Category Archives: Joseph Lovegren

4 Tips for Beating the JLPT 1

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test, for those of you who are not familiar with it is one of the most important qualifications you can get to get you into a job in Japan. Of course there are those jobs out there that do not require Japanese to get, but if you really want a job in Japan where you are doing the same work as your fellow Japanese colleagues, this is your ticket in. Japanese society puts a lot of importance on standardized tests – this is something you’d understand by looking at the fact that every university in Japan has its own humongous standardized test you need to determine if you are eligible to enter. The importance of test scores in Japan holds for foreigners as well. Those of you looking to get your 永住権 (eijuuken), permanent residence, having passed JLPT 1 will increase your chances. Not as in you will be favored more, you will actually receive 10 points in their point system to determine the eligibility of people for permanent residence. If we look at the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) we can understand more about the JLPT considering TOEIC is the main qualification you put on your resume when showing off your English ability in Japan.

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Battle to Stay in Japan

March 11th was a day that affected a lot of people I cared about, but it took me a while for everything to sink in and realize that it was part of my life too. On March 11th 2011, I was taking a shower in my dormitory in Warabi-shi of Saitama. I can’t quite remember if I had classes that day or I simply chose to skip them because I was exhausted from work. It was the middle of the day and I was going about my business when I suddenly found that I couldn’t stand up properly. My thought process was something to the effect of: “Wow, am I hungover?? I knew all this drinking was going to catch up with my health at some point, but this is… oh… this is an Earthquake.” So I rinsed off the shampoo off my head, wrapped a towel around my waist and ran up to my room. I put on some shorts and then my next priority was to secure my things and make sure nothing would  be broken. It took me a second to realize that I’d be a bit broke if I didn’t get downstairs. I ran outside, putting on a shirt as I greeted everyone standing outside.

Our area wasn’t affected all that badly, so it wasn’t until later that I heard about people dodging falling debris and having to walk 8 hours back home due to traffic jams and stopped trains. It was much much worse than I had realized at first. I still remember me joking with my friend Vincent when hearing that the Fukushima plant had been damaged, saying that “Oh looks like we’re gonna have a new Marvel hero on our hands.” Our friend Aki quickly cut in to let us know that it was a much more serious situation and not something to be joking about. He was right, it is still something that we can’t say is completely safe, even 3 years later.

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Working in Japan without Experience

Two years ago, right after I re-enrolled at UT Austin after my leave of absence to extend my study abroad program in Japan, one of Japanese language professors sent me an email asking me to talk to her class about opportunities in Japan.

I remembered the feeling of not really being able to see a light at the end of the tunnel as far as getting myself rooted in Japan after my study abroad at Sophia University.  I had never had a job even in the United States aside from helping with my father’s business.

Luckily for me, I had burned through all savings, scholarships and grants on partying with my new friends and anything that seemed slightly exotic. I started browsing around online for financial opportunities while living off of approximately 10 dollars a day for a couple weeks.  That soon turned to 5 dollars a day, and after a week of 3 dollars yen a day I really got moving. I was getting a little tired of Rice, Kimchi and Nattou for breakfast and dinner every day.

I lined up an interview  with one of the leading English Conversation Companies: GABA. I did my research, tried to think of anything that I have done in college that would count as “teaching experience” and pulled out my most formal clothes from the bottom of my suitcase.

Everything was going great until I was asked at the end of the interview to wear a suit to the second interview. I was more terrified at the thought of spending 300 dollars that I don’t have than I was excited at the fact that I passed the first interview. Thanks to UNIQLO, I was able to throw together what looked like a suit for about 100 dollars. I didn’t even have dress shoes so I had to throw down at 60 dollars at ABC mart for a decent pair. (I wish I knew then that you could get a seemingly decent pair in Shibuya for 20 bucks).

I made it to the second interview looking pretty sharp and it went pretty well. They asked me to wait two weeks while they considered my application.

Then, while taking a shower in my dorm on March 11th 2011, I started to feel really strange and found that I couldn’t stand up properly. After my shampoo bottle and everything else fell on my toes, I realized that an earthquake had struck. I ran out of the shower room in a towel to get to my room on the third floor. Once I made it to the staircase, I realized this was a big earthquake and just ran outside in the towel to meet all my dorm-mates and some of the Warabi-shi neighbors.

About a week later,  completely forgotten about my interviews at GABA, I got a phone call that went a little bit like this:

“Hello, is this Joseph?” , “This is he” , “So you’re still in Japan?” , “Yes…” “You’re still in Tokyo?” “Yes…” “Oh wow! Okay, well if you’re still interested in the position at GABA…”

And that’s one of the methods for getting a non-specialized job in Japan.


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