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Working in Japan - Advice Appreciated

Should I take Interac's offer when they call?

  • Don't take it, by any means.

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Hey guys, first off I appreciate you looking this over. To attempt to condense the information I got I'll speak quickly since I am asking for your input after all.

I want to work in Japan. I'm residing in the states a year after graduation and would rather not stay here with some mundane entry level job. I don't want to be hasty or irresponsible but I'd like to try working overseas as it's something I've wanted to do for a while and figure now that I am out of college it's a great time to start.

Anyway, applied to Interac, Jet and AEON. Let AEON pass after reading about Eikawas and how it's more of a sales gig. Now I am waiting for Interac to call me back with whether or not I have a job. I've read about how they are not a GREAT company to work for and with minimal student loans I still owe I don't know what to think for the reviews of them are all over.

I've considered applying to Altia Central as well but I guess what I am asking of you, the kind reader. What would you recommend I do under these circumstances? Go with Interac and then jump ship to one of the other two ALTS? Forsake Interac altogether?

I want to teach in Japan and am looking for the best way to do it. I don't need to live a life of luxury but I also don't want to have to worry about food, rent, etc.

Anyway, I appreciate the input and time you've given this, as I am sure I am one of the millions who've asked this. Thanks a lot.
 

Mike Cash

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Does "I want to teach in Japan" mean "I want to teach in Japan" or does it mean "i want to go to Japan and that seems to be the only route as far as I can see" ?
 
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I used to work for them and didn't had any big problems with them. Although 3 years of being an alt was enough for me.

If you can get your foot through the door, why not. Do your best and try to find something bettrr while you are here.
 
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Does "I want to teach in Japan" mean "I want to teach in Japan" or does it mean "i want to go to Japan and that seems to be the only route as far as I can see" ?
I appreciate you asking this Mike Cash, as it is something I considered myself. It's not my only option, but it raises a point I've considered. I don't want to rush my way over there, I would like to begin teaching abroad and where it ends up leading me I'm excited for it all the same.

I'm not considering the ALT position permanently as a post, actually written by you had said that it's by no means a position someone should treat as a career choice but rather a temporary move. I've heard getting a work VISA is not the easiest in Japan and that if nothing else this can be a start in both working overseas and teaching.
 
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I used to work for them and didn't had any big problems with them. Although 3 years of being an alt was enough for me.

If you can get your foot through the door, why not. Do your best and try to find something bettrr while you are here.

I appreciate the input Davey. Was the ALT gig not for you? Or was it Interac specifically? If you don't mind me asking that is. But you raise a good point, a lot of people say that if nothing else it's a good start, and you're absolutely right when you say that I can apply to other positions while there.
 
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As an alt you move from school to school, at least at that time here in Kobe. I had to prove myself the whole time, then by the time I got used to the school and they to me I had to move to another school. I have been to about 30 schools in 3 years. I don't regret it at all as it was a good experience and as you work in a Japanese environment its easy to learn Japanese when you just arrive as well. Teachers can be very friendly and they are willing to teach you things as well.

So yeah, I liked the job but dont reccomend to do it for more than 2 years.
 
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Lots of things to address here. I'm an English teacher who has gone through the eikaiwa, private HS, and university ranks, just so you know.

You don't want an entry level job in the US, but you are willing to take an entry level job here in an unrelated field. Then what? Are you planning to look around here for work in your field, or just enjoy a year off and then return to the States with a gap in your resume? If you want work in your field, why do you think it is so hard to get a work visa here? It's not, as long as you have a bachelor's degree and the proper experience. What is your field, anyway?

