|Alumna blazes trails in JET Programme
RELEASED: Aug. 21, 2003
DANVILLE, KYJoannah Peterson '00 of Glasgow, Ky., spent two years in Sendai, Japan, officially to teach Japanese students English, but she taught her students, and many other people, much more.
Peterson not only exposed her students to English and the American culture but also introduced them to issues surrounding handicap accessibility. Peterson has been using a wheelchair since she was 14 and was the first JET Programme participant to do so.
Peterson went to Japan in 2000, after receiving her bachelor's degree in psychology, as part of the Japanese Exchange Teaching (JET) Programme. JET works to develop an understanding and build relationships between the people of other nations and the people of Japan, especially youth. Peterson spent her two years in a Japanese classroom assisting an English teacher.
"Becoming integrated in the society is the best way to learn Japanese," Peterson said.
Peterson's first year in Japan was spent not only learning Japanese, but also learning a new way to speak her own native tongue, eliminating slang and other regional adaptations.
"At first it was nerve racking, but by the end of the two years it was easier," Peterson said. "I liked teaching a second language. You can talk to and make friends with so many more people."
"Disabled students go to different schools in Japan," Peterson said. "This creates a barrier. People in wheelchairs haven't had as rigorous an academic upbringing. People don't hold the same expectations."
During her second year Peterson began speaking at other schools in the area, sharing the American viewpoint on accessibility. Also, groups of students with disabilities came to see her and wanted to know how she got around the way she did.
"I hope I helped change the stereotype a little bit," she said. "I got around by myself a lot. I hope that I made a small change."
Her advice for those interested in the JET Programme: "Do itthis is a great opportunity. You'll come back a more well-rounded person."
Peterson has been back in the U.S. for a year and plans to start graduate school at Indiana University in Bloomington in the fall. She wants to study Japanese and become a college professor.
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