As I sit here this Thanksgiving Eve in America, I have a lot to be thankful for. Earlier this year I decided to not renew my contract on the JET Program and come home in July. I had 3 great years in Japan teaching English, and while staying there permanently might be for some people, I knew after a couple years that it wasn’t for me.

Before moving to Japan I spent 6 years studying Japanese and Japanese culture. I even got my B.A. in East Asian Languages and Cultures. From the moment I fell in love with the language I knew I had to live in Japan someday. I couldn’t afford to study abroad, but after the long application process I was lucky enough to be one of the people at Tokyo Orientation in 2011.

During my three years in Japan I spent most of my time teaching, thinking about teaching, or making teaching materials. I had to overcome a lot of challenges at first just to do my job, then do my job well, and then finally I was able to enjoy it. I also spent a lot of time studying Japanese, sacrificing my Saturday mornings to study with a tutor. After a couple years of study I was able to pass the JLPT N2 level. I wouldn’t say I’m great at Japanese, but I can definitely hold a conversation and read a document, more than I could have done right out of college.

The JET Program was a great experience, but coming back to the U.S. I was pretty worried about my job prospects. The economy hasn’t been that great, and even before the recession it was difficult to find a job with a B.A. in Japanese. I really wished I had paired my language skills with something practical, like business or computer science. So I was really surprised to find out that I was employable in the U.S. after coming back. People who can speak Japanese and are willing to learn some new skills are in demand, at least here in the Chicago area. I had three interviews with Japanese companies, and one job offer, which I happily accepted. I had been told so many times how difficult it was to get a good job with just a language degree, that I had psyched myself into thinking it would never happen. Now every day I get to use Japanese and English. I even help my Japanese coworkers adjust to living in a foreign country, something that I am extremely familiar with!

My current job is probably just one of many as I create my career, but for now I am very thankful for it and my coworkers.

Playing a game in elementary school.

Playing a game in elementary school.