Q&A with Teresa Sakai, assistant language teacher
Posted April 21, 2011 at 10:31 pm in News
Teresa Sakai, who majored in social sciences and English, is an assistant language teacher for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme in Hokkaido, Japan. She graduated from USC last May. The Daily Trojan spoke with Sakai about her work.
Daily Trojan: What does your job entail?
Teresa Sakai: My job ranges from visiting elementary schools to implement the English program there to visiting junior high schools and team teaching with a Japanese English teacher to holding my own English class for adults and children. Thatâs just my experience, but every situation is different depending on what the needs of the town are and how many schools there are in the town.
DT: How did your education at USC help you in your career?
Sakai: As an English major I can present myself with a professional air and I can see where certain mistakes are being made in the language with the students that are practicing.
DT: How did you end up teaching in Japan?
Sakai: I was going through the career fair last fall at USC. I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I wanted to get some experience before going to grad school. I was basically looking for anything teaching-related because I know itâs difficult to get an actual education job without higher education and I saw the booth for the JET program âŠ It seemed like a great opportunity because I love to travel and I really wanted to just try and get some experience.
DT: What has been on the biggest adjustment living in Japan?
Sakai: Obviously, itâs a whole different country with different customs, and a whole language Iâve never studied before. In order to apply for the JET program, knowing Japanese is not a requirement … I can communicate a lot easier than I could when I first got here âŠ All the people around me, their English has improved through talking with me and my Japanese has improved through talking with them so mutually weâve just been helping each other learn a lot.
DT: How were you affected by the recent natural disasters?
Sakai: Of course everybody in Japan has been affected. My island is north of everything thatâs been going on and my town is on the south coast so we felt the earthquake at a three or four magnitude. Earthquakes happen here all the time so at first it didnât seem like a huge deal until we saw the news coverage of what was going on. And since my town is coastal we had some damage â the water levels near the harbor rose three meters, which resulted in a lot of flooding. But no one was hurt, which is really great … Also my area does not have the rolling blackouts … I visited Tokyo two weeks ago when my parents came to visit and life is going on as usual. The perseverance of the Japanese people is really amazing.
DT: In your experience what are some of the greatest cultural differences between Japan and Southern California?
Sakai: All the students in Japan from junior high to older wear uniforms to school, and I grew up in Southern California so this threw me off at first. Also, the school system is a little different. Instead of the students going form classroom to classroom and the teacher staying put, the students stay in home room, and the teachers move from classroom to classroom. And you find with in the Japanese language you address people based on their seniority. Thereâs a very high level of respect for people that may be your superiors and you express it.
DT: What is one of your greatest college memories?
Sakai: I just love the football atmosphere. Thatâs been really hard for me to miss out on. Iâve been going to âSC football games since I was in high school. So fall and autumn to me means football season. Just everyone wearing their school colors and supporting the school no matter what, I really miss the school pride. You can bet Iâm always wearing my cardinal and gold on what would be game day and now my students know a little bit about American football.