How much money should I bring?
We suggest bringing about $1000 US worth of yen when you first come. That should cover your expenses for the first month or so. We do not recommend bringing traveler’s cheques but if you do, you should cash them in at the airport upon your arrival. It is extremely difficult to cash traveler’s cheques in the Ibaraki area and we have heard that financial institutions will stop cashing them in the near future. You can use major credit cards, Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, at most stores, but you may not be able to use the debit function to purchase goods. Depending on your financial institution, there may be a fee per credit card transaction. You will be able to use your bank card or credit card to withdraw money as explained in the In Hitachi section. However, Japan is a cash-based society so we recommend that you prepare an appropriate amount of cash for your stay.
Are homestays always available?
Unfortunately, sometimes host families are unavailable. In case we cannot provide a homestay, you may need to live in a furnished apartment.
Can I do my entire homestay with one family?
We encourage host families to accept interns for the full period of the internship. However, some families prefer shorter periods and in these cases, we will find another host family or families to host you for the remaining time. Some interns also prefer to have three one-month homestays so that they can live with various families and learn about the culture from many perspectives.
How will I get from Narita Airport to Ibaraki Christian?
We will give you detailed instructions to take the bus from Narita Airport to the closest bus stop to Ibaraki Christian University. From there, we will arrange to pick you up. Interns not flying into Narita should let us know for different instructions. Here is the URL for the bus timetable http://www.ibako.co.jp/airport/narita/from_narita_airport.html. For English, use the second selection (英語) on the dropdown menu that you will see if you click the second button from the right at the top of the page. Please schedule your flight to arrive at Narita as early in the day as possible. If your flight arrives too late in the day, we may ask you to find a hotel near the airport and take the bus the following day.
What is the weather like?
The temperature changes according to season. It is very hot 35ºC (95ºF) and humid from July to September so light casual clothes are recommended. The spring and fall are pleasant around 15-20ºC (60 -70ºF) so a light jacket is sufficient. Although it rarely snows, the winter, December – March, is cold around 0ºC (32ºF) so a heavy down jacket or ski jacket, gloves and a hat are recommended. There is also a rainy season in June and July and a typhoon season primarily in September, so an umbrella and rainwear will also come in handy. Umbrellas are usually not strong enough to withstand typhoons, so purchasing a cheap one here might be the best option.
Are there any special clothes or shoes that I should bring?
In Japan, people always remove their shoes before entering houses, apartments and some schools as well as other places. Slip-on shoes and sandals are very convenient for these situations. Also, a pair of shoes, sneakers or running shoes that you wear only inside are recommended. You will need a pair of “inside shoes” for some elementary schools, kindergartens or gymnasiums during your internship. We also recommend bringing a set of nice clothes (khakis and a polo-shirt / skirt and blouse) for formal ceremonies or occasions.
Can I get a SIM card for my phone?
You will have access to Wi-Fi on campus; however, if you want to have access to the internet all the time, you might want to get a pocket Wi-Fi router or SIM card. Past interns have used eConnect and picked up their SIM cards at the post office at Narita Airport. You can find information at https://www.econnectjapan.com. There is also information at www.japanrailpass.com.
What would be some good books to read?
We have a number of suggestions below. Naturally your reading will vary according to how much time you have before arriving here. The more you can read the better. Different books resonate with different students. If you cannot find the books below at the library and are considering purchasing them, you may want to read samples first.
“Your Last Day of School: 56 Ways You Can Be a Great Intern” and “Turn Your Internship Into a Job” by Eric Woodard, and “The Intern Files: How to Get Keep and Make The Most of Your Internship” by Jamie Fedorko give terrific introductions and explanations about interning in an office. Interning at a university will be very different from the offices that they discuss, but their information about what interning is and how to act is generally applicable. The sole exception may be that Japanese society demands much more respect for those with higher status than western society does. We especially want to emphasize how taking the initiative is discussed in these books.
“The Student Teaching Experience: Cases from the Classroom” by Patricia J. Wentz is written for student teachers in American primary and secondary schools, but much of the information and their suggestions will hold true for interning with us. Here is a quote from this book on ethics (p. 64 second edition):
An ethical teacher is one who practices equity. Such a teacher makes no differences among students on the basis of sex, race, creed, or handicapping conditions. The ethical teacher sees the possibilities for growth, health, and happiness of students and how those possibilities can be enhanced in his or her classroom.
There are a wide variety of books about living and working in Japan. You can check Amazon or your local bookstore and see what is recommended. We suggest “A Handbook for Teaching English at Japanese Colleges and Universities” edited by Paul Wadden. This 1992 book is the best book we are aware of that explains what teaching English is like at a university in Japan. You can also read books on TESOL, books on learning styles and books on understanding Japanese culture.
Should I study about teaching or learning?
Although it isn’t necessary, we recommend both. Because the various teaching methods and student learning styles are very important facets of English language teaching and learning, understanding them is beneficial.
Are there any cultural issues that I should be aware of?
Japan has a very different outlook than the west when it comes to things like body art. Tattoos are uncommon and many public facilities, hot springs and pools will not let you in if you have a visible tattoo. In the past, people have covered tattoos with Band-Aids, makeup, sports tape, or wrist bands and have had no problems. If you are unable to cover your tattoos, you could wear long-sleeve or full body swimwear at public pools, but you may not be able to enter the public baths or hot springs. Facial piercings are also uncommon here and depending on the situation, you may be asked to remove jewelry. Colored hair is becoming more common; however, in situations dealing with children or younger students, colored hair may have to be covered.
While doing the internship can I work part-time and be paid?
Unfortunately, you cannot. Just as your internship is unpaid, you cannot do any work for pay on a 90-day tourist visa. You only have the right to volunteer. Additionally, even if you are here on a longer-term culture visa, you only have the right to intern. You cannot take a part-time paying job.