You want to turn down AEON because of what you've heard about eikaiwas. Well, AEON is one of the best eikaiwas, so reconsider if you are serious at all about teaching, even if only for a year. Go to the ESL Cafe Web site to talk to more teachers for related info. Interac has a lukewarm to poor reputation, by the way, so ask there for recent info. Being an ALT is no picnic, and you may have to shuffle to more than one school to work, plus you get virtually no support from Interac in your day to day duties. Schools hire ALTs from places like Interac because they undercut the JET Programme (which has a better support system), and in both cases you would be working with a JTE who might be ok, fairly accepting, or totally oblivious to your existence. In an eikaiwa, you would at least have total control of the classroom. With ALT work, you'd probably be in school Mon-Fri, but in eikaiwa it's any 5 or 6 days of the week, usually from noon to 9pm, so either way you don't have a perfect situation. With ALT work, you are likely to get a reduced salary during summer, spring, and winter breaks; see what AEON offers instead.

What do you know about the teaching English situation here, as far as what you are required to do and what students know and are willing to study? I ask because there is still a lot of misinformation going around.

With either job (eikaiwa or ALT), you'll have enough money to survive, and if you are reasonably frugal you could expect to have 50,000 yen left over every month on average (those breaks for Interac would be different, of course). So don't necessarily worry about money.
 
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As an alt you move from school to school, at least at that time here in Kobe. I had to prove myself the whole time, then by the time I got used to the school and they to me I had to move to another school. I have been to about 30 schools in 3 years. I don't regret it at all as it was a good experience and as you work in a Japanese environment its easy to learn Japanese when you just arrive as well. Teachers can be very friendly and they are willing to teach you things as well.

So yeah, I liked the job but dont reccomend to do it for more than 2 years.
I appreciate the information and I'll keep the 2 year maximum in mind. I don't think I'd want to stay with a dispatch company for that long anyway. After a year I'd hope to have the qualifications to either move on to being a direct-hire or pursue getting certified as a teacher.

Lots of things to address here. I'm an English teacher who has gone through the eikaiwa, private HS, and university ranks, just so you know.

You don't want an entry level job in the US, but you are willing to take an entry level job here in an unrelated field. Then what? Are you planning to look around here for work in your field, or just enjoy a year off and then return to the States with a gap in your resume? If you want work in your field, why do you think it is so hard to get a work visa here? It's not, as long as you have a bachelor's degree and the proper experience. What is your field, anyway?

You want to turn down AEON because of what you've heard about eikaiwas. Well, AEON is one of the best eikaiwas, so reconsider if you are serious at all about teaching, even if only for a year. Go to the ESL Cafe Web site to talk to more teachers for related info. Interac has a lukewarm to poor reputation, by the way, so ask there for recent info. Being an ALT is no picnic, and you may have to shuffle to more than one school to work, plus you get virtually no support from Interac in your day to day duties. Schools hire ALTs from places like Interac because they undercut the JET Programme (which has a better support system), and in both cases you would be working with a JTE who might be ok, fairly accepting, or totally oblivious to your existence. In an eikaiwa, you would at least have total control of the classroom. With ALT work, you'd probably be in school Mon-Fri, but in eikaiwa it's any 5 or 6 days of the week, usually from noon to 9pm, so either way you don't have a perfect situation. With ALT work, you are likely to get a reduced salary during summer, spring, and winter breaks; see what AEON offers instead.

What do you know about the teaching English situation here, as far as what you are required to do and what students know and are willing to study? I ask because there is still a lot of misinformation going around.

With either job (eikaiwa or ALT), you'll have enough money to survive, and if you are reasonably frugal you could expect to have 50,000 yen left over every month on average (those breaks for Interac would be different, of course). So don't necessarily worry about money.
Lot of good info here. I'll try to answer what you asked in order. I don't want an entry level position in the U.S. solely because I want to work abroad and an entry level position in the states brings me no closer to that. While I majored in Anthropology I've no desire to utilize it, honestly. I figured a dispatch would be the easiest way of springboarding into the international teaching environment especially in Japan. After researching info and learning about sites like Ohayosensei I felt it was easier and I'd have some level of support, which was better than none at all.

I applied to the JET program, but knowing how exclusive their interview process supposedly is I didn't want to put all my eggs in that one basket just to have it turned down. I didn't want to have to sell textbooks and convince people to buy things overseas, I tried being a salesman and it wasn't for me.

