Going to Japan: Kelsey from Indiana


My name is Kelsey.

I hail from: Indiana, USA.

What do you currently do? I just graduated college with a double degree in East Asian Languages and Cultures and International Studies, as well as a minor in Second Language Studies. I’m currently interning at the YWCA in my area doing anything and everything; teaching citizenship, English, and computer classes to Burmese refugees, helping out with organization for projects to promote diversity and understanding of differences, translating a victims assitance pamphlet into Mandarin, and helping out with countless projects at a domestic violence shelter. And trying to take advantage of all the perks (ex. free and Photoshop downloads for my fancy new camera) I got with my university and which I never knew of until I graduated before my account expires.

What will you be doing in Japan? I will be a CIR (Coordinator of International Relations) and PA (Prefectural Advisor) through the JET Program.

Where will you be headed? Utsunomiya, TochigiIndiana’s sister state. I’m learning more and more about why they’re connected every day.

Taiwan night market: duck tongue, rooster comb, quail egg on a stick. Mmm the trifecta.

Taiwan night market: duck tongue, rooster comb, quail egg on a stick (mmm the trifecta) + black chicken foot.

Are you excited? Of course! I studied for a year in Nagoya before, so I’m excited to see a different part of the country. But as adaptable as I am, I also have terrible separation anxiety, which is unfortunate. I also can’t sleep on public transportation and am otherwise an incredibly picky sleeper, so the first bit is going to be rough.

What got you interested in Japan in the first place? Honestly, I can’t pinpoint it exactly, although I do have a fun little story I always tell to people who ask. Ever since I was little, I’ve always been interested in East Asia for some reason (that’s just where my interest gravitated). One of my earliest memories in relation to this was going to the grocery store with my mom (since I was still too young to stay at home by myself), and she would always get me a cupcake. Those cupcakes always have a little toy on top of them, you know? I collected those because they were made in China, and that was so cool—I had something made in exotic, far away China—to the point where I requested my mom ask the lady working at the bakery section to check whether the toy on the cupcake I wanted was made in China, otherwise it might have been a dealbreaker (I know, I was young).

As for Japan specifically, it was in middle school when I first got exposed to the language through a Pimsleur CD set, and I’ve been studying it ever since.

What are some things you’d like to do in Japan? I’ve never been to Tohoku, and would like to see all the famous Tanabata festivals. I also have a tour of Kyushu on my to-do list. The last time I was in Japan, I didn’t get to travel outside the country too much, and really want to take advantage of Japan’s great location for Southeast Asia travel and visiting friends in Korea.

I also want to make sure I still keep actively studying Japanese—even at a higher level, there’s still so much left to learn, and I haven’t been as active in studying as I really should be. Taking more calligraphy lessons is also on my list.


How do you plan to spend your last bit of time before you come? Sitting outside, petting, and being with my dog in all other possible aspects—we’ve had her since I was 6, so I’ve literally grown up with her, and she’s the main source of my separation anxiety. Otherwise, eating all the dairy products I can possibly get my hands on.

Last, if you were to send a message in the future to when you decide to leave Japan, what would you say to yourself? Remember to never let anything hold you back from what you really want to do.


Author Bio
Kelsey Lechner

Kelsey Lechner

This dog-loving former Tochigi CIR hails from its sister-state of Indiana and loves traveling the world and eating everything. She graduated after completing a thesis discussing the links between human trafficking and idol culture, and now works in Tokyo for an international human rights NGO.


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