April 17, 2013 - Meg Worden was in disbelief when she opened the email from the Japan Exchange Teaching Program coordinator.
Meg Worden and Sachiko Tsumita, during Worden's visit to Japan in 2010. Photo provided (click for larger version)
The Clarkston High School 2008 graduate read it, taking in the words not to forget to do her paperwork. It was the next email she opened she was waiting for - it was to congratulate for making the program.
"I just stopped breathing," she smiled. "I was flabbergasted and giddy."
While she is in Japan, she will be an assistant language teacher helping to teach English to students from elementary school up to high school.
"I'm looking for a minimum of two years to be in Japan but hoping for five years," she said. "I want to be a Japanese teacher in the long run. I am gunning to be there long enough for a certain level of fluency and proficiency."
Faye Valtadoros, her Japanese teacher from the high school, was excited Worden was accepted.
"It is a very competitive program," she explained. "I can't even explain how excited I am and how proud I am of her. You have to really sell yourself on the application and the essay. She did just that."
The process to get into JET began in November for Worden, starting with the application and essay. She waited until early January to find out if she would go on to the next phase - the interview.
Worden knew she wanted to participate in JET when she was a sophomore in the Japanese program – her teachers had been in the program.
"I knew I wanted to do this," Worden smiled. "I wanted to go to Japan, teach and be there for the culture. I have been looking at this for a long time."
"I know she has felt it in her heart since high school," Valtadoros added. "Having that love for it and wanting to do it sent the positive energy out there. It has really put her right where she needs to be. It is going to be such an amazing experience for her."
Worden admitted Japanese started to draw her eye in elementary with the popularity of anime shows like Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z. As she moved up into middle school, she eyed the Japanese program at the high school.
By the time she started high school, she was ready and not only joined the Japanese program but participated in the Japanese Club and exchange program. The exchange program helped her to experience the language on another level.
"With the exchange program, having a student in your home, it really gives you first hand experience with the language and culture," Valtadoros added. "It makes all the difference in this program. Clarkston is so lucky to have it and to have that opportunity for the students to be face to face with the culture both here in America and going to Japan and being in a host family situation."
Worden has visited Japan three times - in high school, to visit a friend, and studying abroad. Over the years, the friendships she made have only grown stronger. The young lady she hosted six years ago has become a second family to her.
"For me it's weird because I am in a strange in between where America is my home and I love America, but I also have a second love for Japan. It's like I am leaving home to go home," she said.
Worden is the first student Valtadoros has taught to be accepted into JET.
"If it weren't for Faye and the program I wouldn't have fallen in love with the language like I did," Worden added.
Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.