I also don't think being an ALT is easy or by any means a vacation. Although, I don't hold it against you for bringing it up as I've read about all too many ALTs complaining about that one "gaijin" who seems to think this was a paid vacation to some degree. I won't lie though, everywhere does it say the JTE can make or break the experience and not having control of that is uncomfortable.

As for the teaching english situation I appreciate the opportunity to have this clarified, as this is what I know. It's oversaturated, I know Interac is undercutting JET and that is why they are everywhere in Japan as it is the cheapest for BOE's. The expectations being put onto us are said by Interac themselves, to teach and be cultural ambassadors evidently. To plan lessons, assist the JTE if necessary, and sometimes end up being a human tape recorder.

I knew about the multiple schools and while I'd obviously prefer to work at one place, I knew from the get go that being an ALT was meaning to possibly be at 5 schools. I've been told that Elementary grade children are much more willing to learn english whereas when you get to High Schoolers they are less than enthusiastic.

Good to know I'll have maybe $300 in the pocket as student loan debt ain't fun. I appreciate the info, and look forward to your reply Glenski.
 

Mike Cash

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Do you have any plans for what you're going to do if you discover you absolutely can't stand teaching? Do you have other job skills? Are they marketable in Japan? Do you have any Japanese language skills? Do you have a concrete plan for acquiring any? Do you have a Plan B for what you're going to do if you are among the over 90% of Americans whose stay in Japan doesn't last more than three years at the most?

Why Japan in particular?
 
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Do you have any plans for what you're going to do if you discover you absolutely can't stand teaching? Do you have other job skills? Are they marketable in Japan? Do you have any Japanese language skills? Do you have a concrete plan for acquiring any? Do you have a Plan B for what you're going to do if you are among the over 90% of Americans whose stay in Japan doesn't last more than three years at the most?

Why Japan in particular?
If I can't stand teaching I plan on finishing my contract with whoever I am regardless of what company, as it's only right. I'd be sincerely shocked if I despised it but I'm not going to assume anything. I do have other job skills and while I haven't looked extensively in Japan I would certainly hope that among the skills I've spent developing that I'd have something to offer.

I have been studying Japanese for the last couple of years and while it's not a speedy process I've been assured it never is. My Plan B for the circumstances you described would be to look at my other job skills and see what other options there are in Japan. If for whatever reason I am just not marketable in Japan I'd likely take that as a sign to return to the states and develop my skills more before I would attempt to return.

I appreciate the grilling, it reassures me that I've thought my options through and I'm not simply jumping to a more convenient ship. However, I still haven't really heard anything regarding whether or not Interac was a recommended choice. All the same I appreciate the fact that people wanted to verify my decision so that I'd know it was right for me.
 
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Do you have any plans for what you're going to do if you discover you absolutely can't stand teaching? Do you have other job skills? Are they marketable in Japan? Do you have any Japanese language skills? Do you have a concrete plan for acquiring any? Do you have a Plan B for what you're going to do if you are among the over 90% of Americans whose stay in Japan doesn't last more than three years at the most?

Why Japan in particular?
Axel57:

For an alternative point of view, when I came to Japan, I could not have answered any of those questions, except maybe the first one. (I had already taught in other countries.) I didn't have other job skills, had hardly any Japanese, no concrete plan (nor any soft plan), and no plan B. And I never thought on entering Japan that I'd end up here nearly 30 continuous years later, almost at retirement. I could have as easily been one of those 2-3 years-in-Japan-and-then-you're-gone types that Mike mentions.

I'd suggest that you go for it. Give it a try. Take a chance. You're young, and you're only young once, so throw caution to the wind.

Take whatever is offered, and make the most of it. Learn the language. Be proactive and look at it as a stepping stone.

((On the other hand, if I were young, I might be looking pretty hard at China, and skipping over both Japan and Korea.))
 

Mike Cash

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I couldn't have answered any of those questions either before I came here. I could have benefited from having them asked of me but the internet didn't exist yet at the time.

OP, I haven't said anything about Interac because I know nothing of them in particular or ALT in general.
 
