Journey to Japan

August 5th started my second year living in Japan and I can’t believe how fast the time passed!  I still get asked about how I ended up in Tokyo in the first place so I decided to write this post about my journey.
First year teaching in an International School
One of the main questions I get is, “Are you an English teacher?” It’s no mystery that many people start living abroad by teaching English in another country.  In Japan alone, there are so many opportunities to teach English.  For example, the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program is managed by the government and typically hires assistant language teachers for public schools.  There are also Eikaiwa’s, conversation schools, which have a main focus on teaching grammar and improving social skills.

I was a teacher for 7 years in NYC before I moved to Tokyo and craved a change.  I first considered teaching abroad in November 2016 after speaking with my older sister about my desire to do something different.  My search began with Teach Away, a company that helps both certified and ESL teachers find positions abroad.  I looked on the site multiple times a day because although there were a lot of public school positions available, I was more interested in teaching in an international school.  At this point, it was mid-January and most schools had already started the hiring process in October.  Since I was behind, I needed to act fast.  I continued to research and came across another company called Search Associates.  It specializes in helping certified teachers find positions in international schools around the world.  I liked that the site gave information about salary and benefits before applying to a position.  The membership fee also included admission to one of their job fairs hosted in various locations.  I applied for jobs through Search Associates and contacted schools directly.  At the end of April, I visited my best friend who lived in London and attended a job fair there.  I had several interviews throughout the day and by the end, had an offer in Beijing with potentials in Abu Dhabi, Milan, and Shanghai.  There were no schools from Japan at the fair, but my friend suggested I consider it and I applied online that night.  I had a Skype interview with a school in Tokyo when I got home and was offered to teach all subjects as a 2nd grade teacher 2 weeks later.

Are you thinking about living abroad?  Of course teaching isn’t the only job that can start your adventure.  I have friends in different countries who work in non-profits, IT, and are self-employed to name a few.

Tips for Teachers:

•Contact schools you are interested in directly or sign up for different teach abroad companies.  Use their sites to find the schools you want to apply to.  I used Teach Away, International School Services, and a couple others before signing up with Search Associates.

•Apply as early as possible.  Many schools begin the hiring process as early as October for the following school year.

Tips for Other Professions:

•Find out if your current job has the option to work on a project based in another country.  A short or long term assignment can give you the opportunity to travel overseas.

•Register for job sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor for postings in your field.  There are also international companies, IBM and American Express are two examples, that hire all over the world.  See if those would be a good fit.

Want more info about how to live or travel abroad?  Let me know in the comments!

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