Name: Sarah Taylor
Hometown: Valdosta, Georgia
Degree earned at Valdosta State: Bachelor of Business Administration in International Business, Spring 2018
During your time at VSU, what experiences or people inspired you to apply for the JET Program?
When I was in my sophomore year at VSU, I studied abroad for one year at J.F. Oberlin University, located in Tokyo, Japan. I loved my experience so much and wanted to be involved with the Japanese program more when I returned. I heard about the JET program from my Japanese professor, Natsumi Hayashi. I also talked to alumni from the program who encouraged me to apply when I graduated, telling me that I would be a prime candidate for the program.
Can you tell us about your experience teaching English in Japan?
I taught in Fukui Prefecture for Echizen City, which is in the countryside on the west coast, by the Sea of Japan. I was a “city ALT” (assistant language teacher), so I worked for City Hall in 5 or 6 elementary schools each year. I stayed for 4 years in the same position and changed schools each year, which means I was able to teach at all 17 elementary schools in my city. I taught 3rd through 6th grade and loved interacting with students and teachers at each school. Each school has such a different feeling and learning environment that I enjoyed the diversity of each place. Lessons mainly consisted of following a textbook or lesson plans made by the homeroom teacher and coming up with my own activities or games to teach the material. I taught side by side with the homeroom teacher, but sometimes there was a Japanese Teacher of English who was more fluent in English and did most lessons with me. I also ate lunch in the classroom with students and played with them at recess, so I got to know them well.
What was one of your biggest takeaways from this experience?
I would say one of the biggest takeaways from my experience is how much I grew as a person. I went through tough times while in Japan in my personal life, on top of being in a new country with a completely different culture. I came back from the experience having matured a lot and with a broader perspective of the world. I made many friends and will miss them dearly because they helped to shape me into the person I am today. Without this experience, I wouldn’t have learned many of the vital life lessons I needed to learn, and I wouldn’t have trusted God as much as I do now.
What advice do you have for current students?
I would say that if you have a chance to do something that will better you as a person, don’t hesitate to go for it. It’s scary and difficult at times, but it’s so worth it, in the end, to look back at the experiences you had and know you got through it and now have an amazing story to tell. Don’t give up when things get tough, and find people who will encourage you to keep working hard. But also, take a break when you need to. Life isn’t all about the hustle and grind, but about learning who we really are and who we want to become. Being in college is such a vital time to figure out what you love to do and find ways to do that in the future. Don’t let small things get in the way of your happiness and keep pushing forward, no matter what.