Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Next Great Adventure

When imagining college graduation, I think most people envision a triumphant walk across stage followed by a fortnight of partying before starting a fantastic, high-salary job. And that's almost exactly what I'm doing.

After surviving my way across stage in heels--not a great idea after three straight days of rain, I might add--I proceeded to mingle with friends and families, pack my bags and haul myself 18 hours by car back to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Now that I'm here, the wait until the next phase--a job teaching English in Japan with the Japanese Exchange & Teaching (JET) Program--seems interminable. I'm just biding my time until July 23. And since I'm sure that as incoming freshman you're all wondering just what you can expect after four years of strenuous mind-labor, I'll give you a brief picture of just what the next year looks like for me.*

See that hot pink lump? That's where I'm headed; a seaside town in the west of central Japan called Kahoku. Its population is about 35k, it doesn't get above 90F or below 20F, it's one of the rainiest parts of Japan and it's about 45 minutes by train from the "Little Kyoto" of Japan (Kanazawa). The finger-peninsula you see sticking out there is called the Noto Peninsula, home to... some exciting things that I've yet to discover.

But what's so great about this tiny chunk of land dangling off an island in Asia? The experience (and the salary). I'm embarking on at least one year of teaching in middle and elementary schools, improving my Japanese, (re)learning calligraphy and saving up money for graduate school.

I'll be making ¥3,600,000 (~$40k if the exchange rate stays the way it is) to create language games, encourage students to improve their English and improve my own intercultural skills. Basically, $40k to enjoy the bejeezus out of life before settling back into the academic life (I'll be going for a PhD in Linguistics).

Am I terrified? Yes. Have I read the 200-page handbook twice to try to quell my fears? Almost; I'm on my second reading now. But this is just the kind of thing that Mac prepared me for. In fact, at least seven Mac seniors applied to the JET Program this year--only three were Japanese majors--and I know three applicants to the Peace Corps, two Fulbright teaching assistants and then there's everyone else taking the next step towards a med/law/grad degree across the country (New York, California, Colorado) and world (England comes to mind).

Whether your goal is to make it big right out of Mac, to head to grad/professional school or to take some time figuring things out, you'll be ready for it, especially after the fortnight of post-graduation partying.

*Results not typical after conferral of a Macalester degree.