Written by Riley Hutchings
Three senior Colorado College students have been selected to work in Japan as assistant language teachers in schools by The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, JET. Emma Schulman, Carlo Sangalang, and Amanda Barnstein are the three CC students who will live and teach in Japan. The program starts this summer and lasts for at least a year, with the goal of exposing American culture to Japanese students.
As of now, the three know little about what they will experience. “We have so many questions, and just none of them can get answered right now,” said Schulman. A lot of the JET program remains a mystery to its participants.
Sangalang and Barnstein studied abroad for a semester together in Japan, which sparked their interest in going back. However, Sangalang said, “It’s a little disheartening, but after about four years of studying Japanese, we have about the literacy of a third or fourth grader.” Schulman is a Spanish minor who only started learning Japanese these last two blocks. All three have experience teaching.
As the “exchange” in JET implies, much of the students’ work will be attempting to exchange cultural information with Japanese students. Schulman said, “Our pop culture displays a very one-sided America, and so we’re there to be professional and, you know, show Japanese students what Americans can be like.”
Sangalang hopes to share “cultural norms that they might find amusing,” like holidays. More generally, he said, “We have a responsibility to get a grasp of both how we should be acting in a culture that’s different from ours, but also maintaining and upholding whatever culture we have and we stand for.” Sangalang’s goal is to act how he hopes to be perceived, as opposed to what is expected of him as an American.
Barnstein sees the three of them more as embodiments of American culture, with the idea that the students will pick up on the cultural differences just by their presence.
Through their study abroad experiences, Barnstein and Sangalang have started to pick up on some differences between American and Japanese culture. For starters, Sangalang said, “People are usually very to themselves, private, and just more reclusive than you’d find in the U.S.” Barnstein has especially noticed the ‘in-group’ culture Japan has, as opposed to the American individuality. Schulman has no idea what to expect.
Though all three students are excited for the opportunity, each student has their fears. Among the most prevalent concerns are loneliness, changing perspectives of Japan, and money. Schulman said, “I’m just freaking out in general.”