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Axel57:

For an alternative point of view, when I came to Japan, I could not have answered any of those questions, except maybe the first one. (I had already taught in other countries.) I didn't have other job skills, had hardly any Japanese, no concrete plan (nor any soft plan), and no plan B. And I never thought on entering Japan that I'd end up here nearly 30 continuous years later, almost at retirement. I could have as easily been one of those 2-3 years-in-Japan-and-then-you're-gone types that Mike mentions.

I'd suggest that you go for it. Give it a try. Take a chance. You're young, and you're only young once, so throw caution to the wind.

Take whatever is offered, and make the most of it. Learn the language. Be proactive and look at it as a stepping stone.

((On the other hand, if I were young, I might be looking pretty hard at China, and skipping over both Japan and Korea.))
I appreciate the perspective JohnnyG. I've done as best I can to answer those questions from the perspective as someone who has never been. In terms of options I'm not going because it's my only option which I think is good. Means I'm not falling into the "grass is greener" mentality.

I think I am going to take it and regardless of what has been said, to do the best I can on it. Always better to do things with integrity after all. Also, I will absolutely be learning the language. Greatest advantage I can develop if I am looking to stay.

I couldn't have answered any of those questions either before I came here. I could have benefited from having them asked of me but the internet didn't exist yet at the time.

OP, I haven't said anything about Interac because I know nothing of them in particular or ALT in general.
I had figured this was why you were asking and was appreciative. I believe if you can't be challenged on your position on something than it must not be particularly too strong. It definitely gave me some things to think about and I appreciate the motive to do so Mike Cash.
 
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I've been working for Interac for years now. No horror stories. Though I may have just been lucky at my particular branch. There are a few floating about the net. Interac won't screw you more than industry average. They won't string you along as an unpaid trainee only to have you discover 3 months later while working illegally that they never filed your visa paperwork. They are just a temp agency, and thread every legal loophole to keep you part-time (and them not responsible for paying into your mandatory insurance and pension taxes) though.
If you can wait to see if you are accepted, I'd recommend the JET program over Interac, just for the pay and airfare . Had some friends who worked for Altia Central. No horror stories there either.
ALTing is a great job. You can do all the fun teacher stuff and skip out on the heavy responsibility and long hours. You also skip out on job security and benefits, so it's a "foot in the door", or "your daytime gig" if you plan to stick around for a long time.
 
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After a year I'd hope to have the qualifications to either move on to being a direct-hire or pursue getting certified as a teacher.
No offense, but with a degree in anthropology, I'd say get your certification ASAP. The market here for teachers is flooded, and any edge you have can help a lot. Plus, do you really want to be like most people starting out in TEFL with no background in teaching at all? You won't learn to be a great grammarian; that's something you have to pick up on your own. But TEFL certification gives you a basic foundation on the theory behind what you do in front of students and before you step in the room, plus some practical experience if you choose the right cert.

If I can't stand teaching I plan on finishing my contract with whoever I am regardless of what company, as it's only right. I'd be sincerely shocked if I despised it but I'm not going to assume anything. I do have other job skills and while I haven't looked extensively in Japan I would certainly hope that among the skills I've spent developing that I'd have something to offer.
Let's be practical here. What skills do you think you have that would be useful as a teacher of English? Please give us the details on what they are. I hear this line a lot from newcomers, only to find out they think way differently than they should. For example, "I've got teaching experience" can mean they taught a scuba class. Uh, no, that's not good enough to qualify.

