January 24, 2022
When Emily Eck ’20 finally arrived in Japan in September after a yearlong pandemic-related delay, she embraced her role as an assistant language teacher with the JET (Japan Exchange Teaching) program, saying her interactions with her students have been the highlight of her experience so far.
“In less than two months I have already judged English speech contests, prepared and judged students on debates in English and aided with the drama team who won first prize on their English performance while competing with other schools in the prefecture,” Eck said. “While each of those are rewarding, especially when the students get the satisfaction of scoring highly, simple interactions with the students are in many ways the best part.”
The JET Program is a competitive employment opportunity that allows young professionals to live and work in Japan. Most participants, like Eck, serve as assistant language teachers in public and private schools. Eck sought out the JET program as an avenue to learn about different cultures and explore new places. She credits her double majors in history and political science, as well as the semester she spent abroad in New Zealand through Susquehanna’s Global Opportunities program, with preparing to pursue her career goals overseas.
“Both majors accustomed me to studying aspects of different cultures and countries’ institutions. I believe it has helped me more easily take unexpected events in stride when they differ from my expectation of practices back home,” Eck said. “Furthermore, my history degree presented me with the opportunity to study almost any point in history for my capstone. I chose a period of Japanese history that I began knowing nothing about. It allowed me to form a base understanding and build from there.”
While she doesn’t have a “concrete path” forward after her position ends in August, she is weighing a few options, each of which she said are open to her because of her participation in the JET program. Eck is considering staying in Japan as an ALT or becoming an English teacher in a new country, seeking a career on an English-adjacent path ranging from professional editing positions to archival work or pursuing a master’s degree.
“Any of these options will be supported by my JET experience in teaching and adapting to a new country and way of life,” Eck said.