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Is there life after ESL teaching in Japan?

Mattosan

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Hello everyone. I’m new to this. This is the first time I have ever written anything on a forum. I want to tell my story with the hope of gaining some new perspective and advice from people who may have been or are still in a similar situation.

My name is Matt. I’m 40. I returned to my home country of New Zealand last year after having spent 6 years teaching English in Japan. I arrived in Japan single and left happily married with 2 beautiful kids.

I lived in Melbourne for 9 years from the age of 24 to 33. During this period of my life I was a silly lad and partied a bit hard with very little responsibility or thought about my future. I hardly paid a cent off my student loan. It skyrocketed. When I graduated it was at about $30,000. After 9 years in Australia it sat at around $55,000. I was 33 and it was like an enormous weight on my back which was starting to suffocate me. I had to do something. I came up with a plan to kill 2 birds with 1 stone. I had mates who had taught English in Japan, had an awesome time and come back after a couple of years and paid off most of their loans. The exchange rate was good, around 55 yen to the NZ$. I did a quick budget and thought if I worked my butt off I could save around $15,000 in a year. So I thought I could have a great experience and pay off a decent chunk of my loan.

So off I went.

After 1 year I had saved zilch and not had the best experience with my first ESL job. On the brink of returning home to NZ amidst a decent dose of culture shock, I decided to stay. The Christchurch earthquake happened soon after and I saw it as an omen for me to stick it out and really put my all into ESL teaching. I found another job, eventually became a partner in a small Eikaiwa, met my wife, got married, had our kids and life was good. Untill....I got shafted by the guy who sold me his share of the school I bought into. He did not disclose a large tax debt and other crucial details which would have deterred me from investing in the school.
After 5 years in Japan I had still saved zilch, largely owing to the fact that the money I was sending back to NZ every 3 months was pretty much just covering the massive interest I was being charged on my loan. So I was working my butt off in Japan to keep my loan at the same level and not being able to save any money while working in a school which had no sign of increasing business.

I had given everything I had into turning around the school I had invested in. It wasn't happening. My business partner was not interested and was happy to live his meager lifestyle for the rest of his days. I was living with my wife's parents and had no sign of a future job wise. I was not even making a dent in my debt. On top of this I also now owe about $12,000 to my wife’s parents for loaning us the money for the business and my wife also has a student loan of similar size which her parents were making the minimum payments required.

We had to make a decision.

My student loan is interest free if living and working in NZ, my wife’s is interest free anywhere. I was approaching 40. I wanted to return home at an age where I thought I had the best chances of being employable.

So we did. After 6 years we sold up and returned home to NZ. I returned full of positivity and hope and I was totally committed to putting 110% into getting a career happening and finally providing some security and stability for my family.

Easier said than done. 1 year on and unfortunately we are still up the proverbial creek.

We decided to settle in Ashburton because of the (due to the earthquakes) exorbitant cost and lack of availability of rental accommodation in Christchurch, which is where my family lives.

I was forced to take any job I could find and ended up with a job in a warehouse.

1 year on we have probably lost money whilst budgeting ourselves to the hilt. My wife cannot work at present because our kids are still at home. We also have to try to come up with the $1200 odd for her residents visa.

I have spent every night for the past 6 months applying for jobs through Seek and Trade Me, with no luck. I am largely calling on the experience I had before Japan which was some sales and customer service experience in the Telecommunications and Hospitality industries.

The house we are renting at present is being sold so we have to move out within the next month. I will be house sitting for 5 weeks in Christchurch and during this time I will be putting 110% into finding a job which will allow me to forge some kind of career.

I’m kind of desperate and at my wits end, so I would appreciate any advice anyone might have for me.

My question to the people of the internet is;

Are there any people reading this who have returned home after having spent an extended time in Japan and managed to get a career started in a field they find rewarding? How did you do it?

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
 
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I don't know how much my own story will help you, but I'll give it a try. Forty years ago I taught English at a little eikaiwa in Osaka for one-and-one-half years. The owner had a loose approach to the law, as I wasn't even supposed to be working since I was on a tourist visa and only had three years of college. I got married in Japan, and returned to the US with my new wife later in August of my second year in Japan.

