?

I did the 140 Hour TEFL Course, consisting of the 10 Hour Teaching English to Young Learners Specialist Training Course, the 10 Hour Teaching Large Classes Specialist Training Course, the 10 Hour Teaching with Limited Resources Specialist Training Course, the 10 Hour Teaching English One-to-One Specialist Training Course, the 20 Hour Classroom Course, the 60 Hour Online Course, and the 20 Hour Grammar Awareness Specialist Training Course.

4.  What was the hardest part of the course?

As silly as it sounds, the hardest part of the course was having to re-learn English all over again.  I don’t remember being taught the proper rules and grammar at school so I spent much of the course having to learn English.  Overall, the re-education ended up being more fascinating than a chore.

5.  Why have you chosen Japan to teach in?

I don’t know why I chose Japan.  As I mentioned before, back at University I looked at China and I had a mate out there; but I guess the simple answer is that when I look at Japan, it doesn’t feel that foreign to me.  Their way of life, the respect they have for each other and nature is admirable and something I agree with.  The more I looked into Japan, the more I started thinking that this is a country I could not only work in, but I could have a life and fun in too.  Throughout the process of doing the course, and then looking for work, I’ve had a look at China, South Korea and Indonesia but in the end I returned to Japan every time.  Now I have a job there I’m really happy.

6.  How did you go about finding your job in Japan?

The job I got actually wasn’t advertised anywhere: I had signed up to Gaijinpot, which is a really useful site, but I hadn’t received any interviews or offers from positions being advertised there that I applied for.  So, I put aside a day where I could spend time looking for companies in Japan.  Of those companies, I made a list of those that offered applications to be entered via their website or by email.  I then spent time looking up each company online, trying to find out as much information about each of them as I could, which included looking at what each company offered, not just in terms of employment but other things like days off, housing, and working hours. After that, I then read comments from people  who worked for them and sent off 4/5 emails and applications.  The only company to reply was Peppy Kids Club and little over a month later I was offered a job.

7.  What are you most looking forward to on your adventure?

There’s so much to choose from.  Can I say everything?  Actually I will, I’ll say I’m looking forward to everything.

8.  What have you been doing to prepare to move to Japan?

The first week or two was mostly all about the paper work.  But seriously, Peppy Kids Club has provided me with a very useful pre-departure guide that I’ve read through a couple of times already.  It’s answered several questions and provided so much information, even about things that you wouldn’t normally think about.  For instance, Japanese public transport isn’t designed for an individual and several pieces of large luggage; so make sure you pack sensibly.  Having said that, it’s not just been me who’s been preparing – I’ve given that guide to my parents to try and help them be as ready as possible and I’ve also tried to answer as many questions as possible.  I’ve also kept my current employers up to date so they can start to plan and help me with more hours.

Finally, I’ve also started getting some Japanese Yen ready.

9.  What would your advice be to anyone thinking of taking a Teaching English as a Foreign Language Course?

If you’re thinking about doing the course, do it. T he people I’ve met and spoken to along the way are great and very supportive and by the end of the course you’ll have a good idea if TEFL is for you in the long run and hopefully you’ll have some idea of where you want to teach . I’m glad I took the plunge; I understand that it can be a lot of money and it takes time, but ultimately you won’t know unless you try.

10.  Would you rather bungee jump or swim with sharks?

Probably the hardest question of them all!  Both are equally amazing but I think the one I’d be less scared of might actually be swimming with sharks.

We will be keeping in touch with Simon in the run up to him going to Japan and of course while he is out there so keep a look out for more from him.  Good luck Simon!


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