Thursday, June 14, 2018

One Year Later - From Nanzan to JET

Last May, I was preparing to depart to Japan to study abroad at Nanzan University in Nagoya for the summer. Now, I've been preparing for my departure back to Japan to work abroad as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) with the JET Program.

Taken from JET Program USA -
"Founded in 1987, JET has sent more than 60,000 global participants (including nearly 32,000 Americans) to work in schools, boards of education, and government offices throughout Japan. What makes JET unique is that it is the only teaching exchange program managed by the government of Japan."

I first heard about JET in high school through former JETs and informational tables at my high school. Being a participant has always been a goal of mine, so receiving my congratulations email was unbelievable. Although you don't need to have a teacher certification or any knowledge of the Japanese language, you do at least need to have your Bachelor's, an interest in teaching, and an interest in Japan. 

Here is a general timeline of the application process (based on my experience, most appropriate for US JETs) -
October: Application Available
November: Application Due

January/February: Interview Notification + Interviews
March/April: Interview Results

May: Placements (for initial shortlisted candidates)
July/Early August: Departure

If you are considering applying for JET, start the application as soon as you are able to. Double-check, even triple-check your application before turning it in. When the interviewers need to choose between two applicants, they will go back to the applicants' original applications and compare those. You do not want to ruin your chances because of a careless mistake. For the Personal Statement (two page essay included in the application), have someone proofread and correct it. You really want to emphasize your interest in Japan and teaching English IN Japan. Showcase your ability to be creative, adaptable, positive, outgoing, humorous, etc.

Being able to adapt in different environments is a major qualification that no JET applicant should take lightly. Although applicants may request up to three placements, nothing is a guarantee. The placement map for incoming JETs actually shows that a majority of people did NOT get any of the three places they requested. You are able to note what you are comfortable with and not comfortable with (city vs. rural) on the application, but that can significantly narrow your chances of getting accepted into the program.

These were my requests in order - Akita prefecture, Nagoya city, and Aichi prefecture. Akita is not a popular choice, so I was very lucky to get placed in Yokote city of Akita prefecture. Yokote has a population of around 91,000 people; there are seventeen elementary schools and six junior high schools. There will be (surprisingly) ten ALTs (including current and incoming JETs) in Yokote this year. I will be working at several schools out of the twenty-three.

Although I am dying to go back to Nagoya, I'm very excited for my new journey to start in Yokote. I leave for Tokyo on August 4th for a two to three day orientation with other JETs before leaving for my placement.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Work at Maryville College

As a college student, many students experience a tight budget and may want to earn a little extra money by getting a part-time job. Getting a part-time job is a decision that you should really think through. Some questions you should ask yourself is:

·    Does my visa status allow me to work at Maryville College?
·    Will I have time for a part-time job with my current class schedule?
·    Do I want to trade off time with clubs and fun activities for a part-time job?
·    Will I gain something from this job? New skills or competencies?

If you feel that working at Maryville College is right for you after answering these questions, here are some things to consider.

Students on F-1 visas and some J-1 visas may work up to 20 hours a week on campus during the school year. On breaks, students may work up to 40 hours a week. Many on-campus positions have lower limits to accommodate your school schedule. If you are eligible to work, you can try to find jobs through one of these methods:

a.      Handshake is where most campus jobs are advertised,      including work-study jobs.  They are usually posted late August. You must make sure that the work position is not a federal work-study position, as you won’t qualify for any of those positions.
b.      Metz Culinary may offer student positions. Check with them to see! Metz Culinary is the company that runs the dining services for Maryville College.
c.      Mountain Challenge sometimes hires students. Contact Bruce Guillaume and he can explain his hiring process. It involves shadowing events and pretty extensive training.
d.      It won’t help immediately but applying to become a Resident Assistant (RA) or doing other leadership opportunities that might give you spending money like becoming a Peer Mentor or MC Ambassador may be an option if you plan on spending more than one year at Maryville College.

What if you don’t want or can’t be employed, but want to gain skills and experience for the career world? You can still have valuable experiences without having a job. Join a club or organization and ask if you can help plan or organize events or initiatives. Some great organizations to develop leadership skills are the Student Government Association, GCO or the International Education Week Planning Committee. Want to improve your writing and communication skills, check out the Highland Echo or one of the other great organizations. There are many clubs and organizations that you can join and strengthen skills and gain experience for the “real world.

