Got my first job! As a teacher in Japan

This story was initially posted in FIU News by Chrystian Tejedor. 

In this series, recent grads share their journey to landing that first professional job out of college. After years of studying and working toward a degree, these Panthers’ hard work paid off. Now they’re paying it forward by letting you know how they did it.

Name: Daniel Padron

Hometown: Miami, Florida

Degree/major: Bachelor of Science in Chemistry

When did you graduate? Fall 2018

Where are you working? Title?
I am working at Saitama Municipal Omiya Kita High School, a public high school, in Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan. I am an Assistant Language Teacher teaching English to Japanese high school students through the Japanese Exchange Teaching (JET) Program.

How did you get your job?
This job is offered through the JET Program, which is a program that, through the collaboration of international government entities and the Japanese government, allows qualified candidates to live in Japan and work in schools or government offices. Beyond teaching, JET Program participants are tasked with engaging in cultural exchange with those around them to promote and foster a global mindset amongst Japanese natives. Every year, the application opens up for new applicants to enter the program. Thousands of people from all over the world apply and go through an extensive, highly selective screening process. I applied to the program last year and was selected as a final candidate out of 48 in Florida.

What was your greatest fear going into your first job and how did you face it or overcome it?
My greatest fear was my relationship with my co-workers because I would be working in a different country with people who spoke a different language. I overcame this fear when I decided to have an open mind and a positive attitude. It was surprising to see how open and welcoming the people were.

What surprised you the most about your first job?
What surprised me the most was the difference between the educational systems and the amount of guidance, support and training that I was offered which considerably helped me ease into my job. Every JET Program participant goes through a three-day training that covers almost every aspect of the job and provides countless resources for helping make our transitions be as smooth as possible. Once we arrive at our placements, we attend a few orientations and conferences, where we are given specific guidance on how to navigate our new lives there. Coming from the U.S., which has a low-context culture, I figured it might be difficult to understand the many unsaid nuances of Japanese culture, even with having had already been here, and the education system, which is mostly new to me. Luckily, with the help of my coworkers, I was able to navigate everything relatively easily.

What advice do you have for those beginning the job search process?
My advice is to first narrow down the type of jobs you are interested in and then search extensively for opportunities, even outside your comfort zone, that would lead you to the career you have chosen for your future. Sometimes it takes longer than what you expect, but even then, don’t give up on your dreams. They can actually come true. I prepared for this job for four years and was not discouraged by the prospect of a tough competition or a long process.

What does a day on the job look like?
I have a schedule for the month, where I am assigned certain classes to co-teach with a Japanese Teacher of English (JTE). When I am not teaching, I am preparing lessons and activities, managing the English Club at the school, and generally helping other teachers in the school.

How does your job connect back to your coursework?
I studied chemistry, marketing and Japanese at FIU. Having studied Japanese has definitely played an essential role in my daily life. My school has been designated as a Super Science High School by the city’s Board of Education. This means that the focus of the school is on a science curriculum. I am currently co-teaching a science workshop to teach students how to conduct and present science experiments in English. My chemistry degree has been instrumental in helping me teach this workshop. Lastly, I am using what I learned through my Minor in Social Media and E-Marketing Analytics to spread the word about the JET Program through my social media and share my adventures with people across the world.

How has your transition from school to work been? How do you balance your time?
My transition was intense because my daily schedule and responsibilities changed from being in university, where I was just accustomed to attending classes. Now I had a job where I was required to do things differently with every class and be ready for unexpected requests from teachers and administrators in the school. This, on top of the fact that I was in a foreign country speaking a completely different language, was a big challenge.

I decided, in order to balance my time, it worked best to have a couple of friends from or close to work that I can unwind with after those long days. Every day I assess my needs and plan out my free time. I try to never feel obligated to do anything after work, because I prioritize my mental and physical health over any other needs.

What’s been the coolest thing about your job so far?
The coolest thing I’ve found so far is part of my job is to connect with the people around me and have cultural exchanges. It’s as easy as talking about my life back home or asking them about how they live theirs. As humans, we are naturally curious creatures, so this part of the job is probably the most fulfilling — and definitely the coolest.

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