ALT Feature: Ashley in Shizuoka
Why did you decide to move to Japan and become an ALT?
It was my dream to come to this country and thought being an ALT (after taking a personality test) would be a nice change from customer service. Growing up, I always had a passion for learning the language and culture.
What do you like about being an ALT?
My heart’s desire is to help and impress knowledge upon others. Being an ALT allows me to do just that.
Tell us one of your highlight moments as an ALT.
I think the best thing to experience as an ALT is to change a student’s view in regards to English and learning. I have seen some stubborn children fight the system tooth and nail and then, one day, they’ll start talking to me and engaging in activities. It’s wonderful hearing from the other teachers how much fun those kids are now having in their classes.
What was difficult when you first came to Japan and started your job?
Loneliness. It hits you hard and unexpectedly. That was the biggest hurdle I faced and it took around 6 months for the pain of separation from my family to ebb. Granted, there are plenty of other ALTs who are more grounded, but for me, that was it. It ate away at me every time I had a quiet moment to myself. I overcame it by finding happiness in my students and in their accomplishments and in the connections I made with the teachers and townsfolk around me.
What do you like about Japan or living in Japan?
Hands down, Japanese food is the best. It’s so good, in fact, that I cannot stomach American food anymore. The festivals are also fun in that they open my eyes to another culture’s beliefs and customs. I also think that travelling is more accessible here than in America. You can easily go somewhere for the weekend if you so desired.
Did anything about Japan catch you by surprise?
The cleanliness of everything was surprising. Of course, now, I’ve gotten so used to everything being tidy I’m shocked when I see someone litter.
What would you say is an absolute must-do or visit in Japan?
Do one thing that embodies Japanese culture; something that screams “This is Japan!” Sports such as judo or kendo are a great way to go if you’re active. If you prefer a quieter atmosphere, try calligraphy or tea ceremony.
Tell us about the city and region you are placed in.
Originally, I was placed in Gotemba, which was in Mt. Fuji’s backyard. It was great seeing the iconic mountain every for 7 months. Then I came to Hamamatsu’s countryside. Eel and gyoza are the top foods in the area and I get to enjoy sunsets on the river.
If you were to recommend Interac to a friend, what would you say?
If you’ve an interest in Japan and want a crash course on international survival with no hoops to jump through, go with Interac.
If you were to recommend becoming an ALT in Japan to a friend, what would you say?
If you like children and the challenge of a career change, give ALTing a try. Not only that, but you’d be experiencing Japanese culture on a whole ‘nother level compared to being just a tourist.