Maryville College Academics

As you know, Maryville College has very high academic standards, and you will be expected to keep good grades. Although you may have your system of education figured out and know how to thrive in that environment, Maryville College may be quite different, especially from schools in Europe. Some important benefits and other aspects of Maryville College classes include:

-       Small class sizes. On average, your classes will be with few other students, perhaps about 20. Maryville College has a student:faculty ratio of 13:1, meaning for every 13 students there is at least one faculty member;

computer lab in lamar library with students working
Lamar Library Computer Lab
-       Expectation of class participation. Often times, your grade is dependent on your class attendance and participation. Therefore, you will be expected to complete your reading and assignments before class, so that you can actively contribute to class conversations. It is also important that you develop your own opinions on course topics, rather than just repeating things from the readings and assignments;

-       High level of interaction between students and faculty. If you need extra help in understanding the class material or just have a question that you may not have had a chance to ask in class, professors encourage students to reach out during office hours and after class. Professors are used to being asked for clarification and help. They are here to help you learn as much as possible, and they take their role very seriously.

-       Intensive amounts of reading, writing and assignments over the course of the semester. You will be expected to have readings and assignments done by the specified due date. You will need to demonstrate your knowledge on the topics throughout the semester, rather than primarily on final exams.

This may seem overwhelming now, but if you plan your time appropriately and ask for help when you need it, you will all do fine. All students may run into roadblocks in some courses and may need extra help. Maryville College has many resources to help you overcome those roadblocks, but each student is responsible for seeking help out when they need it. If you need help researching a topic for an assignment, librarians at the Lamar Memorial Library are always willing to help. You can email or call them with your questions, or you can set up a face-to-face appointment. There is also an Academic Support Center on campus. This center sets up group study sessions and has writing and math help. We highly encourage students to take advantage of these resources.

Mountain Challenge Tower - You can do it too!
Learning at Maryville College also extends beyond the classroom. There is an emphasis on experiential education at the College. Experiential education is typically a guided activity of some form, typically in an unfamiliar location or new task. Performing these activities allows students to adjust their mental and emotional process to the task at hand and develop new tasks. Many times, students participate in Mountain Challenge programming for experiential education, which gives students the opportunity to explore themselves while outdoors. The Center for Community Engagement plays a role in experiential education. Students can reach out to them to help find volunteer opportunities in the surrounding community. Some examples are tutoring, adult literacy, work in social service agencies, environmental projects, and many other possibilities. These are just a couple of ways that Maryville College students get involved. To see more options, click here

Maryville College Sports and Athletics

the mascot of the college is a scot, with plaid of orange and garnet
Maryville College Mascot

Maryville College loves sports! There's an option for everyone from the devoted athlete to the curious stander-by. Sports events are also a great way to make friends and understand the culture of the campus, whether you're playing or cheering the team on.

Maryville College's mascot is the Scot and the school colors are orange and garnet. On game days, and especially during Homecoming n October, you will see students, staff and faculty alike wearing the school colors to support our teams.

Maryville College is home to 14 competitive sports teams. There are seven sports teams for women and seven teams for men. Games and competitions are often held at Maryville College, and you can go to support your friends on the team and also to learn about unique sports that you may not have in your hometown. You may have seen many TV shows or movies that feature American Football teams and cheerleaders, but you can learn about the real thing here at the college. You can find the schedule for all sports here.

Intramural Sports

If you want to try out a sport during your time here, there are teams on campus that are for anyone. Nearly two-thirds of students at Maryville College participate in some sort of sport or intramural during their time here, so its a great way to spend time with existing friends and meet new ones. Maryville College has recreational teams for students on campus in several sports, which are open to any student. Intramural teams play various teams on campus to become the reigning champions of club sports, such as flag football, sand volleyball, softball, and table tennis among other things. In past years, I-House has even formed some teams in various sports and competed.

Mountain Challenge

Japanese students conquering Camp 4's 60-foot climbing tower - Spring 2018
If you're not sure if intramural teams are right for you, you can join Mountain Challenge on any of their adventures or activities. On many Saturdays, they organize a trip or outdoor activity that students can participate in. Find the schedule here and be sure to sign up for trips one week in advance. On Wednesdays, they've started the initiative Camp 4, which is a designated time for students, staff and faculty to have access to Mountain Challenge fitness equipment, classes and the bouldering cave. (Bouldering is a form of rock climbing where you are close to the ground and climb freely without ropes or other equipment.) Each Wednesday, there is a Group Fitness Class from 4pm to 5pm, followed by a yoga class from 5:15pm to 6:15pm. These services are available free of charge to MC students. They also have many other opportunities, so stop by Crawford House when you get to campus to learn more!

Student climbing in Mountain Challenge's bouldering cave! 

Cultural Programming at CIE

There is no doubt that you will be kept busy while attending Maryville College. Through the Cultural Ambassador program and possibly joining the Global Citizenship Organization (GCO), you will have a lot of exposure to activities. Sometimes you will want to do fun activities with friends without the complications of planning those activities yourself. And that’s where CIE comes in!

