Part eight in a series exploring my work history, revealing how I ended up working in a library. This post: I left Japan, but Japan didn’t leave me.
Returning home to the UK after three years in Japan was harder than expected. I felt like I had climbed a mountain, and after standing for a while at the summit to admire the wonderful view, I was now ready to smoothly, gracefully ski down the gentle snowy slopes on the other side. I had been warned about reverse culture shock, but that didn’t make it any easier. Back home, I found myself bowing to the bus driver after buying my ticket, my ears were overwhelmed by hearing all the English conversations everywhere, I couldn’t handle the enormous amount of choice in the supermarket, and struggled to catch up on the three years of popular culture that I had missed (I had never seen Big Brother, for example, and couldn’t understand why everyone kept talking about it). I missed Japan and my life there.
I was really happy, therefore, to get a job working for an Anglo-Japanese company, whose business was bringing Japanese students over to the UK to study English and to live with British host families. At the time, this really was my dream job, and I couldn’t quite believe my luck. My position had the title Programme Director, and I was responsible for designing English language courses, recruiting and managing English teachers, coordinating local host families, as well as planning social activities for students during their homestay programmes. I worked closely with a couple of Japanese and English colleagues, and liaised with our office in Japan.
The downside was that I was often stressed and had to work long hours during the homestay programmes when the students were actually in the UK. I was constantly trying to match the right student to the right host family, recruiting enough teachers, finding more host families, arranging transport for social activities, sorting out catering for students and staff, finding and booking teaching locations, and sometimes standing in if a teacher was off sick.
I found myself wanting to do more of the actual teaching, so I took a month out of the office to complete a CELTA course (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults). As a result of that, I was able to shift the focus of my job away from the host family side of things so I could concentrate more on teaching and developing English language courses. It was a great experience, and I stayed in the job for two years, but by the end I was burnt out. I had spent five years of my life either in Japan or working within Japanese culture, and I needed a change. What I learned from this experience: even dream jobs aren’t perfect.
Part nine to follow.