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Teaching English in Moriyama, Japan: Alumni Q&A with Robin Salas
Written by: International TEFL Academy
Last Updated: July 7, 2020
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Some international travel with friends, family, business, etc
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I developed a love for languages during my time in the U.S. Navy where I regularly met with foreign nationals. Upon separation, I decided to major in English at my university so that I may teach my native language to others around the world.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Some of my initial concerns were set-up costs, housing, cultural differences, and the language barrier.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
Though saddened, my friends and family were all supportive of my decision to move abroad, because they knew that it was something I had wanted to do for a long time.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I decided to get TEFL certified because I wanted to have something that would make me stand out from the competition I would face when searching for a company to work for in Japan. Also, I wanted to acquire skills that would allow me to feel confident in my teaching abilities while abroad.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course
How did you like the course?
The course was nicely paced, and my instructor was always professional and supportive. The coursework was challenging, but it ultimately helped prepare me for the daily tasks required of me in my current job abroad.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
My TEFL training has helped to create professional and effective lesson plans for my students. I am aware of up-to-date research concerning ESL and ELL students, and I am confident in my abilities to detect and correct grammatical and syntactical errors while providing reasons as to why they are considered incorrect.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Japan in the city of Moriyama. I had moved to this location from Okayama, Japan, to live with my wife.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been in Japan for two years now, and I plan to live here indefinitely.
During which months does your school typically hire?
My company typically hires new ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers in Japanese public schools) in March, because the Japanese school year starts in late March and early April.
Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
How did you interview for this position?
What kind of Visa did you enter on?
Please explain the visa process that you went through.
My company assisted me throughout the visa process. You will first be required to undergo a background check, submit some documents verifying your identity, and create a resumé for use in Japan. You will then be given a checklist of things to bring to your consulate/immigration office. To obtain an instructor visa in Japan, you will require a bachelor's degree, an application form, a photo, a certificate of employment, your passport, and a copy of your employment contract. After receiving these documents and some processing time, assuming there are no issues, you will be granted a visa by the consulate/immigration office.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
Tell us about your English teaching job!
Hours: I work from 8:05am-6:05pm on Monday-Friday
Pay: I am payed roughly about 250,000 yen ($2,275 USD) per month. However, there are months in which our pay is lowered as a result of not working the entire month (e.g. summer holiday).
Ability to save: Though it is possible to save, it is difficult to do so, especially if you have to pay back student loans or other debts. Personally, I am able to save about $300-$400 USD a month. I would advise finding a job that pays more than 250,000 yen ($2,250 USD) a month in Japan, or working for another company part-time in the evenings. Be advised that an instructor visa prohibits a holder from engaging in certain types of work though, and you will usually need to obtain permission from your full-time employer to take on another job.
School type: I currently work for an elementary school, two kindergartens and two nursery schools, and I mostly work with young learners.
Vacation time: We usually have most of the month of August off, as well as some time in Spring and December.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
My company assisted me in finding a place to live when I first moved to Japan. Most apartments and houses are smaller than Western style homes. I currently reside with my wife.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Cultural aspects: Japan is well-known for its peaceful culture, and, though there are definitely exceptions, I personally believe that the Japanese people are extremely kind and humble in general. People here focus more on the needs of others as opposed to personal needs.
Public transportation: The public transportation is clean and punctual. Delayed trains are uncommon, and if a train is late, you can be sure that the train staff will be sincerely apologetic.
Nightlife: The nightlife is great as there are usually a plethora of things to do. Many expatriates enjoy karaoke, drinking at bars, pachinko, sightseeing, shopping, dining, playing games at arcades, etc.
Social activities: Many foreigners create groups or clubs that host events regularly, so one can be sure that they will have access to social activities. I have had the the pleasure of attending BBQs and several festivals.
Expat community: As previously stated, expat communities are in abundance here. Even with minimal effort, one should have no problem finding a group or club to join.
Dating scene: Since I have been in a relationship my entire time in Japan, I cannot speak from personal experience about the dating scene in Japan. However, I know that there are plenty of venues to take a person when on a date. Moreover, many of my friends and acquaintances have little trouble finding people to date here.
Travel opportunities: As for travel opportunities, plenty are available as a result of having a lot of time off in the summer. Many people enjoy taking trips within the country on the weekends as well.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
Rent/utilities: My wife and I currently pay about 100,000 yen ($910 USD) per month for a 3LDK apartment (kitchen, dining room + 2-3 bedrooms). Our utilities are about 15,000 yen ($135 USD) per month.
Food costs us about 30,300 yen ($275 USD). We eat at restaurants about twice a week.
Social activities: The cost of social activities is difficult to gauge, but I spend around 20,000-25,000 yen ($180 - $210 USD) a month. If your Japanese coworkers enjoy going out for drinks a lot, then it can be a bit more expensive.
Transportation: I live a bit far from the the schools that I teach at, so my transportation expenses are higher than normal (about 17,000 yen - $150 USD), but my company covers work-related travel expenses.
Phone/internet: My iPhone 8 costs about 5,000 yen ($45 USD) a month.
Gym: My gym fee costs 5,000 yen ($45 USD) per month.
How would you describe your standard of living?
My standard of living is a little higher than fresh expats arriving in the country. Of course this is due to the fact that I have a spouse and that I plan on living in Japan indefinitely. I have items that a single person who will be living here for a short period of time won't need.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
Assuming that a person has no outstanding debts (e.g. credit cards and student loans), then I believe 250,000 yen ($2275 USD) per month is enough to live comfortably in Japan. However, depending on the company a person chooses to work for, they may receive prorated pay during certain months throughout the year. So one should budget accordingly to avoid any issues that may arise from smaller paychecks.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I advise one to study the language of the country they are venturing to. It goes without saying that knowing a country's native tongue will open many doors for an expat. I would also be sure to have a firm understanding of what is considered taboo or inappropriate in one's target country. Also, politeness goes a long way. Even if one doesn't have a strong command of their chosen country's language, learning a simple "please," "thank you," and/or "sorry" in your country's native language will be appreciated. I definitely recommend teaching in Japan. Japan's beautiful nature blended together with its kind and humble inhabitants is enough to make most people enjoy their time here in my opinion.
Founded in 2010, International TEFL Academy is a world leader in TEFL certification for teaching English abroad & teaching English online. ITA offers accredited TEFL certification classes online & in 25 locations worldwide and has received multiple awards & widespread recognition as one of the best TEFL schools in the world. ITA provides all students and graduates with lifetime job search guidance. ITA has certified more than 25,000 English teachers and our graduates are currently teaching in 80 countries worldwide.
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