Stories that Shaped Us: From Studying Abroad to Teaching Abroad
Dominique Digiacomo is an ISA Tokyo* alumna, a graduate student at Rowan University, and a ISA/TEAN Global Ambassador with big plans to teach English abroad in Japan through the JET Program.
We reached out to learn more about why she chose to go abroad with ISA Japan* and how this experience has impacted her plans to return abroad after graduation. Check out her story below and hear her tips for others wanting to follow a similar path!
*: ISA’s Asia and Pacific programs are operated by our partner division within WorldStrides, TEAN, who has over 25 years of experience in the region.
When did your passion for travel and exploring other cultures begin?
Ever since I was in middle school, I’ve had a passion for traveling and exploring other cultures, but it wasn’t until high school that my curiosity in Japan and Japanese culture began to grow, stemming from hanging out with my older brother. He was always playing Japanese video games or watching anime, which heightened my interest in Japan. I always loved listening to the Japanese language, and the expressions and sound of the language in general made me want to learn. Then, in freshman year of high school, I saw a video by Abroad In Japan that changed everything for me. It was a video in which he talked about his experience in the JET Program, a program where you get sent to Japan to teach English for one to five years. Seeing that video encouraged me to set my goals for the future – goals that I am finally close to achieving today.
What inspired you to study abroad in Tokyo, Japan?
I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a teacher, English was my favorite subject, and I had a huge interest in Japanese culture and learning the language. Keeping my goal of getting into the JET Program in mind, I decided to apply to Rowan University not only because of their great education program, but also because Rowan was an affordable school for me that made studying abroad possible. I knew that during my college career I had to study abroad in Japan so I could truly experience life there, immerse myself in the culture and language, and possibly get the opportunity to teach English while I was there. Luckily, I was able to achieve all of these!
What did you learn about yourself through these experiences and how did your time abroad impact your understanding of the world?
During my time in Japan, I truly got to grow as a person and learn how to live independently without the support of my family being right around the corner. I also learned how to be myself around others and that people enjoy hanging out with me when I’m myself! Growing up I have always had self-confidence issues, but my time abroad helped me to feel comfortable with myself and it really gave me time to work on myself and my worldviews along with my new friends from all over the world. Meeting people from all over the world gave me new perspectives on life and helped me to see that even though we all come from different backgrounds and life experiences, we are all able to connect and make memories with each other. Even when there is a language barrier, I’ve learned that connections with others can be made with laughter alone.
How did your time abroad influence your professional development and your current career goals?
My time abroad helped me to develop as a professional in my field and confirmed my career goals. While abroad, I had the opportunity to work for JF Oberlin University’s Brown Bag Café as a Café Master along with other international students. Our job was to help teach English to any of the Japanese university students that walked through our doors! We would edit essays, practice casual conversation, play games, and simply just hang out with whoever came through the doors in English. It was this job opportunity that confirmed for me that my passion is teaching English. No matter how tired I was from a day of classes and cramming down Japanese vocabulary before a quiz, I always left the Brown Bag Café with a smile on my face. Teaching English and helping students to break down the language barrier was honestly one of the best feelings in the world and I was confident after my time abroad that it is something I wish to do for the rest of my life.
Any tips or advice for students interested in teaching English abroad in Japan?
Though I am not teaching English in Japan yet, I have recently passed through the first round of the JET Program application process and am currently waiting for a final interview that will determine if I get into the program! If there are any students reading this that wish to teach English in Japan in the future like myself, here are some tips:
- Try getting some experience in the field to make sure teaching English is the right job for you. I recommend a company I currently work for called EigoX! It is a Japanese company that hires foreigners to teach English to Japanese students of all ages online and is a completely virtual position that you can form around your own schedule. They are always looking to hire more tutors, so definitely check it out!
- I also recommend looking into getting a TEFL/TESOL certification online. This will help you to really stand out in an application and shows your dedication to wanting to teach English as a second language.
- If you are able, try getting to Japan and learning some Japanese! While knowing Japanese isn’t a requirement, it’ll help your application stand out and you will feel more comfortable being able to talk and relate to your Japanese co-workers. I know there are many people like me who can’t wait to get back to Japan so hopefully we are all able to travel again soon! Until then, practice that Japanese and do what you can to make your future application stand out.
Inspired by Dominique’s journey and want to discover your own while immersing yourself in a study abroad program? Fill out your details below to let our team know and we’ll help you find your adventure today!