Sayuko’s Story

In high school and in college, I had no idea what I wanted to do for work. I entered college at Brandeis University as a potential sociology major because I was interested in cultures and societal behaviors. However, I quickly dropped sociology and ended up taking many different kinds of humanities courses and the minimum number of credits required for a bachelor’s in economics. 

I have been in the field of education for the majority of my work life. I have had quite a few work-identity crises along the way! Even as recently as 2 years ago, I had no sense of direction regarding my career, which was on a long hiatus raising young kids. 

My first job after college was as a field organizer at ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which only lasted 3 months. After that an opportunity to teach English in China came up. I had spent a summer in China on a short term missions trip teaching English and had loved it. So this was a very exciting opportunity for me, which ended up determining my path forward as a teacher. With basically no teaching experience, I jumped into my role as an English Conversation Instructor at a university in Northeast China. I still cherish the relationships I was able to form, being able to study Mandarin, and the invaluable teaching experience I was able to gain during my one and a half years there. 

I went to get a Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) back in the U.S. at The School of International Training. Then, I moved back to my home country, Japan, to take a teaching position at a pioneer elementary school English program. This job has been the one that has best suited my skill set and experiences as a bilingual, multicultural person with training in ESL education. I enjoyed teaching Japanese elementary school children for 7 years while leading the program, training and supporting teachers and developing curricula and materials. 

Now I’m working as the Immigrant Assistance Tutoring Coordinator for a Catholic Organization, which is a good fit for my skills and is very fulfilling! Looking back on my career so far, I can see that all of my short and longer term jobs, internships, and volunteer work have led me to the place I am at now. The path was often meandering and frustratingly unclear, but I don’t know if I could have arrived at this point without all of it.

What do you wish you had known when you were a high school senior?

Go out and have as many different kinds of experiences as possible, get to know yourself, your interests and passions, and what role you might want to play in this world. Knowing yourself is key in figuring out what will bring you joy and what you need for your next steps.

What’s the best thing about your job?

What I enjoy most is meeting with immigrant clients who are English learners, and getting to know them. I also greatly appreciate working for an organization with core values that align with mine.

Read more real stories about adulting here!