4 Surprising Lessons I’ve learned in Japan

Konnichiwa from Japan!

I am a TTS ’14 alum (shout out to my Red Dirt Divas!) and after attending college and grad school in Virginia, my next step took me to Gunma, Japan to teach English with the JET Program! Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the past few months in this wonderful country:

Sarah and fellow teacher experiencing new culture in Japan.

Sarah and fellow teacher experiencing new culture in Japan.

  1. You’ll never be fully prepared, and that’s kinda the point!

As I was boarding the plane taking me to Tokyo, I looked over my completed “To Do” checklist to calm my nerves. However, every day here has been filled with surprises and challenges- but that’s what I came for! From discovering the wonders of Japanese vending machines to learning how to remove my shoes at the right times (fitting rooms, who knew?), I am growing in my understanding each day. Life here would be much less sparkly if I had a predetermined plan for everything!

  1. But as far as preparation goes, TTS prepared me better than grad school.

I draw on the skills I learned during my semester with TTS more than I draw on my teaching or study skills. TTS taught me to approach unfamiliar situations with a patient and open heart. TTS showed me how to make meaningful connections with people who are different from me. TTS helped me refine my attitude and perspective in daily life. These are the skills that I have found truly make a difference.

  1. Just try!

In my Japanese schools, teachers emphasize the effort, rather than the win or the loss. This has certainly applied to my cultural adjustment here! Even though I don’t speak Japanese, my co-workers always support me whenever I try during lunch. Even though it is uncomfortable for me to go to a public bathhouse (no swim suits allowed, only birthday suits!), I still gave it a shot, and it wasn’t as strange as I expected! If I only did the things I already knew how to do, then I would have wasted a trip across the world. We’re here to grow, and the only way is through the unfamiliar… and sometimes nude.

  1. Overlaps and commonalities are everywhere.

Kyoto Skyline

Kyoto Skyline

Not everything is unfamiliar! Thank goodness for universal things like Nutella, smart phone dictionary apps, and kindness. While I don’t spend all day labeling things as ‘’same’’ and ‘’different’’, it is comforting and stabilizing to find those things I know well. Sometimes it’s in a grocery store, sometimes it’s in a joke that a student tells me, and sometimes it’s the voices of my family and friends on the phone. These things help me get through the sticky patches!

Thank you for listening! If you have any questions, want to catch up, or want a postcard from Japan, please email me.


Sarah Gaspari, TTS ’14

By | 2017-10-19T12:53:40-06:00 October 7th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Leave A Comment