GCO members after Homecoming Parade - Fall 2017
Every month, CIE plans fun activities for all students – ESL students, international students U.S. American Cultural Holidays as a group at I-House. For example, last year we had a Christmas party for all students, but have done Halloween activities as well. One of our biggest events of the year is our annual Thanksgiving Dinner.  We celebrate with international students and our local social host families to learn about and celebrate this popular U.S. American holiday.  Students have set up international dance parties on campus and coordinated fashion shows. These events are fun and allow you to teach friends about your culture.
and U.S. students.  We offer many events to learn about the USA. In the past, we have celebrated 

The stairs at international house decorated with Red Christmas Stockings
The stairwell decorated for
Other times, we offer the opportunity to learn about local Tennessee culture!  We explore the Great Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg. I-House has adventured out to rivers for white water rafting or tubing and gone hiking in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Some years there have also been weekend trips to Nashville, Atlanta or other cities. These events are organized by I-House and students can sign up for a reasonable fee.

If there are any activities that you and your friends are interested in, you can tell the staff at I-House. Whether the idea is for an on-campus program or off-campus excursion, we can work together to see if the activity is a good fit for I-House programming. If it is a good fit, we can work together to plan the event for students to enjoy. One of our more recent trips was a day at Dollywood theme park which is always a lot of fun.

A group of students white water rafting
White Water Rafting

Maryville College Cultural Ambassadors

At Maryville College, all students become active leaders in their community. The Center for International Education's Cultural
a group of students with a lot of colorful powder on their clothes at the holi celebration
Holi Celebration 
Ambassadors program helps International and Exchange students achieve this goal. All international and exchange students at MC are Cultural Ambassadors and share their culture throughout their time at the college.  Cultural Ambassadors will, in turn, learn about U.S. culture through active participation in at least one organization on campus. With your help, we hope that campus will have a strong presence of international leaders.

Let's get into more detail on the three requirements of the program. Each term, Cultural Ambassadors share their culture both 1) on campus and 2) off campus, as well as 3) actively participate in a campus club or organization. 

A group of international students at homecoming
Group of students at Homecoming
Many students share their culture on campus (1) through the Global Citizenship Organization’s (GCO) cultural presentation times, in your resident halls or during international education week. There is a lot of flexibility in sharing your culture on campus, so students can also plan their own event or way of sharing. For example, perhaps you love to cook traditional food from your culture and want to host a small event teaching others how to cook a dish. If you have traditional clothes or items from your country that you want to share, remember to bring them with you to Tennessee. Staff at CIE are always here to help you brainstorm ideas and put plans into action. We will ask you to present your culture AT LEAST ONCE formally on campus, so be prepared!

Jamaica presentation at Alcoa Elementary - Spring 2018
Sharing your culture off campus (2) can be done in similar ways. CIE organizes at least one off-campus visit or fair per semester and you can plan to join in on those events. In past years, we have set up events with the Boys and Girls ClubRotary Association, Alcoa Elementary School, William Blount High School, Clayton-Bradley STEM Academy or local churches.  You’re always encouraged to reach out to other organizations on your own and set up other small events or activities.
students sharing traditional chinese new year activities at isaac's
Chinese New Year Celebration at Isaac's Cafe

The last requirement is a fun one that will help you find your place on campus. You can join any organization (3) you want and participate fully to fulfill this requirement. Participating fully means that you will go to meetings and be involved in at least one event each semester in your chosen organization. Being a member of GCO or the International Education Week Planning Committee may be a good option, but you could also join the Student Government Association or one of the many groups on campus (we’ll talk more about these groups in a later post!).  One of the best things about a small college is that there are many leadership opportunities within organizations right from Day 1. Attend the Opportunities of a Lifetime Fair the 2nd week of class to get to know all the clubs.

The CIE is looking forward to seeing how each of you embraces your ambassadorship this coming year!

Welcome to Incoming 2018 Students

picture of Barlett Hall atrium with international flags hanging
Bartlett Hall with flags representing all of the students on campus
As you’re beginning to prepare for your time at Maryville College, you may be wondering how to find out a little bit more about what’s on campus and the surrounding area.

Maryville College is known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience, all while building a community of students, staff and faculty that will help you along the way.
Virtual campus map
Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation in partnership with others. Founded in 1819, Maryville is the 12th oldest college in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Maryville College has about 1,200 students, representing approximately 40 states, the District of Columbia and 30 other countries. To take a virtual tour of campus before you arrive, go here and click on the “Tours” tab. You’ll be able to watch videos about the campus and do small photo tours for some buildings.