I finished school and spent a year like you, beating the bushes for a job I could make a career of. Nobody was impressed by my teaching experience in Japan, nor in my degree in English. I worked for a landscaper, in a department store, unloaded trucks, trapped fur, and cut and split firewood to make a living. I realized I would be better off working with my head than my back, so I decided to go to law school.

Up until then I had paid for college by working part-time, with a little help from my parents. For law school I had to take out $12,000 in loans, which was a substantial sum at that time. But at least I would have a career that paid well enough to pay off the loans in ten years. After law school I was offered a job in Alaska, and off we went, wife, new son, and myself to Anchorage.

My advice is that you might want to get more schooling in a field that can offer you interesting work in exchange for decent living wages for your family. Law, accounting, engineering, architecture, medicine (not just doctors, but physician's assistants and nurses are in demand these days).

I feel I've kind of been where you're at, minus such a high amount of student loans. I wish you best of luck.
 

Mattosan

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I don't know how much my own story will help you, but I'll give it a try. Forty years ago I taught English at a little eikaiwa in Osaka for one-and-one-half years. The owner had a loose approach to the law, as I wasn't even supposed to be working since I was on a tourist visa and only had three years of college. I got married in Japan, and returned to the US with my new wife later in August of my second year in Japan.

I finished school and spent a year like you, beating the bushes for a job I could make a career of. Nobody was impressed by my teaching experience in Japan, nor in my degree in English. I worked for a landscaper, in a department store, unloaded trucks, trapped fur, and cut and split firewood to make a living. I realized I would be better off working with my head than my back, so I decided to go to law school.

Up until then I had paid for college by working part-time, with a little help from my parents. For law school I had to take out $12,000 in loans, which was a substantial sum at that time. But at least I would have a career that paid well enough to pay off the loans in ten years. After law school I was offered a job in Alaska, and off we went, wife, new son, and myself to Anchorage.

My advice is that you might want to get more schooling in a field that can offer you interesting work in exchange for decent living wages for your family. Law, accounting, engineering, architecture, medicine (not just doctors, but physician's assistants and nurses are in demand these days).

I feel I've kind of been where you're at, minus such a high amount of student loans. I wish you best of luck.
Thank you very much for sharing your story and your advice. Like you experienced, my time in Japan and my degree in Education is not opening any doors for me. I'm trying to be as positive as I can about it but its starting to really get me down. I have actually looked at going back to school. I am very interested in Health and Well Being. I looked at a post graduate degree in Human Nutrition. This would require 3 more years of study and a heck of a lot more debt. I considered a graduate diploma of teaching. 1 more year of study and about $10,000. From there I could try to branch into health and well-being within a high school teaching job maybe. The thought of even more debt is mighty daunting but its looking more and more like my only option.
 

Majestic

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I graduated university and came to Japan and taught English for 2+ years. After that I returned to my home country to find work. Unemployment was high, and I struggled for a sex very dispiriting months. As above, not many companies were impressed with my work experience. Then, a friend helped me get a job in a Japanese company. I came back to Japan, where I've been ever since (not in the same company, mind you).
The even more abridged version is: a connection helped me to find work.
If both you and your wife's debts aren't accruing any interest while you are in NZ, then I wouldn't fret about those for now. All things considered, your wife's debt is very light, and your debt burden isn't all that heavy compared to what some US students end up owning. Keep working at the warehouse to earn money and keep trying to expand your network. Are you part of the Japanese community there? I mean, are you and your wife social with people who might know of job openings in places with a connection to Japan?
Also, you might try expanding your job search: if your loan is interest-free if you reside in Australia, maybe you might have better luck finding work in Oz.
 

