John Newton ’19 (Wilkesboro, North Carolina) was recently accepted into the Japan Exchange Teaching program (JET), a competitive employment opportunity that allows young professionals to live and work in cities, towns and villages throughout Japan.
The program gives individuals an opportunity to work and represent the U.S. as cultural ambassadors to Japan. Most participants serve as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) and work in public and private schools throughout the country; some serve as Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs) as interpreters and translators.
JET is extremely competitive, as it typically receives nearly 5,000 applications each year, and of those, nearly 1,000 will be selected to participate in the program.
Newton will be an ALT and will assist English teachers at various schools in Japan, while also representing the U.S. as a cultural ambassador.
“It’s pretty much my dream job,” he said.
During the fall and CentreTerm of his junior year, Newton studied abroad in Yamaguchi, Japan, which he claims to be one of the best and most influential periods of his life.
“Between studying Japanese, making friends from all over the world and feeling like every day was an adventure, it was an experience that completely changed the trajectory of my life,” he added. “Honestly, I’m indebted to Centre for providing that experience for me. It couldn’t have been better.”
It was Newton’s time in Japan that led him to apply for the JET program.
“John was very proactive and had a clear idea of why he might be a good candidate for the program,” said Robert Schalkoff, director of the Lincoln Scholars Program and coordinator of advising for post-baccalaureate scholarships and fellowships. “His experiences in Japan and Yamaguchi, in particular, had given him some practical experience working with children in Japanese schools.”
Schalkoff added that Centre’s program at Yamaguchi Prefectural University provides students, as well as exchange students from other countries, with opportunities to visit local schools and participate in English classes and other events that are a part of internationalization initiatives.
“John was a regular participant in these activities,” he continued. “He also had a host family in Yamaguchi. He really had a great experience with them, and they became his ‘family away from home.’ The sum of John’s experiences convinced him he wanted to go back to Japan. Also, while in Yamaguchi, John had met some JET participants, and the program seemed like a logical and natural step to him.”
During his time in Japan, Newton realized that he loved working with kids and enjoyed studying Japanese, and he knew this was what he wanted to do.
“Being in Japan revealed my passion for learning new languages, and I will forever be grateful for that,” Newton said. “I hope to provide this love of languages to my students, because living in Japan gave that to me.”
Schalkoff, a former faculty member at Yamaguchi Prefectural University, has taught over half of Centre’s JET participants during their time at Yamaguchi Prefectural University, in addition to writing countless recommendations for JET for students while in Japan. However, this was the first time he’s worked directly with an applicant on campus. He describes this as a satisfying experience to work in real-time with a very qualified applicant and to learn about the results of his hard work and his acceptance into the program directly from him.
“I would like to thank Mr. Schalkoff for all of his help with my application and being someone I can rely on throughout this process,” Newton concluded. “I really appreciate my recommenders Stephen Swan, assistant director of the Center for Global Citizenship, Amy Wilson, professor at Yamaguchi Prefectural University, for also helping me get this job and for their role in contributing to my college experience. I’d also like to thank Centre and Yamaguchi Prefectural University. Without these institutions, getting JET would not have been possible. Finally, I’d like to thank my family and host family for all of their help, support and love, which allowed me to have this opportunity.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
April 11, 2019