Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Gone Seoul Searching in Japan: Teaching for Westgate Corporation at the University Program

Orientation day for the Westgate University Program takes place in central Tokyo with all employees present.

Robyn and I on our first day of orientation.
   My experience working for the Westgate University Program was to put it bluntly and keep it short, nothing short of amazing. Westgate is a private corporation in Japan that contracts to Universities and schools and provides Native English Speaking ESL teachers to work at those schools. If you have been teaching in South American Countries or Europe, you will be shocked to learn that Westgate employees earn    quadruple what you are used to making within a very high standard of living. You can save upwards of $1500 per month while traveling and seeing some great places. (Yes I know Japan is expensive, but its not as bad as everyone says it is if you are eating in the school cafeteria every day for lunch which is delicious and buying Japanese groceries for breakfast and dinner, if you eat out every meal like a dummy then yes, you will blow your paychecks).There are two terms, Spring and Fall and each term is a short term 3-4 month contract. The company will sponsor your work visa, reimburse you for a $1200 plane ticket, provide you with housing (deducted from you monthly paycheck), a rail pass to get to and from work everyday, and give you a work cell phone to be used for Westgate purposes only.
    During my Spring term I arrived the end of April and finished mid July. Such a short term contract is great for those that are not looking to commit to living in Japan long term, or can use this as a summer job between  semesters at home. If you haven't seen the tour of my apartment in Japan, click the link for a live tour.

There are so many great things I could say about Westgate. Here are some of them:

Some of my students with their daily planners.

1. The company is extremely organized. You will receive all of the contracts by express air mail. The visa process is a piece of cake. And you will receive detailed directions about your arrival, a detailed online training, a detailed plane ticket process, etc. EVERYTHING IS VERY DETAILED. You are moving to Japan. They are the home of organization, so get used to it.

2. The pay is great. All of the details are of course right on their website. Beware that your first 2 weeks of teaching and training are prorated as you have a few days to adjust to the country. Though your contract says $275,000 yen per month, you will not get that until after your first full month of teaching. The first 2 weeks are prorated for training and actual days spent teaching.

3. They provide you with a small welcome package. A pot, fork, spoon, etc is all in the box. Its a nice treat to get for moving into a new apartment and living there short term. The company really does make you feel like you are important and likes you to at least have basic living necessities upon arrival.

4. Your Japanese students will be among your favorite in your life time. They are the most hardworking students I have ever known, yes even more than my Korean students. They are always upbeat, positive, outgoing, and smiling. The first class expect them to be very shy and quiet, but they will open up quickly if you bring it out in them and show them who you really are. Since there is no homework in the program, nor grades, the classes are easy going and fun. There is little stress except for the end of the semester presentations that each student is required to give. If you would like to see what the students are like take a look at some of the videos from my students final show and tell presentations to gauge an idea of their level and personalities. I taught the basic-high level, or B class at my university.

5. You will most likely have a high tech toilet and fill up that tiny bathtub! Its amazing!

Delicious lunches everyday in the cafeteria!
There are some things that weary ESL professionals should be aware of before committing: 

1. You can find a cheaper apartment, a much cheaper apartment, than the ones Westgate recommends that you live in. Rumors are that the Leo Palace chains that all Westgate employees live in are owned by the company or that Westgate gets a kickback for housing so many employees. Yes, they are making money off of you through the housing 81,000 JPY a month is quite a bit to pay, but your apartment will be nice and you can rest assured it will be in a good neighborhood. But, it is super easy to go along with it because everything is arranged. You will also be living with other Westgate employees in the same building. In my building there were 9 of us which was nice because I never felt lonely and made great friends with many of them. While other Westgate employees told me there were only 1 or 2 other employees in their apartment complex.

2. You may feel that your PC or the company in general doesn't trust you. He or she will come once or more times per week and just hang around for hours to see how you are doing. This doesn't seem so bad, but my PC actually just sat in the lobby outside our classrooms and was either just hanging out or peeking in to see what we were doing. She was usually doing this for about 3-4 hours at a time. This made the other two teachers and myself feel like we were being watched for no reason. However, cultural norms in Japan are different. The point of the PC is to check up on you and to keep everyone connected as work partners are seen as a community rather than as individuals. Get used to your PC just hanging around, and don't let it bother you too much. They are mostly just there to be friendly. You will only actually be observed one time to make sure you are doing ok with the programs teaching methods and daily lesson plans.

