Centre experience sends student to Japan

Published 10:37 am Wednesday, June 14, 2023


Katie Bonney spent four years at Centre College absorbing cross-cultural experiences.

Her first step as a graduate from the class of 2023: A new, international adventure through the Japan Exchange and Teaching program.

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The Morehead native had two Japanese roommates during her time at Centre, and said that after an immersive study abroad experience in London, she wanted a new test after graduating.

“I really wanted to challenge myself with a language and cultural experience that I wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to interact with,” she said. “I loved London, but it felt like it was a safe bet because there wasn’t really a language barrier.

Those types of motivations are exactly what JET is looking for, according to Centre’s Director of the Office of Fellowships Robert Schalkoff. JET is a program sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan — and is the premier English teaching assistantship program in East Asia, Schalkoff said.

“College graduates from around the world compete in their home countries for a spot in the program,” he said, noting that JET provides a generous salary, full benefits and world-class professional development opportunities as part of the program.

“Additionally, the alumni network is extensive and the U.S. network is particularly active,” he said. “It is a terrific resource for JET participants after they return to the U.S. to remain engaged with the JET alumni community, as well as the Japanese communities living in the U.S. where the individual chapters are located. It’s an unparalleled networking opportunity for anyone who wishes to continue their professional and personal connection with Japan, Japanese corporations and Japan-related organizations.”

Bonney said she would be working as an assistant language teacher, aiding another English teacher with programming, activities and more. She’ll start in August and, if the first year goes well, can extend the opportunity for a second year.

“I’ll be working with students on their speaking abilities, helping them feel more comfortable conversing and holding conversations in English,” Bonney said. “I found out that I’m going to be in the south of Japan in a prefecture called Ehime. I’ll be working mostly with high schoolers, which is pretty good because I don’t have any actual Japanese experience — I applied cold turkey. I think it will be a really nice learning experience for them and hopefully for me, as well.”

Bonney, a double major in anthropology and art history, said that she knew she wanted to take time after graduation to pursue a challenge before returning to school to focus on museum studies or museum education. Her experience working with the Field Museum in Chicago during CentreTerm 2023 was just one of the “wonderful” experiences that Centre provided to help prepare her for postgraduate opportunity.

“Just the ability to learn from people who have different backgrounds than you, having the ability to room with people who were from another country, make friendships with people from all across the globe, traveling — that was so, so valuable,” she said.

Putting her cross-cultural experiences together with a world-class education is what prepared Bonney for the JET program. She noted that Centre professors — from getting to know her on a personal level to their expert instruction — were instrumental in her development.

“Because you get a lot of one-on-one time with professors, I felt comfortable going to them and asking them to write letters of recommendation,” she said. “I felt like they actually knew who I was, not just as a student, but outside of the classroom. It didn’t feel like I was asking them to write a run-of-the-mill essay. It was going to be very personal and genuine to who I am as a person.”