Wheels Down: Arriving as an ALT in Japan for the First Time

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It’s been a long flight and you’re feeling exhausted and nervous. With your whole life packed into two suitcases, it’s now time to get settled and prepare to begin your new journey as an ALT in Japan. Although the transition into this new phase of your life might seem daunting at first, with the help of your new company, a willingness to learn and the enthusiasm to enter — you’ll be ready to begin teaching in no time.

You may be wondering things like: how many schools will I be working at? What will I do about housing? What about company training before the school term begins? In this next installment of our A Little Training for ALTs, we’ll provide you with some answers to these sorts of questions that may arise when getting your life as an ALT started.

Pre-departure

Before you leave your home country, it is important to check any last minute emails that your company may have sent you in regard to your itinerary and meeting times once you have arrived in Japan. Make note of necessary contact information that you will need to have on you in the case of an emergency. Be sure to double-check the day and time of your arrival. Double-check all of the required documents that you may need to bring with you. Also, put together a list of personal contacts and professional references from back home. Try to get plenty of sleep the night before to ensure that you are well rested and ready for the long journey.

Getting started

Once you have arrived in Japan, create a checklist of everything that needs to be taken care of before you start working.

  • Housing
    Make sure your company will have your housing situated before you arrive. If not, a hotel may be arranged for you until accommodation details are sorted out.
  • Company training
    Newly hired ALTs need to attend training sessions. Aside from company policies and procedures, these seminars will also equip you with information on how to make a good impression at your schools, how to be an effective ALT, and important things to keep in mind while living in Japan. Take as many notes as you can and ask plenty of questions. Veteran ALTs are a good source of information and can provide you with a great deal of knowledge about working as an assistant teacher and living in Japan.
  • Preparation
    Prepare as much as possible beforehand. Make sure you have proper business attire to wear to your school introductions. Practice your self-introduction in Japanese. Review any notes you took during the company training sessions.

Adjusting to life in Japan

Settling into daily life in Japan will take some time. Take your time with adjusting and don’t get too frustrated if you are having any difficulties at first.

  • Try to be open-minded
    This is a new environment that you are living in and it will make life much easier the more flexible you are. Be adventurous and try new things. Japan has a great diversity of food, drink and traditional festivities waiting for you to explore.
  • Make an attempt to learn some Japanese if you haven’t already
    This will help make your transition into the Japanese lifestyle smoother. Speaking even just a little Japanese can go a long way when communicating with your fellow teachers at school. Try to write things down and remember important phrases that will be useful to you in everyday life.

The transition from life in your home country to living in Japan for many may be a difficult one, but with your company can help make it an exciting start to a new chapter.

Your company wants you to be as comfortable and prepared as possible because the people there know this will be a very new experience for you. In your preparation, make sure that you address all questions and concerns you may have with them so they can answer you and help ease some of the stress.

Our next entry in the series will address the ALT training sessions. Get ready to learn the ins and outs of being an ALT and things you should ask while at your company’s training.

Text by Gustavo Magana. Gustavo Magana is an HR manager at RCS who handles recruiting, hiring, maintaining work culture, employee relations and conflict resolution.

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RCS (Real Communication Solutions) provides assistant language teachers to public elementary, middle and high schools, as well as English cram schools, daycare centers, kindergartens and other businesses.

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