Yikes!! Four Months and Counting

Yikes Face!

Do you know what day it is? It’s October 26th, 2010. Why is this a special day? Why is the title of this article so weird? Well, today…I have exactly four months until I leave my current job with a private, English language school (I’ll tell you which one after I complete my contract). How do I feel right now? Well, I have a crazy mix of emotions right now. There are days where I question whether or not I’m making the right decision. I think about how many teachers before me have already gone back to the US to be with family and friends. I am nervous because there are so many things I have to do before the job ends: secure the next job, make sure I have the key money for an apartment, possibly have to find a guarantor for my housing contract, make sure my VISA is up to date, and the list goes on. I’m excited because this means I can finally have a chance to do the things in Japan that I’ve put off for years because of my job: training more often in karate/martial arts, doing more modeling jobs, taking Japanese classes, and having my Saturdays all to myself.

Why have I decided to leave the comfort of a steady-paying Eikaiwa job? Well, I don’t know if you have heard of the major language schools but they are GEOS, AEON, NOVA, ECC (Education through Communication for the Community) and Berlitz. I have been with my current company for the last two years and nine months…and truth be told, it’s been an AWESOME job. I consider myself lucky to have chosen one of the companies that hasn’t tanked. Within the last three-and-a-half years there have been two major events that have shaken the Japanese, private English education industry to its core. Nova, which was the largest of all the schools, filed for bankruptcy in October of 2007 (I actually had an interview scheduled with the company around the same time!!). This really tarnished the image of Eikaiwa system, as the bankruptcy was due in large part to financial mismanagement.

April 2010, another industry-shocker happened when GEOS, another major players in the English conversation industry, filed for bankruptcy. Even before GEOS, Nova was enough to make me do a reality check. I had heard rumors about AEON’s stability, because of an outflux of trainers (a high-level position in the company) in 2009. I won’t say I’m the best at spotting trends (despite having been a business major), but any time higher positions within a company make a mass exodus, it’s a pretty good indicator that something may be going on. I also remember reading about AEON management depositing 50% of student’s initial tuition fees into a trust to provide refunds “in case” they weren’t able to continue day-to-day operations. This could be either a very responsible move on AEON’s part, or a way to prepare for the inevitable…it’s hard for me to say because I’m not a member of the company’s accounting department. Strangely enough, I haven’t heard much about problems at Berlitz though, aside from the fact that it has lost a noticeable share of it’s business to the “Big Four” Eikawas (NOVA, AEON, ECC, and GEOS) over the last few years.

So all of that being said, one major reason that I decided to change to the Japanese public school system was because I know the public school system isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It doesn’t get much more stable than public school. I am actually willing to take the small salary cut now, because I can’t tell exactly what’s going to happen with any of the remaining Eikaiwas. The second reason I’ve decided to leave was to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself in Japan (actually learning to speak the language well, get another black belt in karate…). The third reason is that getting days off at my Eikaiwa can be a bit of a hassle, you have to request approval for your days off. I never quite understood that. If the company tells me I get this many days off, why can’t I take them whenever I want? But the benefits of my Eikaiwa far outweigh this one minor thing. What else? Well, I will have a chance to do more traveling around Japan, and (if funds allow) see my family more often. Lastly, I’ll have an opportunity to be more self-sufficient. Being at a private language school isn’t conducive to me learning to handle my own problems in Japan. When I have any issue, I don’t use my own Japanese to fix it, I get one of the Japanese teachers at my school to handle things completely (a bit of a cop out if you ask me).

What have I done to get ready so far? I’ve managed to find some pretty cool, super-reasonable apartments nearby, some that don’t require guarantors or key money (SWEET!!!). I’ve also taken care of my plane ticket to visit home for a little while when the job ends. But securing the new job is priority one, and the hardest part for me, as most public schools start their application process in December. But I’m trying to be proactive and using what few connects I do have, and do my research, to see if I can start this process immediately. I honestly can’t believe it sometimes. My initial plan was to stay in Japan, get my head together, and then try to go to dental school in the United States. Fast forward three years…everyday I feel like I want to go back to school less and less (for Dentistry anyway). I’m just not ready to leave Japan just yet…I feel like there’s something I’m supposed to do first. I haven’t figured out exactly what that something is…but I feel it…and it’s close…

Until next time,

Donald Ash

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Donald Ash is an ATLien expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last six years. While in aforesaid time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator, writer, designer, editor, programmer, and occasional bad artist of thejapanguy.com blog (that's just way too many hats, dude). Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.
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