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Samantha Levy ‘06

 Now that spring semester is starting, many of the seniors on campus are feeling that slight, or rather intense, pressure of figuring out their next step after graduation.  Since the majority of us won’t be able to stay on campus as the House Mom/Dad of our Greek Organization, the brainstorming begins for ways to save us from the doom of unemployment.  Her Campus caught a glimpse of an alumna’s participation in the unique JET Program, the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program.  Samantha Levy shares her experience about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Her Campus: What first sparked your interest in the JET program?
Samantha Levy: It was more who got me interested.  I first learned about the JET program my junior year, when I went to the information session presented by sociology professor, Christopher Bondy.  He had done the program, and shared some of his experiences with us.  He explained that JET was the biggest cultural exchange program in the world.  I was drawn to the idea of immersing myself in a different country while bringing my American identity into the classroom to create a solid understanding between the two cultures.
I had also been working in DePauw`s `W` center at the time I was applying for JET, and really enjoyed tutoring the international students.  They had such ambition for learning the English language, which made me motivated to teach it.  A couple of the Japanese students I worked with helped me in my application process with answering any questions I had about Japan, and introduced me to the sincere kindness of their culture.
HC: How much did you know about Japanese culture and language before starting the program?
SL: I had some knowledge about Japanese culture and history from a class I took with religions professor Paul Watt.  It was called `Buddhism in Japanese Literature`.  We read works dating back from the Imperial Court, through the Samurai and Shogunate period, to the modern era.  So much of the traditional culture I see here, like Japanese tea ceremonies or Kabuki Theater, was introduced to me in that class.  It`s been great to apply things I`ve learned at DePauw to first-hand experiences here.As for the language, zero.  It was a huge struggle at first, and still is, but it`s amazing how quickly a language can catch on from just listening to it and living it.  That being said, there are three Japanese alphabets, one of which has over 2,000 characters.  It`s a constant challenge, but I can confidently say I learn something new every day.

HC: How much of a culture shock did you experience when you went to Japan?
SL: My culture shock came in different phases.  The first was in Tokyo, where we spent four days for orientation.  That was more of an exciting sort of shock.  You`re jet-lagged, you`re nervous, and you`re confused, but you`re in one of the most beautiful cities in the world with thousands of other JETs who are all going through the same thing.Then you`re sent to your assigned location—your `contracting organization`.  For me, that is a small town inside a small city on an island far from Tokyo.  It wasn`t easy at first.  No longer was I distracted by big city lights and other English-speaking people.  I remember on my first night I couldn`t find a restaurant in my town and ended up eating ramen noodles from a convenience store.  I think it was called `UFO Noodle,` and I bought it because it was the only thing that had a picture on the outside.  I ate it on the floor of my not-yet furnished apartment, scared of what I had gotten myself into.  Now, I can look back at those first couple days and laugh.  There are actually plenty of restaurants in my town and plenty of people, but at first it was a major shock.
HC: Are you enjoying your experience?  Would you recommend it to other DePauw students?
SL: Yes and yes!  I am having a wonderful time in Japan and enjoying every aspect of it—the teaching, the people, the language, the shopping, and the food!  I think it was a good step to take after graduation and I`d encourage DePauw students to apply.
HC: What has been the biggest drawback of participating in JET?  What has been the greatest benefit?
SL: The biggest drawback is being away from everything I know and love from home.  It felt like going to college for the first time when I left for Japan.  It`s always hard leaving what you`re familiar with.  The greatest benefit then is meeting new people, forming new bonds, and creating new memories that you will never forget.  
HC: What do you miss most about DePauw?  Any advice for current seniors regarding our future decisions?
SL: What I miss most about DePauw are the classes.  I`ll always have great memories of the social aspect of college, but all of that kind of meshes into one big party.  It`s the classes, the professors, and the conversations that will stick with you forever.   
As for seniors, don`t get too hung up on what you`re doing after school.  Thinking about your future and scoping out the career services center is important, but don`t let it interrupt your last few months in college.  Maybe my memories blend together into one big party, but it`s one big legendary party that you shouldn`t miss out on.
For more information on the JET Program, visit http://www.jetprogramme.org/

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