A Japan Guy Review: My First Year Teaching As An ALT In Japan (Part 2)

By Donnie | Articles

…read Part 1 of this article…

Wait, are you supposed to start with the bad news first? Damn it! Ah well, I won’t say anything if you don’t. Let’s take a look at some of the downsides of my first year as an ALT in Japan.

I’ll try to say these as tactfully as possible. They are my honest opinions, but I’m still working here.

I honestly felt that initial training wasn’t at organized or as effective as it could’ve been. I think I was okay because I AEON training was so incredibly thorough. But I would imagine that a person who was new to Japan could feel like they were in a bit of a whirlwind. There were teaching demonstrations, but I don’t think it was enough to make a person feel confident about walking into their first lesson. No disrespect.

UGH! This probably tops my list of the “not so good.” I was aware that I’d be taking a pay cut to change jobs. I sincerely thought that the time freedom would balance out the money, but it’s truly a tough call. I have more time to do things now, but with the pay being so much lower, I have to use my free time to try to earn more money, so it kind puts me back at square one. I’m sure people want to hear numbers so I’m cool with that. I went from making 310,000 /month in last AEON contract to making 240,000 with Interac. There was a slight pay increase for the second contract, but the deficit still to big to ignore, so it looks like I’ll be doing more side jobs.

The biggest issue I have is with health insurance. I really enjoyed having the National Public Health Insurance plan. Initially I thought everybody had to be covered by public health insurance, but there is a loophole with the number of hours you work that can allow a company to bypass this rule. It’s all fine and good until you have big expense to come up. I remember having to get a CT scan this year and I literally had to empty the remainder of my bank account just to pay for it. I was reimbursed, but that money comes like a month later.

Administrative Staff Changes
I didn’t like the fact that all three of the staff members who hired me, interviewed me and helped to get me started at Interac had all stopped by the end of my first year. I’m sure they had their reasons, but it really makes me a little uneasy. I can’t remember what business book I was reading, and I don’t know everything about Interac behind the scense, but isn’t it a bad sign for the company if there’s high management turnover?

I’m the only foreigner at my job
Deja vu, right? Yes this was on the good list, too. The negative side about being the only foreigner is that I really miss joking with my English-speaking co-workers, I miss people understanding exactly what I trying to say…every nuance of it.

Honestly, if I had to do it all over again, I would have waited for about six months longer to change jobs. Doing so would’ve given me more of a financial cushion. That’s been the biggest lesson. If I didn’t have to worry about that, that would take so much pressure off of me. However, me having those lean and hungry months from time to time has really done something to my head. It has become my mission to find out how to cure all of my financial woes for good!

All in all, I must say that the job I have is a great experience. It’s rare to have an opportunity like this, to be able to live and work in another country in a school where people know, like, and trust you. Is Interac perfect, not by any means. But, I know that no company is going to be perfect, so instead of griping, I’m going to continue to do the best I can to be a great teacher.

Donald Ash

About the Author

  • Reader says:

    ‘There were teaching demonstrations, but I don’t think it was enough to make a person feel confident about walking into their first lesson.’ This is exactly my observation! That is all training amounts to these days. Don’t know what’s happening with the company. Funny enough my branch thinks a couple of demonstrations by the same ALTs who are being trained is enough training. The ‘trainers offer no guidance after the demonstrations and everyone goes home the same way they came. Some not knowing if they are coming or going…phew.

  • Waltlanta says:

    Thanks for the post. Good candid feedback. Time vs. Money? Tough one, and something my wife and I struggle with eveyday. My philosophy, you can always strive to make more money, but time is fleeting, and when your time has run out, there isn’t a bank that will let you borrow any…even on interest. Question phrased differently: are you working to live? Or, are you living to work?

  • jon colvin says:

    I am curious about the health insurance, what happens if you suddenly become ill say with a heart attack, are you covered? Do you have to buy private health insurance?

  • McAlpine says:

    What’s a typical day like for you? what time do you start and finish? how about gross vs. income

  • Lysa Yang says:

    Hey, I’m a not-so-happy EPIK teacher (English teacher in South Korea), so I’ve been considering teaching in Japan. But I’ve noticed that you’ve done both the JET and AEON programs. Which one did you prefer better? I believe JET and EPIK are similar in that you work in a public school, with certain hours. As for AEON, I kind of pieced it together to be more of a private school program. (Still, I’m not sure and would love a clarification.) But because EPIK isn’t giving me the autonomy I want in the teaching field (I was a preschool teacher in Minnesota), I’m skeptical about JET. At the same time AEON sounds like a lot of work and advertising. But on the whole, which would you recommend to a fellow English teacher? Thanks! -Lysa

  • hawaii dude says:

    Hey Donnie, first time I’ve been to your site and I’m already finding your articles informative! Now I’m not sure how often you check older comments (or rather read long walls of text) but I’d appreciate it if I could get any feedback. Recently I applied to JET but didn’t get in and I’m currently looking for other options. I’ve noticed that Interac gets a lot of flack for what goes on behind the scenes and it makes me unsure if this is the company I want to work for. I’ve searched for other similar companies like Altia, Aeon, ECC, Berlitz, etc., but I’m not quite sure what I should do. I really like teaching but it’s not something I have much experience of (I taught swimming/surf lessons to kids and teens for about 4 years and took a few classes in college). What I guess I’m trying to ask is what would you do in my position? Interac suggest initially bringing around $5,000 which is something I don’t currently have but could get after working a few months. I’d really appreciate any feedback/advice you might have as I would like to be as prepared as possible for any future endeavor in Japan. Thanks!

  • Randy says:

    FOUND IT!!!!
    You are so wise. I’m thankful to have ran across your page!

  • Robby D Jones says:

    I worked for interac for 8 months and then quit. The insurance thing is true. You can be totally fucked by that. I switched to JET and it’s the easiest best job you can get in Japan. I teach like 2 or 3 classes in a day. Have my own computer with internet at my desk at school. I have free rent and make 300,000 a month (now on my second year). It just makes me nervous when my JET contract runs out because there is almost nothing that pays this well in Japan. Even if you make around 310,000 a month for AEON you have to pay your own rent and work nights and weekends, and that sucks.

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