In Maryville, there are many things to do within walking distance. If you’re a coffee lover, you may want to visit Vienna Coffeehouse for a cup of joe or to see one of their many live music performances. There are also many restaurants, cafes and shops downtown and beyond. In the early Fall and late Spring, Maryville hosts a small Farmers Market on Saturday mornings where you can explore local produce, baked goods and other delicacies. If you like being active and outdoors, you’ll love Maryville’s Greenway, a system of biking and walking paths around Maryville and Alcoa. A short drive away there is also Foothills Mall, a small mall with shops, department stores, and a movie theater. In neighboring Alcoa, there are many shops, restaurants and supermarkets that are easily accessible by car.

Maryville Downtown
Maryville Downtown and Greenway
Outside of Maryville, there are many fun and interesting places to visit close by. Knoxville is just a 30-minute drive from Maryville and has many fun things to do. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is an excellent way to reconnect with nature and is a short drive away.

Note on transportation: While Maryville does not have public transportation, students find plenty of ways to get from one place to another. First of all, the International House provides weekly shopping trips to places like Walmart where you can buy food, toiletries, and other essentials. Outside of this, students catch rides with friends that have cars when possible. Another popular option is getting around with the ridesharing app Uber.

Get ready to explore this coming year because East Tennessee has a lot to offer!

Foreground: Anderson Hall (the oldest building on campus!)
Background: Great Smoky Mountains

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Culture and Food

Rasmus Callerhorn
MC Junior from Sweden

Swedish people and American people are very different. With only three words to describe either I would say that Swedish people are selfish, quiet, and tall. Three words for Americans are friendly, talkative, and diverse. The difference is huge, and for a lot of international students or people traveling a lot they know that there are culture shocks when it comes to everyday interactions with people. Swedish people usually don't engage in conversation if they do not have something important to say, and most of the time they don't even greet people they know when passing them by. Americans are the complete opposite, they are nice and always very talkative, random people can come up to you and start conversations, they hold open the door for you.

Someone like me who grew up in Sweden probably looks like the biggest introvert to Americans, but the Swedish norms are just so ingrained in me at this point. When I came to America I only greeted people if they greeted me, I usually look at the ground to avoid eye contact. Something that is common for Swedish people to say about Americans and one of the big problems for us is that it seems like you have a lot of friends but no close friends. Friends in Sweden are usually your closest friends that you interact with on a day to day bases, and little to no interaction with random people happens. For someone who is coming to America for the first time get ready for a lot of nice people who will have a friendly greeting, but be careful because most of them do not actually want to engage in conversations. 

I always had a hard time with people asking me "what's up?" I started to engage in conversation when they really just wanted you to say "good, how about you?". People that greet you do not always want to start a conversation which is very different from Sweden, only time someone would say something is when they wanted to talk to you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Learning English to Learn Spanish

Mackenzie Yaksic
PUCV (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile)

As I have delved into greater depths of learning the ins and outs of the Spanish language, I have realized how grateful I am to know English grammar. I feel, as an enthusiast of the English language and a beginner of the Spanish language, that it is extremely important to know a basic foundation of English grammar before you embark on a journey of learning a new language. This is why:
          Yesterday in class we began to learn (or review) el préterito perfecto in our grammar class. When the professor, who speaks little English, began to explain the tense, many people were lost almost immediately if they had not already learned the tense. The professor knows that I love English grammar, because of a past conversation, and requested that I explain the subject in English before we all progressed in Spanish. I was slightly taken aback when I realized many people in the class did not have a basic understanding of the verb tenses in English. It made it much more difficult for them to progress quickly and efficiently in Spanish.
          I don't write this post to shame people who do not know English grammar, because to many people, English grammar is the definition of a snooze fest. Nor do I write this post to gloat about my little English grammar knowledge or that I acted as the teacher's pet for a day. I write this post to inform anyone who plans to learn another language. Get familiar with your native language before you set off to become bilingual; it will help tremendously, and you'll be amazed at how quickly you are able to relate new Spanish concepts to ones in English. It has helped me progress in the language and translate between the two languages, and I greatly advise it for anyone who is serious about mastering a new language.

Saturday, March 24, 2018


Mackenzie Yaksic
PUCV (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile)

When you first arrive here in Valparaíso, it's overwhelming. The amount of makeshift, bright buildings and housing on the hills is overpowering. The streets are unlike American streets in almost every week. Street vendors and pop-up farmers' markets are common. It's a busy city, and the streets are filled with many people from all social, age, and work groups. Men in suits with brief cases sit along side young mothers and college students. The way these different groups merge in this city is amazing. The street art is incredible, also. One has to take an ascensor up one of the hills to see most of the street art, but each hill makes a great day trip. The city is amazing, and unlike any other I have ever visited.