Tereka Brown—Language and Cross-cultural Specialist/Enthusiast


Tereka Brown Kimono

1) When, how long and where were you in Japan?

From August 2011- July 2018 (7 years). I was in Matsuyama City in Ehime Prefecture.

2) How was your time in Japan? What were some highlights/things you wish you had done differently?

It was a time of personal growth for me. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Japan. I made lifelong friends who have become more like family. It is so difficult to pick just one highlight because I was involved in so many things in my city. I was very honored to have been asked by the city’s youth centre to organize their yearly English Summer Camp and eventually to become a full-time staff member of the youth centre. I was the first non-Japanese to have ever worked there. I was also asked by the Matsuyama International Centre to plan and deliver the sessions each year for the students who were selected to do their Language and Culture Exchange Programme to their sister cities in Sacramento, South Korea and Germany. Also, I started studying Ikebana while in Japan and my Sensei asked her students to volunteer to enter our arrangements each year in a charity event that was broadcast on TV. In my third year I did a brief interview for the Tv station to discuss my interest in Ikebana. I think doing these things was important to me because they allowed many Japanese to become more familiar with my country, as it is usually the American, British, Canadian or Australian ALTs who are usually asked to do these kinds of events.

Tereka Brown Ikebana

3) What was it like for you when you first returned to Jamaica?

It was extremely difficult to adjust. So much had changed (including me) and I really missed the safety and convenience of many things in Japan. I felt like I didn’t belong in my own country. The reverse culture shock was real, despite my efforts to prepare myself for the return. I actually started the process of trying to return to Japan in my second month of being back in Jamaica. The JET alumni helped me to readjust as I had a group that understood the transition and helped to reassure me that things would work out. Eventually I decided that despite how difficult it was for me to be back, I would stick it out. It has been a rollercoaster journey, but I am glad I decided to stay.

4) Tell us a bit about your current job/projects.

Since returning I have been working as an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI), teaching Critical Reading and Writing in the Disciplines. I use my TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages) skills to help students who struggle with writing at the tertiary academic level. I have also been working as an Examiner with IELTS and an External English Verifier with City and Guilds. Additionally, I teach ESL classes to the brothers and sisters at the Missionaries of the Poor. I have also worked with the Peace Corps as a Language and Cross-cultural Facilitator as well as to create teaching material for their Language Training Programme. In addition, I just completed my Masters in Education in Educational Planning and Policy.

5) How has the experience in Japan influenced what you are currently doing?

I employ all the skills I learnt for teaching English in Japan to all my current jobs and projects. Also, the experience of having lived in a different culture helps with my understanding of how to deal with learners from different cultures and language needs. Also, I was impressed with many aspects of the education system in Japan and that prompted me to pursue a Masters in Educational Planning and Policy with a hope to incorporate some of their best educational practices in Jamaica. I am hoping to move on from teaching, to planning and policy development in the Jamaican education system with a particular focus on language.

Tereka Brown Japanese students

6) What advice would you give to someone who is interested in going to Japan on the JET Programme?

Understand why you want to go to Japan and curtail your expectations accordingly. Be careful that you are not just chasing stereotypes. It makes no sense to go to live in a different culture and spend your time questioning why they do things the way they do, and demand that things be done the way you are used to them. Japanese culture is different from Jamaican culture, but there are also a lot of similarities, but one has to be open to embracing both the similarities and differences. This doesn’t mean agreeing with everything, it means being able to respect the culture and find appropriate ways to share yours. As an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT( on the JET Programme you are a 24/7 Cultural Ambassador. Your job there may end up being 40 percent about teaching English, and 60 percent cultural exchange. All your actions whether active or passive will reinforce, dispel or introduce a narrative about your country, your ethnicity and your culture. It can get exhausting, but also very rewarding, so it’s important to understand that this is a part of what you are signing up for.

7) What advice would you give to someone who is about to return or who has recently returned to Jamaica from Japan?

Make sure you have some savings to get by for at least a year. Apply for jobs before returning to Jamaica (if you intend to work). Connect with the JET Alumni; It is a great way to ease yourself back into Jamaican culture. Think of ways you can use your experience in Japan to start a business/projects.

8) Would you return to live in Japan? Why or why not?

I think I have satiated my desire for living in Japan. I travelled to most of the places I wanted to and I have, for the most part, done all I wanted to do there. However, I can’t wait to visit, as I miss my friends there and I would love to introduce my family in Jamaica to my Japanese family. Japan will always be my second home.


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