3. If you are used to using technology in your classroom say goodbye. There are no computers, projectors, and in some cases no computers in your classrooms. The computers are very old and are only to be used for recording attendance. This was very difficult for me as I learned about a ton of ways to integrate technology into my classes, but the Westgate program does not utilize any technology as part of their lessons. If you bring in your own laptop you may be able to show video clips or pictures, but you will most likely not have wireless internet to connect too. Don't ask the staff about this, it will cause problems. If you don't have it, don't bother. Westgate is strict about their agreements with the Universities and they don't even want their employees bringing in zip drives or flash drives to print out materials.

4. You have a very, extremely, tiny, sized copy budget and in most cases no access to a printer hooked up to a computer. Yes, that means you must use mostly all of the Westgate materials provided to you. If you want to use your own materials, you must print them out from a manga cafe somewhere which means you need to pay by time to use the computer and to print things. Printing in Japan is a weird thing. They don't like it and don't do it. At least that's how it was at my University. They want to be very green and support the environment, I get that, but its a little inconvenient sometimes as a teacher. The program encourages your students to copy down the white board into their own notebooks so that they have notes from each class. This can be a huge waste of time, so I just allowed my students to take pictures with their smart phones. They seemed to like that strategy better than copying down things. I also used clear plastic folders and pens so that the students could write on activities and then erase them when they were finished and I could use them for the next class. That way, I would only have to make 6 copies of the handout for the entire day. The copy budget was $20 for the entire 3 months and it was 10 Cents a copy. You must use your own money for copies and then get reimbursed at the end of the program.

5. You will be assigned a book to use for your class and will have a daily lesson planner with each days lesson to teach. There are so many ways that you can adapt the lessons that you will have total creativity in your lessons. All of the classes are 50 minutes in length and most teachers will teach the same class all day. Yes, that means you might teach the same lessons 6 times in a day. You will also have English Challenge lessons in which you may do whatever you want with the students at that time. You have free reign in those lessons to focus on anything you or the students think they need to work on. Those classes are optional, so if students don't show up, you have an extra break.

6. You will most likely be commuting 1 hour on the train to work every day. Follow some of my tips about the daily commute on my article about surviving the daily commute in Japan. They will help you greatly. Also be ready to feel exhausted 5 days a week. The schedule is long and often times employees leave at 7am and return home by 8 or 9 completely wiped out. By the end of the program most teachers are talking about how tired they are to each other and how much work the program really is. So don't expect a walk in the park if this is your first time working at Westgate!
My daily schedule at Westgate. 

I hope you enjoyed my review of Westgate. If you have any questions don't hesitate to leave a comment below!

If you have any questions or comments about "Gone Seoul Searching in Japan: Teaching for Westgate Corporation at the University Program" please leave them in the comment box below or email them to goneseoulsearching@gmail.com 
  Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at goneseoulsearching@gmail.com.

47 개의 λŒ“κΈ€:

vtpoly said...

What does Westgate look for in a candidate? Were you teaching general English there? How long in advance did you apply, and were you required to go to an in-person interview somewhere in the States?

Marie W said...

Hi Vtpoly!

Westgate is looking for candidates with previous international experience and prior teaching experience. They contract with universities in Japan and have a program that focuses on basic speaking skills. There is no in-person interview and they recruit throughout the year for their spring and fall start dates. There is a Skype interview if you make it to the final round of the interview process.

Anonymous said...

Did you have to do any extra unpaid work - like at weekends etc.?

Anonymous said...

Oh, forgot to ask, which program did you do? The Accredited or extra-curricular? And do you have a choice regarding the accommodation, like can you find your own or do you have to take it? Preferably I'd like to find some cheaper and nearer than 1 hour commute to the place of work. Arigato.