I don't want an entry level position in the U.S. solely because I want to work abroad and an entry level position in the states brings me no closer to that. While I majored in Anthropology I've no desire to utilize it, honestly. I figured a dispatch would be the easiest way of springboarding into the international teaching environment especially in Japan.
This sort of ties into the previous question.
  • You want to work abroad, and in particular, Japan. OK, why?
  • You think an entry level position in the US will not get you closer to working abroad. OK, with a degree in anthropology, what sort of career did you envision abroad?
  • ALT is one way to get into the international teaching environment, yes, and so is eikaiwa work. At least consider eikaiwa as a starting point for teaching, but only with the big established places that have enough money to have recruiters in your country. Have you checked ESL Cafe for more advice yet?
I applied to the JET program, but knowing how exclusive their interview process supposedly is I didn't want to put all my eggs in that one basket just to have it turned down. I didn't want to have to sell textbooks and convince people to buy things overseas, I tried being a salesman and it wasn't for me.
Who told you being a teacher means selling books and courses? It's just not true 98% of the time. You are hired in eikaiwa (presumably the venue that someone told you would entail selling) because of your foreignness, and especially from the major anglophone countries, and little more. Yes, that includes teaching experience and certification. Despite what I said about about the edge a cert gives you, a lot depends on your overall physical appearance and chemistry during the interview. Some places, like the big eikaiwa, will give you a grammar and EFL test, too, so don't think it's all just personality. But you are not hired to sell goods or services. Being on the job might mean sitting in the lobby chatting up potential customers, yes, but they don't have the English skills & you don't have the Japanese skills to negotiate sales. That's what the eikaiwa has Japanese people for.

I've been told that Elementary grade children are much more willing to learn english whereas when you get to High Schoolers they are less than enthusiastic.
Willing is a relative thing, and so is "learn English". Kids in elementary school only recently have been given mandatory English courses, but it amounts to little more than teaching the alphabet and some sounds, plus some extremely basic vocabulary, largely in a repeat after me fashion. I know plenty of teachers who are in that area, and my son is in elementary school, if that means anything as a source of this info. Those young kids are impressionable, yes, and the big ole foreigner is a novelty and a half to them, which is one reason why they are there to "teach". But it's a lot of games and chants and songs and short expressions, certainly not teaching grammar. That comes later in junior high. Your JTE in elementary school is the homeroom teacher, who has virtually no training in teaching English, nor any experience in using it, so you're practically on your own and often in the dark about what goes on in the lesson. The reason kids peter out in enthusiasm by high school is that the whole teaching focus changes into preparing for college entrance exams, leaving any practice (and enjoyment) in conversations in the dust. Japan can't get its head out of the sand on this one. It's still grammar translation in HS, despite what MEXT says.
 
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I didn't have any experience working in Japanese. But I met several foreigners who are working in Japan in my sharehouse where I stayed.

From their experience, working in Japan is quite difficult, especially different working culture. they all took a long time to adapt to that. So get prepared and good luck!!!
 
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I have two friends that worked for Interac, they didn't have any horror stories and stayed at their placements for more than one year. However, if you can get JET, I would take that over Interac. JET does have a better support system, and the pay was a little higher when I was in the program(2009-2011). Also, with Interac you were only given a one year visa and had to renew every year. In JET, we started with a three year visa. The extra time might help with job searching if you decide to throw in the towel after a year or two.
 
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"Treat others the way you want to be treated yourself" is something that I try to live by. For this reason I could never advise you to "Take it and then transfer to a different ALT Company/BOE". I personally think this is a lousy way to start a business relationship, and will catch up with you in the long run. People invest time and therefore money in you, and students expect a motivated teacher for their money. Imagine if that company would do the same to you: "Take you on in January and then kick you out in February because someone send an open application and is willing to work for 200 yen per hour less".
 

