Feb 14

National AJET’s “Life After JET”: Vanessa Villalobos

Vanessa at the JETAA stall at the Japan Matsuri in London.

National AJET shares former JET participants’ experiences – and a little advice – with current JETs in their new monthly interview, Life After JET.  Contact lifeafterjet [at] ajet.net to be featured in future posts.


This month, Life After JET profiles former Tochigi ALT, Vanessa Villalobos. After completing JET and obtaining a CELTA qualification, Vanessa moved to Peru where she taught for 15 months. She then returned to the UK to train as a secondary school level English teacher at King’s College London, earning a Postgraduate Certificate of Education.

However, instead of starting a more conventional career in education, she started her own business. She “now works to connect the UK and Japan in London with her two companies – IsshoniLondon.co.uk, which provides tutoring services, and JapaneseLondon.com, which is a central hub for all Japan-related happenings in London.”  In addition, she is involved in JETAA London, serving as the Communications Officer and organizer of the Creative Entrepreneurs’ Group.

Vanessa shared with us a little bit about her experience on JET and since, plus advice for budding bloggers, entrepreneurs, or any JET trying to figure out what comes next…

NAJET: First, can you tell me a little bit about your experience on the JET Programme? It looks like you were an ALT in Tochigi from 2000-2003 — Any highlights or projects that you’re really proud of?

Vanessa Villalobos: Being a ‘one-shot’ ALT meant that I had quite an exhilarating life; cycling around Tochigi-shi with my bike baskets over-brimming with games, flashcards, worksheets, etc.  I was based in the BOE along with two other ALT colleagues. We took it in turn to visit all the junior high schools and elementary schools in the area. Like so many ALTs I found elementary school teaching an absolute delight – if absolutely exhausting!

In the BOE, we also designed the English curriculum and materials for 15 elementary schools.  It was so satisfying to be responsible for the syllabus right from first ideas to classroom delivery.

NAJET: Before becoming an ALT, did you know that you’d still be working with Japanese/UK relations even years after leaving JET?

Vanessa: No! But I have always been fascinated by communication, language, and international relations so I am thrilled that JET gave me chance to develop my skills and interest.

NAJET: Why did you first decide to start your blog, Isshoni London?

Vanessa: I experimented with blogging in Japan, and then wrote a successful year-long travelogue in Peru, but after coming back to the UK in 2005 I felt at a bit of a loss and stopped writing.  I still really missed Japan and started to look for Japan-related things, events and communities in London.  Much to my excitement, I found a wide range of information and opportunities.  Even so, I kept missing out on things because that information was so spread out.  I searched on the internet, collected little snippets from newspapers and magazines, grabbed brochures, scribbled down info from tube posters, and realised the gap in the market for a ‘one-stop-shop’ website where you could go to find out everything about Japan-related stuff in London.

‘Isshoni London’ is the name of my English-Japanese language tutoring company, and the blog was attached to it to provide extra information.

Click here for the rest of the interview.

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