Chelsey Beal ’11 receives prestigious JET position
On July 30, Chelsey Beal ’11 will wing her way across the globe as one of the newest group of young graduates participating in the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET).
Now in its 24th year, this competitive program is aimed at promoting grassroots international exchange between Japan and other nations. Participants from more than 40 countries are placed with local government organizations throughout Japan, including large cities, small to medium-sized towns and rural farming and fishing villages.
Participants are assigned to be either assistant language teachers (ALTs) who provide language instruction in elementary, junior and senior high schools; coordinators for international relations (CIRs), who work in communities on international exchange activities; or sports exchange advisors (SEAs), who promote international exchange through sports.
Beal, who earned degrees in mathematics and Spanish, will spend at least one year as an ALT in Nagahama City in the Shiga prefecture. After completing a year-long commitment, many JET participants opt to spend one or two additional years.
“I decided to apply after Deb Jones [director of career services] brought it up to me at a meeting,” Beal says. “I knew a little about the program because Beth Neal ’10 had applied and was accepted—she was in my Spanish class and we had talked about it. I talked to sensei [Fumie Bouvier, visiting instructor of Japanese] about it in class, and she said I should apply, that I would love it.
“My main interest stemmed from hosting Japanese exchange students in high school,” she continues. “When I looked into the program, I decided it would be something I would really enjoy. I became interested more in the culture through my Japanese classes.”
While JET participants primarily teach English and other languages in schools, they also serve as cultural ambassadors by immersing themselves in the life of the community to which they’re assigned. JET is prestigious, and the selection process is very competitive. The program requires neither teaching experience nor knowledge of Japanese (though a willingness to learn is obviously essential).
One of the first Centre alums chosen as an ASL for JET was in 2000—the same year the College began the Centre-in-Japan residential program at Yamaguchi Prefectural University in Yamaguchi. Over the past 11 years, Centre has sent four to eight students every fall to study and do internships in Yamaguchi.
Milton Reigelman, Cowan Professor of English and director of the Center for Global Citizenship, gives at least some of the credit for the success of Centre students’ acceptance into JET to the Centre-in-Japan program.
“Since the Centre-Yamaguchi Prefectural University began in 2000, the friendships our students have formed with YPU students have been remarkably strong—resulting, in at least one case, in marriage!” Reigelman says. “Our students who spend both fall and CentreTerm in Japan return with a deep appreciation of the language and culture; many return, either to see their Japanese friends or to teach in the JET program.
“The Centre-YPU exchange grows stronger each year,” Reigelman continues. “Two years ago we added a one-week faculty exchange, and last year we added a Japanese “student teaching assistant.”
Although Beal has never been to Japan, her understanding of the language and excitement about cultural immersion have her fully prepared for her JET experience.