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My wife worked as an English (ALT) teacher for Interac in Ibaraki, Japan. During the March 11th 2011 earthquake, the interac Hitachi office contacted her embassy (the British embassy) to tell them that she was missing during the earthquake. Interac did this even though my wife was emailing and calling them almost every day after the earthquake to give them updates on her status. When interac told the British embassy that she was missing, the embassy contacted her father, and her father had a heart attack upon hearing this untrue information. Luckily her father survived. My wife delayed contacting her father because her parents were divorced and not living with each other. Her father was traveling on business in a part of Asia where there was no cellular reception. But the embassy managed to contact him before she could. My wife was stranded in Mito City (The capital of Ibaraki prefecture), sleeping at the train station on the floor with no bedding, food and water. She had no food for 4 days, and no water for 2 days. Interac had done nothing to assist her and their other teachers in Ibaraki. She had gone to Mito City, 150km from her school to do work for interac. Interac did nothing at all to help her situation, in fact they gave her wrong information about the disaster centers that were available, leading to my wife travelling on foot for long distances unnecessarily. Eventually some American friends rescued her with food and water. Interac then allowed her corrupt Japanese landlord (from Daigo Machi, Ibaraki, Japan) to illegally keep a 500USD rental deposit when she vacated her apartment a month later. The interac managing consultant in the Hitachi Office: He was responsible for lying to my wife’s embassy and allowing her criminal landlord to keep her 500USD deposit. He still works for interac in the Tokyo head office. He is well known in Ibaraki to be very racist in nature (especially towards Asian people who aren’t Japanese in origin). Ask all of the teachers who worked under him in Ibaraki and they will all tell you that he is grossly incompetent in his job. He has a degree in psychology but is known to have mental issues himself. He is kiwi (From New Zealand), but talks with a fake British accent. During heated conversations his strong kiwi accent becomes apparent. He’s quite a fake person indeed. My wife tells me that all 22 teachers working under him in Ibaraki prefecture hated him. Avoid interac like the plague!
 

musicisgood

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My wife worked as an English (ALT) teacher for Interac in Ibaraki, Japan. During the March 11th 2011 earthquake, the interac Hitachi office contacted her embassy (the British embassy) to tell them that she was missing during the earthquake. Interac did this even though my wife was emailing and calling them almost every day after the earthquake to give them updates on her status. When interac told the British embassy that she was missing, the embassy contacted her father, and her father had a heart attack upon hearing this untrue information. Luckily her father survived. My wife delayed contacting her father because her parents were divorced and not living with each other. Her father was traveling on business in a part of Asia where there was no cellular reception. But the embassy managed to contact him before she could. My wife was stranded in Mito City (The capital of Ibaraki prefecture), sleeping at the train station on the floor with no bedding, food and water. She had no food for 4 days, and no water for 2 days. Interac had done nothing to assist her and their other teachers in Ibaraki. She had gone to Mito City, 150km from her school to do work for interac. Interac did nothing at all to help her situation, in fact they gave her wrong information about the disaster centers that were available, leading to my wife travelling on foot for long distances unnecessarily. Eventually some American friends rescued her with food and water. Interac then allowed her corrupt Japanese landlord (from Daigo Machi, Ibaraki, Japan) to illegally keep a 500USD rental deposit when she vacated her apartment a month later. The interac managing consultant in the Hitachi Office: He was responsible for lying to my wife’s embassy and allowing her criminal landlord to keep her 500USD deposit. He still works for interac in the Tokyo head office. He is well known in Ibaraki to be very racist in nature (especially towards Asian people who aren’t Japanese in origin). Ask all of the teachers who worked under him in Ibaraki and they will all tell you that he is grossly incompetent in his job. He has a degree in psychology but is known to have mental issues himself. He is kiwi (From New Zealand), but talks with a fake British accent. During heated conversations his strong kiwi accent becomes apparent. He’s quite a fake person indeed. My wife tells me that all 22 teachers working under him in Ibaraki prefecture hated him. Avoid interac like the plague!

How about Nova schools?
I got a friend who works for them, says the hours are long, but the pay is good and seems to have no problem with them at all. He's been with them awhile also. I just sent them my resume. Hoping to land a part-time job.
 

Mike Cash

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How about Nova schools?
I got a friend who works for them, says the hours are long, but the pay is good and seems to have no problem with them at all. He's been with them awhile also. I just sent them my resume. Hoping to land a part-time job.
They're not in Japan. He just wanted to bïtch.
 
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You do realize, don't you, that John Smithy revived this thread after almost a year of no comments? He wrote as if the previous post in December 2015 was recent.
 

KyushuWoozy

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When I was teaching in Japan, Nova had the worst reputation. There were several scandals too about some of the teachers smoking dope and having inappropriate relationships and with some of the students. Then it went bankrupt (annoyingly just after my niece had forked out for the next semester's lessons).

I notice they've recently opened up here in Indonesia.
 
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