The new 2015 JETs are already settling into their new positions in Japan. Before they left, we asked one of them, Mr. Travis Richardson, a few questions about himself and his (pre-departure) thoughts about JET, teaching, and life in Japan!
Name: Travis. Formally I’m Travis Richardson. Legally I’m Travis Edward Richardson
Nicknames: There are those who call me Trav, Travvy, and Travers. The local hip-hop circles know me as T-Ravin’ McRi¢hie Ri¢h
JET Placement: I have been selected to be an ALT, and soon I’ll be teaching in and gallivanting about Taka-cho, Hyōgo-ken, Japan.
Where I’m from: I’m from a small, Southern town in Georgia called Peachtree City. It’s as quaint as it sounds.
What I studied and where: I recently (as of May 2015) graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with a degree in Linguistics with a concentration in Language Acquisition.
What I’ve been up to lately: Since graduation I have been working back in Georgia for a local non-profit as their Director of Communications. In my downtime, I’ve been brushing up on my Japanese, planning (what I hope will be) engaging lessons and English Club activities, and figuring out how I’m going to pack the myriad of omiyage I’ve bought.
What first sparked your interest in Japan and/or teaching?
Ever since elementary school, I’ve known that I wanted to pursue teaching. I am in love with learning, and I get all giddy when I learn a new interesting fact. More importantly, however, I feel such a sense of fulfillment when I disseminate the knowledge that I’ve gained. Simply learning about the world around me, from languages to biology to differing viewpoints on religion, has molded me into the person I am today, and I like sharing what I have learned with others.
After JET, I plan on entering seminary to become a Catholic Jesuit priest. The Jesuits are considered to be the teaching order of the Church and have founded educational institutions all over the world – including Sophia University in Tokyo and my alma mater, Georgetown. I view teaching, therefore, as more than just a unidirectional flow of knowledge from teacher to pupil. Education in my view is providing students with the tools they need to become their most authentic selves. It is a dialogue through which teacher and student collaborate together in order to obtain a better understanding of the universe around them. I want my classes to be fun and rewarding safe haven where mistakes are allowed while simultaneously challenging the abilities and the comfort zones of my students to express their own ideas in a foreign language.
In order to become a Jesuit, one must be debt free. And since Georgetown had no problem with taking money, I ended up with lots of school debt. I knew that I needed to work after college to pay back my loans, and I wanted teaching and foreign languages to play some part in my future work aspirations. Originally, I wanted to go back to Russia (where I had lived previously) to teach English. But one day Georgetown offered a career fair, and I attended (albeit mostly to placate my mother). I envisioned it being full of fortune 500 companies and big banks looking to entice more hapless college students into joining the rank-and-file of menial drudgery with lofty promises of future financial gain…and the presence of such companies there certainly wasn’t lacking. I casually strolled pasts the stalls of Deloitte and Goldman Sachs and other organizations I had no interest in. And then, in an almost magical moment, the crowds of suited, eager to please college students parted and the florescent lights of the ballroom ceiling seemed to concentrate their luminosity on the figure of Yui Itokawa and her “Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program” poster board. She was the first and only person I talked to at the fair, and before she had finished explaining JET, she had convinced me to give it a shot.
What are you most nervous about?
I have minor trepidation surrounding the possibility of culture clash with my students and co-teachers. I can be loud; I spontaneously break into song and dance; I gesticulate and move around a lot as I speak. Yeah, I’m that guy who goes in for the hug when I first meet someone and cracks a joke in the most inappropriate of moments. Needless to say, I’m afraid of how I will (or will not) fit in to Japan’s culture where emphasis is placed on deference, respect, fastidiousness, and knowing one’s place. I certainly don’t want my personality have any adverse effect on how my students learn English. So here’s the conundrum I’m going to have to sort out once I’m in Japan: How do I express my personality openly while still respecting the cultural norms and decorum of my new home?
Place you’re most looking forward to visiting while on JET:
It’s so difficult to narrow that down to one location. So I’ll give you a list. Haha.
I want to visit Hiroshima and learn about what the American sentiment is there considering past events being what they are. I also want to visit Nagasaki for many of the same reasons, but also to see what role Christianity plays in the lives of the citizens there. I’d love to see Tōdaiji Temple and the sacred deer of Nara. I love the cold, so I want to visit my other ALT friend stationed in Hokkaido. Sometime during my sojourn in Japan I would like to make a pilgrimage to Yuzuwadai convent near Akita to see where Japan’s Marian apparition took place. And finally, Tokyo Disneyland is an absolute must.
I’ve already seen photos of my apartment and I know I’ll have to change…
Well, actually I haven’t seen photos of my new home. However, my predecessor told me that he hated gardening and sprayed the front yard with so much weed killer that probably nothing will be able to grow there ever again. If that’s the case, then I’d be interested in transforming the barren land into a Japanese-style rock garden.