When St. Louis native Jason Withington enrolled at Drake, he knew he would benefit from studying a foreign language. He wanted a change from French, which he’d studied in high school, so he decided to try Japanese.
The next thing he knew, he was president of the Japanese Club at Drake. Then he was studying abroad in Japan for a semester, through a student exchange partnership between Drake and Kwansei Gakuin University. Now, he is ready to return to Japan—for his first job after graduation.
Withington, who last week earned dual degrees in history and politics, was accepted to the JET Program, which hires U.S. citizens to teach English in Japan. The selective program is sponsored by the Japanese government, and is designed to promote internationalization.
“I am super happy to have been chosen,” Withington said. “I loved living and studying in Japan, I enjoy the culture, and I made a lot of friends there. I really look forward to going back."
A handful of Drake alumni have been accepted into the JET Program in recent years, with some continuing to teach in Japan for the maximum five years. Much like participants in the prestigious Fulbright program—Drake has been a top producer of Fulbright Scholars for the past four years—JET Program participants have parlayed experience abroad into diverse international careers.
“Participants gain government-supported experience in Japan. They improve their cultural competence and language skills. They gain international teaching experience. Those things help participants get jobs or apply for graduate schools,” said Chinatsu Bachmann, associate professor of second language acquisition.
Bachmann and other members of the Drake faculty—including Associate Professor of Politics Mary McCarthy, who specializes in Japanese politics—supported Withington during the application process.
“Jason has very strong language skills, and he’s always willing to help other students, such as through tutoring” said Bachmann. "He understands Japanese culture well and he will be a positive representative of Drake during his time in the JET Program."
Withington says he hopes to continue to work in Japan after he concludes his JET participation. He credits his Drake professors with the mentorship and connections that led him to this prestigious opportunity.
“I’ve had really nice teachers,” he said. “I like the fact that professors remember my name, even if I only have one class with them. They’ve been there to support me throughout my time at Drake."