Category: Returning

Freelance Translating

I am now, officially, a professional freelance translator. Someone has actually given me money to translate something from Japanese into English. I haven’t quit my day job yet, but it feels really good to make some extra cash. I’m still giddy about the idea, and feel a little like an imposter. Translator! Me? I do translating and interpreting at work but it’s not my official job title. I’m checking one item off of the career bucket list today.


One Year Return Anniversary

Becoming an independent adult in a foreign country was quite the adventure, but I’ve had to spend the last year adjusting to the work culture and expectations as an adult in the U.S.

1. My living expenses had to be adjusted. I pay less for fruits and vegetables but more for cable and internet. Electricity is cheap but healthcare is high. (At least now I can use the air conditioner in summer without breaking the bank.)

2. I can’t pay bills at the convenience store. I have to actually remember to write a check or pay online. And the late notices are less polite than in Japan.

3. Work doesn’t come home with me anymore. I don’t have an entire bookshelf dedicated to work materials.

4. Going to a Japanese restaurant/marketplace within the first few months of returning is not as fun as going about 6 months after returning. One year after returning is even more fun. It’s like going back in time.

5. I have to hold back the constant stream of “one time in Japan….” anecdotes. The struggle is real. I hope I don’t annoy too many people with stories.

I do have times when I want to go back to my old life in Japan, but those moments fade away quickly. Japan isn’t going anywhere, and when I get the vacation time, I’ll definitely visit again.

In the past I’ve received some negative questions about my choice of degree and my time on the JET Program. For example:

1. “You got a fun degree, didn’t you?” Asked while applying for a position with a bank in the loan department.

2. “The JET Program was easy, wasn’t it?” Asked while applying to work in human resources for a Japanese company.

These questions caught me completely off guard, mostly by the way they were asked, and I didn’t answer them very well. I think they go beyond the usual practice of asking something uncomfortable to see how you handle the situation, and get close to being insulting and condescending.

I hope I don’t have to ever answer the above type of questions again, but if they do reappear, I’ll be prepared.

1. I worked hard for my degree. I persevered for 4 years to finish it with good grades, while working part time on the weekends. It taught me critical thinking, independence, new perspectives, and it has been useful. Also, I didn’t study just Japanese. I studied statistics, history, business writing, and linguistics. I have knowledge of many different fields because of my degree.

2. The JET Program is different for everyone. Personally, I was given a lot of responsibility in my position. Through my own research I learned how to lesson plan, coordinate with teachers, and make engaging lessons for my students. It wasn’t easy until the very end, after years of practice. Then I left to pursue new challenges.

I like to think that if an employer can’t be positive about my past credentials, then I wouldn’t want to work for them anyway. We can’t all have degrees in business. The world needs liberal arts, too.

On another note, here’s a situation I found myself in that turned out very well:

1. “Describe your duties on the JET Program.” Ok, not too bad…

2. “Repeat what you just said in Japanese.

If you advertise your language ability on your application, you may want to prepare for a situation like this!

It’s hard to describe what I’ve been going through these days. It’s soon coming up to¬† 1 year since returning from the JET Program. It feels like the ‘honeymoon’ phase of my return to the U.S. is over (driving! wide open spaces! cheese!), and now I miss my old lifestyle . Here’s a few of the things that I miss about working in Japan:

1. A busy social life. Mine has just started to pick up a bit, but it’s not near what I had a year ago. The JET Program made it easy to build a social network within my community of other English teachers. At the same time, I got to spend time with my coworkers at various work events, dinners, or drinking parties. It felt very busy at times, but I was never lonely!

2. Every day was a new adventure. You really never knew what was going to happen on any given day. That sense of adventure made up for the language barrier, distance from family, and uncomfortable moments in life.

3. Public transportation and pedestrian/bicycle infrastructure. As much as I like driving, I also miss taking the train to the city or peddling my bike around town.

4. Working with kids. Those kids were the reason I woke up in the morning, and why I stayed up until 1 AM making classroom materials with glue and construction paper. I guess it’s not surprising that making a fun class for kids is more rewarding than working in an office. I hope someday I can find my rewarding dream job.