Anonymous said...

hey I am currently trying to get into the Westgate Corporation website but I'm unable to do so. Any tips on how can I contact them for more information? Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

I am going through the application process after working in Korean Universities for five years and I found your comments uplifting. Thank you for this information.


Anonymous said...

Im interested in applying for the 4month contract at westgate but don't have much teaching experience...
Is it absolutely crucial to have previous experience?

Nancie said...

Hi! I'm glad I found you. Your article is most informative. I will be interviewing with Westgate in the next two or three weeks. If I get the job, I will be coming from Korea. My one big question, and one that I don't really want to raise with the interviewer, is regarding animals. I have a cat, and do want to bring her with me. Do you think this is possible, or should I ask a friend to mind her for a few months?

Marie W said...

Anonymous. yes. They are definitely looking for previous experience as you will be teaching at the University level. Maybe not for their young learners program, but I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

Dear Marie,
Thanks for providing one of the best pieces of info on the Westgate contract on the entire web.
I'd like to ask you about the final interview. Are questions based more on personal attributes, or TEFL specific? Could you give me an idea of the kinds of questions they might ask?
Finally (if it's not too greedy) I'd like to ask if you recommend one region over another?
Kind regards,

Marie W said...

absolutely JMW! And I'm glad you found the information useful! I think I didn't get hired back again because of it! :(

Anyway, the interview is very straightforward but a little intense. They will ask you several grammar questions so be ready to try and explain how you would help a student with that issue on a moments notice. They will also ask you how you would address students who speak Japanese in the classroom etc...

In my experience, being as personal as possible and sharing your past experiences is great to getting the position. People on the other end want to feel like they know who you are!

I have heard alot of people like Nagoya because the city is relatively small and its easy to get around! If you get placed in Tokyo you are likely to have a long commute to work! But, there is a TON to do on the weekend. The program is very intensive and you will be TIRED at the end of the week. But, there is not a heavy workload of grading if you are teaching non-credit courses like most teachers, and you can get most of your planning done during the week as they provide time for that in your schedule.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Marie. I really appreciate it, and value your positivity.

Unknown said...

Hi, your blog has been very helpful in understanding what life would be like working with WG. I've just submitted my application today, and e-mailed WG my resume and cover letter. Do you remember approximately how long it took WG to inform you that they would be moving forward with your application? Also, it is now December 11th, do you think there is still a likely chance that there are still openings for teachers at WG?

Anonymous said...

How much tax is taken off the 275000 yen/month salary? Very nice & informative blog, by the way...thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the review of westgate

Anonymous said...

Hey there, do you know if Westgate ever contacts current employers?

Marie W said...

Hi Anonymous,

Not that I know of. I have usually been told by past employers when prospective employers contact them. But none of my old bosses notified me of Westgate contacting them.


Anonymous said...

Do you know if Westgate provides any vacation days? I know it is just a short contract, so not sure if this is really feasible. I plan on applying for the Spring Term, but I will have to leave and return to my home country for graduation from my university (I will receive my degree early) in June of next year. Do they allow even 1-2 vacation/ sick days? Do you work National Holidays also?

Anonymous said...

Do you know if Westgate accepts Teaching Assistant/ Tutoring in English as work experience? Or is it strictly ESL/EFL classroom teaching as experience only?

Marie W said...

That is a good question. I think they want direct experience, as you are working at a university program. It is not like a smaller language institute that may not require previous experience. They want teachers with prior experience as a teacher.

Anonymous said...

HI Marie,

Would westgate be interested in you if you have 3 years of teaching experience in a english speaking country, teaching subjects such as geography and economics but not directly ESL. I'm asking as this is my current situation.

Marie W said...

I'm sure they would be interested in you. As long as you have had some kind of teaching experience. They have great resources and training for their program.

Anonymous said...

I just came across this website and have found it so helpful! Thanks! I am just wondering if I can ask for your help on something... I had an interview with Westgate a few weeks ago and would like to know how long they usually take to make a hiring decision? I have contacted them since and they say they are processing a large amount of applications but I am still a little worried as the fall term starts very soon and surely they would have said if they wanted me by now so that I could start organising a visa?