Mattosan

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I graduated university and came to Japan and taught English for 2+ years. After that I returned to my home country to find work. Unemployment was high, and I struggled for a sex very dispiriting months. As above, not many companies were impressed with my work experience. Then, a friend helped me get a job in a Japanese company. I came back to Japan, where I've been ever since (not in the same company, mind you).
The even more abridged version is: a connection helped me to find work.
If both you and your wife's debts aren't accruing any interest while you are in NZ, then I wouldn't fret about those for now. All things considered, your wife's debt is very light, and your debt burden isn't all that heavy compared to what some US students end up owning. Keep working at the warehouse to earn money and keep trying to expand your network. Are you part of the Japanese community there? I mean, are you and your wife social with people who might know of job openings in places with a connection to Japan?
Also, you might try expanding your job search: if your loan is interest-free if you reside in Australia, maybe you might have better luck finding work in Oz.
Hi there. Thanks so much for your thoughts and advice.
I guess regarding the debt we have, I do try to put it out of my mind but it is so large that it does get me down often. My wife's debt is the same size as mine on top of the loan from her parents. It is the elephant in the room which is impossible to ignore.
My current job has been a slog, to say the least. I have to move cities next month as the current city we live in has no opportunities for me. I will commute for 2 weeks after we move and then I will resign from my current job. My impending resignation is largely due to pressure coming from my boss who is well aware that I am not suited to my current position, and if I do not resign I know I will be 'managed out'.
My current job requires basic mechanical and engineering knowledge. I have no skill, experience or passion in these areas. On top of dealing with a year of knock backs from job applications I have had to do a job with which I have had to feign interest and deal with daily situations with which I am unable to deal with and have to ask for help from co-workers some of whom I think have tired of this.
We do have a couple of Japanese friends living here, however they have been here most of their lives and do not have many if any contacts in Japan or here as far as I know. They are all well aware of our situation and no offers have arisen.
Regarding living outside of NZ, unfortunately this is not an option as my student debt is only interest free if residing in NZ. Actually just the other night a good friend heard of my situation and called me offering a place to live and a job in Australia with very good prospects. I had to turn it down due to this fact.
I guess I just have to somehow widen my network and hold onto hope that an opportunity will come from someone.
Thanks again for taking the time to read about my situation and offer your thoughts and advice. I appreciate it.
 

Mattosan

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Hello Mattosan,
I saw this article and it reminded me of this thread. Hope things have stabilized for you.
If not, I could think of worse things than living a quiet life on the South Island.
New Zealand town with ‘too many jobs’ is seeking new residents | WTVR.com
Hi Majestic
My wife and I have heard about there being an abundance of jobs down south. We are considering it! If the right opportunity came along and I decide I am able to work in perhaps a completely different industry we may just go!
 

HanSolo

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Is there anything else you are/were good at? Are there any other skills you may have had once, or things you had aptitude in, that you could perhaps resurrect?
 

Mattosan

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Is there anything else you are/were good at? Are there any other skills you may have had once, or things you had aptitude in, that you could perhaps resurrect?
Hi HanSolo,
Thanks for your comment, I appreciate you having taken the time to read my story.
I pride myself in my ability to connect with people from any culture and walk of life. I am very compassionate and have the ability to 'listen beyond words'. I enjoy a natural sustainable lifestyle with my family. My wife and I are very interested in health and well being. I love gardening, carpentry and cooking. Our dream job would be to run our own Japanese ethnic inspired health cafe.
 

Mattosan

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I thought i would post an update of our situation. I am currently unemployed. Things have really started to get difficult. I went to my doctor who has diagnosed me with a 'depressive episode'. If we could afford the fee for my wife to go to a doctor she too would probably be diagnosed the same.
We are now living in a 6x6m sleep-out / granny flat which is on the property my step sister is house sitting / renting. It is in a beautiful part of the Canterbury countryside. It is only a short term arrangement for us. We have to be out of here by October, so we have 3 months. I have been hoping to find a job that I think I could enjoy and have the opportunity to carve a career from but after another few months of knock-backs I may have to sidestep my pride a little bit and lower my sights.
Being 40 and having been 'off the radar' for so long is proving to be quite a challenge!
I do enjoy reading the thoughts and experiences of those who read my story. Please comment!
 
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