If you could give one piece of advice to yourself before you came to Saga, what would it be?
- Bring a Costco pack of deodorant and save snacks from home for days when you’re homesick. Imari ALT, 2016 to present
- Get ready for your world to be turned upside down in the most wonderful ways possible. Time passes by faster than you expect, so make sure you do all the stuff you want to do when the opportunity presents itself! Arita Town ALT 2013-now.
- Hang in there, it’s gonna be a great experience. Karatsu City ALT 2011-2014.
- Don’t stress about work so much. Due to the fact that I didn’t have a ton of communication with my predecessor before I came, I was full of anxiety about what would be expected from me on day one, and all of the skills and abilities I would be expected to have and perform outright. Granted, a sense of urgency to adapt and learn has certainly been a driving force in progress and advancement but it brought with it a ton of stress that I would have been happy to avoid. Everyone understands that adjusting takes time. Its more than just a new job because it’s a new job plus a new country and feeling that you have to be 100% ready to go from day one is unrealistic. Saga City CIR 2011-2014.
- Listen to people when they tell you that you don’t need to bring any lesson-related items or resources. Bringing regalia from your home country is great, but wait until you get to Japan to print out all your pictures and laminate them, because you will be able to make them larger here, and for free. Shiroishi ALT 2009-2014.
- Try as many different new experiences as possible. Omachi ALT 2012-2014.
- Don’t worry it will all work out – friends will be made easily, almost everything you need want/need can be found, everyone is willing to help you, the Japanese will come and in the meantime everyone will be willing to help. Saga City ALT 2011-2014.
- Bring more comfortable and workplace-appropriate shoes. Plan on buying an iPhone right away because it will be more useful than any other belonging. Saga City CIR 2012-2014.
- It’s okay to say “no” or not do everything in your first year. Saga City ALT 2010-2014.
Any other comments or advice?
- Learn Saga-ben (the local dialect) from your coworkers at enkai (drinking parties). It’s useful and a great conversation starter. Imari ALT, 2016 to present
- Come prepared to embrace the unfamiliar and learn a lot about yourself in variety of situations. You`re not here to change the way Japan teaches English, but rather to provide your students with a positive experience that will in turn help them, hopefully, become more interested in different cultures and languages. Arita Town ALT 2013-now.
- Driving in Japan isn’t the cheapest thing in the world (it’s still not as bad as a lot of people assume), but Saga’s a very rural area and it really opens up a lot of possibilities. It doesn’t make sense for everyone, but if you like being social, or exploring the countryside, I highly recommend it. Karatsu City ALT 2011-2014.
- If you’ve never had a driver’s license, you can still get a Japanese 50cc scooter license pretty easily. Karatsu City ALT 2011-2014.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help, at or outside of work. As JET’s, you have access to a great network of people who can help you out, and what may seem like an intractable situation to you might in fact be able to be fixed with a few words from the right people. Karatsu City ALT 2011-2014.
- If you don’t feel comfortable discussing a situation with colleagues at your school, you can try contacting other ALT’s in your area or at the same BOE, your DRs, the PAs, or the JETLine. It’s very likely they know somebody who has been in a similar (or worse!) situation and can offer you some useful advice, or give you an idea of who could better help with your specific situation. Karatsu City ALT 2011-2014.
- I’d consider myself a pretty self-reliant person, but have consulted with all of the above (and then some) during my three years here about matters both relating to work and just general stuff about living in Japan. It’s helped me maintain a good quality of life while here and helped influence my decision to re-contract two times; I probably would have only stayed one year had I not had access to those resources to help me out. Karatsu City ALT 2011-2014.
- Go to Sushiro (kaiten sushi) and drive-in ippei (katsu curry), try gabai inoshishi (wild boar) and Gyouza kaikan (Gyouza). Saga City ALT 2010-2014.
- When studying a foreign language, one method I recommend is watching a movie/TV show in the target language with subtitles also in the target language. You will find that you’ll pick up whole phrases instead of just random vocabulary and you’ll know what situations it’s appropriate to use in. Saga City ALT 2012-2014.
- The 4-pack** of express-train tickets Hakata – Saga is a good deal (you can purchase them from the ticket machines at either station) and you’ll probably manage two roundtrips in the 2 months it takes for them to expire. Saga City ALT 2012-2014.
(**The four-pack has been discontinued, but two-packs are still available and are a pretty reasonable price.)
- Drink plenty of water, especially when you first arrive in summer, and take time out if you need it; it’s OK to feel exhausted because it’s a tough transition and people don’t expect you to be perfect at your job or well-adjusted to the climate right off the bat. Shiroishi ALT 2009-2014.
- Find something that picks you up when you’re feeling down. Culture shock is real and it will happen to you. Whether it’s talking to friends and family via Skype, going on a shopping binge, exploring, staying in, going out, or whatever, find something that you can fall back on when you experience frustration and stress. For me its going to the movies. Going to see a movie at a theater by myself was something I never did before I came to Japan. The idea of going to see a movie by myself always seemed like something better done with a friend, but since coming to Japan I have gone to see a TON of movies and they always pick me up. It’s a great way to feel like you’re back home and nice to be able to laugh at jokes you know don’t properly translate into Japanese. Perfect example is the Rock in Fast and Furious 6 saying “Stay the Fuck out of my way” translated into Japanese as basically “don’t be an obstacle” LOL. Saga City CIR 2011-2014.
- Be open to new viewpoints and do your best to come out of your shell. That being said, be careful to not burn yourself out your first two years. Saga City ALT 2010-2014.
- Saga is the best prefecture! I know everyone says that, but our close-knit community of JETs and friends are supportive, active (almost never a free weekend), interesting, helpful, and entertaining. There are so many opportunities to do things and meet people – not everything will meet your interests but getting out and spending time with all these amazing people is something you shouldn’t pass up on. You really are lucky to be in Saga! Enjoy your time here. Saga City ALT 2011-2014.
- Tell lots of people about your plans and ideas. You will be far more successful in gaining approval and support in realizing them if people feel like you’ve trusted them enough to bounce ideas off of them before moving to action. (This process is called “nemawashi” in Japanese — literally, “digging around the root of a tree before transplanting”) Also, you never know who will be able to offer you valuable information or introduce you to someone else with an “in”. Saga City CIR 2012-2014.
- Saga has a wonderfully active JET community, which means you will basically be adopted in to a family of close friends right off the bat. There is always something going on and there are so many great experiences to share! That also means that it’s easy to over-schedule, though, so try to “schedule in” days off so that you have time to yourself to rest and reflect, especially if you are an introverted person who needs alone time to recharge. Saga City CIR 2012-2014.
- Still learning your kids names? Need some way to call on students when you can’t quite remember their names? Pick up a small plush toy or something soft and throwable that you can toss to the students when you want them to answer a question. I personally use Koosh balls and Angry Birds toys and my kids love them. As a bonus, the kids want to play with them before class, so they have to ask me for them in English. I had some kids who hate English who are rockstars at making polite requests now. Shiroishi ALT 2009-2014.