Thanks for your help :)

Marie W said...

Hi Anonymous, That doesn't seem out of the norm for me. In Asia I've had contracts come in in just 2 weeks before a job and with my job in Macau, I had to wait until I arrived to see a formalized contract. It is a big worry some to many when you are making a big move, but there is a certain trust involved from both parties. They are a large well-known company, and you should have no problem once a contract is sent out to you. Keep in mind, you would have to search for housing or any of that business last minute since they do all of that for you. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi Marie, thanks for such a detailed post on the program! I'm currently on to stage three of the (long) application process and want to be as prepared as possible.. Do you remember any specific grammar points or questions from the interview?

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have three years of K-12 ESL experience in South Korea and I'm currently finishing a master's thesis. I'm hoping to be done before September of 2016, and I've been trying to crack into "adult ESL". It's been difficult trying to find employment here in the States, so I was thinking about Westgate, and it looks like an attractive way of getting that valued college experience. However, I have some questions. You said that there was someone more or less "keeping tabs" of you while you taught. Is there anyone doing that in your apartment complex? I know you said no one's allowed to come into the apartment at night, but does that mean there is then someone watching to ensure that doesn't happen? Also, how early should I apply if I want to start teaching in September? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I worked for JET last year and they were pretty good about it, and I'm in the process of applying to Westgate now. thanks for your post, its very informative and encouraging!
I have a few questions.
How long did it take for Westgate to contact you after you completed stage 2 of the application process?
Does Westgate offer any vacation days/paid time off?
thanks in advance!

Marie W said...

Hello readers. Here are a few answers to your questions.

1. for the grammar section, make sure you know about word form (maybe the student is using a word like an adverb or an adjective incorrectly) also pay attention to the Wh structure in question as this is a common question that might pop up.
2. For the University Program there are 2 start dates Fall and Spring. I would apply at least 2-3 months in advance of your desired start date.
3. After stage 2 of the application it took about 2-3 weeks for them to contact me back.
4. There is no paid time off since your contract is on a semester basis, not a yearly basis.

Candace said...

Hi, I enjoyed your post and have maybe an odd question. The Westgate website states a dress code for women that includes: Hose/tights/stocking (mandatory). Does this mean women have to wear hose or can they wear nice dress socks?

Unknown said...


Nice blog! I have tried to access your links, but to no avail-- can you help?


Anonymous said...

While your post is informative, I'd like to offer a couple of comments for readers who are less knowledgeable about the language teaching industry here in Japan.

Westgate pays approximately 260,000-275,000yen/m, which, for a university position, is extremely low. I'm a high school ALT and I'm on 300,000yen/m. Most direct hire university jobs pay at least 400,000/m, usually more, meaning dispatch companies like Westgate and their ilk are pocketing at least a third of that salary. Great scheme they've got going.

Re: your intense Westgate schedule, for a direct hire university position you're generally expected to teach 8-10 90-min classes/wk, while ALTs on average teach 16 50-min classes/wk.

There are better options (better pay, workload) than Westgate out there, and a little research on Google, Reddit, etc. will go a long way.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't organized when I worked there. Also only in and around Gotemba, way back when. Worked from a small temporary building next to a rice paddy when not working at plants around the area. A new building was finally finished, in which we were forced to vacate our apartments in town for living in the building in "American style" apartments. Had good times, though.

Unknown said...

Hello, thank you for an amazing post with useful info. May I just ask, how long did it take WG to respond after you filled in the first application round, giving you the login for 2nd round? I’ve recently applied but there was no confirmation, even an atumated one via email. I’m a bit worried that I messed up but I did make sure to double check everyhing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the useful info Marie. I am a TEFL certificate program coordinator for a university in California. I assist my graduates with job placement. I was wondering about the pay at Westgate. I heard that they take a percentage of you pay. Do you know how much of your monthly paycheck they take? Thanks again!

Unknown said...

an age limit for hiring american certified teachers, international experience, master degree?
need FBI clearance report for work permit?

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