Working as an ALT, especially during the summer holidays, can wage war on your senses. Often, we have nothing, or less, to do. It can be so easy to slip into the abyss that is the internet, wasting countless hours checking Facebook, reddit, tumblr, imgur, and many more. For those who want to feel a little more productive, this is the article for you!
It’s wise to finish all of your actual work before messing around. Or at least get started on it. It’s impractical to work on it constantly, and you’ll burn yourself out. But you should still talk with your JTEs to see what they’d like to do for fall classes. Ask for the textbook if you’re new and don’t have it. Pester everyone for the schedule so you can know when you might have sports days, cultural festivals, and exams. If you need inspiration, the Hyogo AJET Dropbox has many lesson plans from people in our own community. Keep an eye out on the Hyogo AJET website for other methods of accessing these: http://www.hyogoajet.net/
Check in with teachers at your school and see what clubs you could join. If you have an English Speaking Society (ESS), they’d love to meet with you and do fun things together. My ESS will be performing two plays during our open high school. You can do that, watch movies in English, play games, mostly anything so long as the vehicle of interaction is English.
While living in Japan, your daily life will be exponentially easier if you can express your wants and needs in the native language of 98.5% of the people around us. Some of my favorite ways to study Japanese include memrise.com and Anki Droid for vocabulary (http://nihongo-app.com/ is an iPhone alternative and was developed by a Hyogo JET alum’s spouse), the Nihongo Soumatome series for a structured 6-week review, and the Genki textbook series for grammar, especially if you have a partner you can practice the exercises with.
Though it is not exactly necessary, writing kanji has been the easiest way for me to really learn the meanings and readings. If there is a free classroom (as there often will be in summer), blackboards great for practicing stroke order without wasting massive amounts of paper.
If studying Japanese has burnt you out, or you have other priorities, there are plenty of other subjects to study. Do you plan on continuing your education after JET? You can study and even sit for many tests in Japan, including the MCAT and GRE (computer-based tests are in Osaka and Tokyo; paper tests are offered in Okinawa and Fukuoka–make a weekend trip out of it and use our travel reviews for advice on what to do). Khan Academy offers many free online courses. Are you interested in learning other languages? Duolingo can serve as an introduction to several different tongues and the gameification aids in motivation. Again, Memrise is fantastic for vocabulary and can even help with grammar. They also have content other than languages.
Ask for a schedule of the year from your supervisor. From that, you’ll be able to see when your midterm and final exams are. These are the perfect times to travel without the crowds you’d encounter during school and national holidays.
My typical method for planning vacations is to decide where to go and what I want to do, when I’m going, how I’m getting there (usually Peach for farther locations or China Eastern for places even farther), and where I’m staying, followed by a quick set of bookings for airfare and accommodation. Google flights can help you select specific criteria for your airfare if Peach doesn’t work out for you. Hostelworld and hostels.com are helpful for looking up places with availability, but I always reserve on booking.com as it doesn’t require any sort of deposit.
Vacationing Remember, there are 5 days of summer leave for prefectural JETs. If money isn’t an issue, this is a convenient time to travel. Traveling together with your fellow JETs is extremely enjoyable and makes some of the best memories you’ll have while on the program. (If you’re in need of friends, come meet everyone at the HAJET Welcome Party!) Try to avoid larger tourist draws in Japan, though, as many students and their families will take advantage of one of the only times they can travel. Theme parks are particularly awful between the humidity, heat, and (massive numbers of) humans. If you are considering a specific travel destination, check out our travel section to see if we have any tips!
Reading and Writing
You didn’t really think you’d get through this without a shameless plea for contributors, did you? Writing for the Hyogo Times is a wonderful way to pass the time, can be good fun, and looks great on your resume! We also need your help!
If you are still struggling to find things to occupy yourself at this point, reading is mentally stimulating. Read fiction, read history, read science, read Oryx and Crake before the HAJET Book Club meeting on September 6th. There are so many ways to get involved and stay productive! Good luck, JETs!