Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Leap of faith

Many times over the last few months, I've wondered to myself if I'm really doing this, and how did I actually make this happen? And I think about all the things I'm putting my trust in to fly half way around the world and live an entirely different life for a year:

That Company is actually as reputable as I have every reason to believe, and that it will be the awesome work environment that I think it will be. I have always had prompt responses to paperwork and communication, and have heard personal recommendations about the strength and reliability of Company. My in-person interview was great and informative, but it wasn't in Japan, with the people who will be my direct supervisors and coworkers, so there's a certain amount of sight-unseen on this. I actually really don't have doubts about this, and have seen no red flags, but I feel sort of like I should be less unworried, probably just because it's a huge change and I feel like I should be more skeptical.

That I'm going to be able to roll with everything that I have to roll with. The first question my students ask me when they learn I'm moving to Japan is if I speak any Japanese, to which I cheerfully respond, "Nope!" I am, however, hoping that being there will increase my motivation to make it through more than the first half of the first Rosetta Stone lesson. (The second question they ask is whether I'm going to start eating fish or if I'm going to stay vegetarian. I tell them I'll probably go on a don't ask don't tell basis with things like fish sauce or bonito flakes on food, but that I don't intend to full-on start eating meat.) I know that there's going to be a lot to roll with- jet lag, culture shock, language, food, having a dress code stronger than "not jeans," etc, etc, etc- but I'm pretty sure I can handle it.

That a year isn't that long and that my boyfriend and I can make it long distance.

That my cats will still remember and love me when I get home.

That sushi in Japan is going to be even tastier than sushi in the States. (And, I guess, that they even serve veggie sushi there.)

That 30 really is when all that hard work I did in my 20s of figuring out who I want to be and what I want to do is going to really come together. That it's a good year to go adventuring. That this is going to be awesome.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mind maps

I've known about mind maps as an organizational tool for brainstorming since at least high school, but I've never personally found them particularly useful for writing papers, and I always did more linear paper outlines with heading and subheadings. Even when we talked about them as a brainstorming tool in grad classes, I didn't see the magic, because doing them as a sample is entirely different than doing them for real.

But now I have seen the light of mind maps, because I used them to write my packing lists for the next year. Mind maps are really perfect for something like packing which has so many categories and sub-categories, and it's really easy to add things in any order without the paper getting out of order. That's a big deal for me- I want my lists to make sense, so it bothers me if I don't split the page up right and run out of room in one vertical list, or if the order doesn't make any sense because I thought of something later, but it was related to earlier things.

Adding information to the mind map worked around that problem, though, because I could come back to any category and add to it later, and since ideas are expanding outward from the center, there's still room, and it's still in the right place. Even adding a whole new category a few days after the first brainstorming session didn't mess things up! It was also helpful just in terms of thinking, because it both made me a little more orderly in filling out my categories, and mitigated the effects of writing down ideas out of order.

I'm starting to feel like it's at least possible that I won't wind up in Japan and realize I should have brought ________.

So, mind maps: what's your experience been with them, and why? Love them, hate them, use them never/all the time?


I intend to use this blog to chronicle my adventures in teaching English as a foreign language. Expect a writing mixture of thoughts on language, teaching, culture shock, and travel fun. There should be enough personal stuff in here to keep those of you who know me interested, but I also hope for this to be a resource that’s useful for other teachers or travelers.

I started this blog now because in mid-October, I’ll be teaching English in Japan, which is an adventure that I’m so excited to embark upon! I think this is going to be a truly amazing year for me, and I think that reflecting on my experiences in journal form will help me maintain this sense of wonder and excitement even when living in Japan is my new normal.

Teaching abroad is a pretty good reward for all that work over the last two years in my M.A. TESOL program, I think! I learned and grew so much in all my classes, and now I feel really eager to go forth and apply my skills and knowledge. I think I’m ready for the challenge of moving from theory to practice.