November 29, 2020

Claire Martin’s Japanese “dream job” becomes a possible reality

Claire Martin received an offer during her freshman year at Webster University to work in Japan for the Japanese government after she graduates. The application sits in her top dresser at home, still unsigned, as time dies down before she has to decide whether or not she wants to take the position.

Martin just happened to walk by an involvement fair her freshman year after a volleyball practice. She showed up in her volleyball shorts and shirt and saw a table for the Japanese Exchange and Teaching(JET) program. The JET representative at the fair gave Martin the application, and she held on to it ever since.

The JET program offers people around the world a chance to work in schools and government offices in Japan. Around 5,000 Americans apply each year, but only 20 percent make the cut. Martin has until June of 2019 to decide if she wants to be in the 20 percent.

Martin said the opportunity could change her life.

“I’ve already talked myself into taking it,” Martin said. “I’m just not fully committed yet.”

The commitment to the program requires spending two to five years in Japan after Martin graduates from Webster. She still had second thoughts about the job every once in a while even though she said it has been her dream since high school.

Martin worried about spending an extensive amount of time in Japan. Signing the contract would mean spending at least two years in Tokyo. The job could also extend up to five years. Martin kept the application because of the opportunity to immerse herself in the Japanese culture. She only has months to decide whether or not she wants to go through with it.

Martin said her high school dream could only be made into a reality if she had a good sense of what living in Japan would be like. She spent last semester studying abroad in Tokyo at J.F. Oberlin University.

The Japanese culture stood out to Martin while she studied in Tokyo. Japanese people think Americans are big, loud, and slightly too dramatic according to Martin. Despite her perception of how Japanese people thought of her, Martin said she liked how dedicated Japanese people are to their jobs. The non-stop working environment of Japan made Martin want to take the job even more.

Getting used to the Japanese working environment was not easy at first, Martin said. She had to take an hour and a half train ride to classes, which started at 9 a.m. After some time, Martin said she started to enjoy the everyday grind of the Japanese work life.

She said that trip will make her decision easier on whether or not to take the job.

JET is the only teaching and exchange program in Japan. JET offered Martin a higher position than teaching as well, which is to be a Coordinator of International Relations. Martin would work with the Japanese government as an interpreter. This job requires someone to be more efficient in the Japanese language and culture than someone who holds a teaching position.

Trent Martin, Claire’s father, said her fascination with Japanese started before high school. He recalled Claire watching Japanese movies before she started taking Japanese in high school.

Claire’s father said he felt some hesitation when Claire wanted to take Japanese. Claire already had a full schedule with volleyball on top of her classes. Her father worried Japanese might be too much of a commitment.

Claire went through with it anyway.

“One thing I have always said about Claire Martin is if you want Claire Martin to do something, all you have to do is tell her she can’t do it,” Trent Martin said.

Claire originally heard of JET from her high school Japanese teacher, Pamela Boyer Johnson. Johnson said she encourages all students in her Japanese classes to think about applying for the program so they could become more fluent and engaged in the Japanese culture. Claire already had this experience while studying abroad.

Johnson said several of her former students have participated in the JET program and thought Claire would make a good fit for it.

“Claire has a gentle way about her and she is a people person,” Johnson said, “which are excellent characteristics for success in the JET program.”

Claire said Johnson was the biggest motivation for her interest in JET.

Claire considered going to schools such as Colorado State University-Pueblo and the University of West Florida after high school. Webster offered a Japanese program, unlike the other schools. Claire said that program weighed heavily in her decision to commit to Webster.

Claire believed if she did not attend Webster she would not have received the application and the opportunity to work in Japan. That decision could mean the difference of her spending up to five years halfway across the world after she graduates.

Claire hoped to make a final decision on the job by the end of this year.

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