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Three from UNG selected for JET Program

April 29, 2020

Aubrey Rost caught a dream she has been chasing since she was 13. The University of North Georgia (UNG) senior, scheduled to graduate in May 2020 with a degree in history education, is one of three from UNG selected for the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program.

Rost is joined by Katherine Wright, a fellow graduating senior also pursuing a degree in history education, and alumna Margaret Owens, '18, as UNG's selections for the program. They will teach English for a year in Japan. Naomy Huaman, a senior at UNG, is an alternate.

While JET is open to any U.S. student who earns a bachelor's degree, Rost chose to pursue a minor in Japanese at UNG in anticipation of JET and because of her affinity for the language. The Statesboro, Georgia, native studied abroad at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan, in summer 2018.

"It's really interesting to me," Rost said. "I wanted to learn the language even if I didn't get to go."

JET participants sign a one-year contract, with the option of renewing for up to five years. Benefits include paid airfare to and from Japan, enrollment in Japan's national health insurance, a minimum of 10 days paid vacation and an annual starting salary of $30,000. JET has welcomed to Japan more than 35,000 Americans and more than 70,000 participants from around the world since its launch in 1987.

Dr. Barry Whittemore, lecturer of history at UNG, said Wright has impressed him at every turn.

"In her first class with me, she was so quiet that I didn't know she was there until I graded her first test," Whittemore said. "It was well-done."

Since then, Wright won the UNG MLK Oratorical Contest, and presented research comparing the U.S. and current Romanian gold rushes alongside Whittemore and others in fall 2019 in Romania. The opportunity with JET fits her desire for international experiences.

"I saw I could teach abroad and get paid to travel. I just went for it," said Wright, a Fayetteville, Georgia, native. "I want to go to graduate school for Asian studies. This helps open that door for me."

Owens, a Baconton, Georgia, native, earned a degree in English with a writing and publication concentration and a minor in French from UNG at age 20. She studied abroad in France and Germany with UNG's Honors Program in 2016. She tutored international students from EducationUSA in summer 2017, which ignited her passion for English for speakers of other languages teaching. 

"I'm grateful to JET for giving me the opportunity to gain more teaching experience and certifications in Japan’s incredible school system, as well as international immersion in a culture that has always appealed to me," Owens said.

Dr. Sung Shin Kim, professor of history and director of UNG's East Asian studies degree program, appreciates how the experiences Rost and Wright are set to gain in Japan will enrich their classrooms when they return. She said a $400,000 Japan Foundation grant received by UNG in 2016 continues to pay dividends.

"We have been giving students so many opportunities to be exposed to these cultures. That helped them to explore options like the JET Program," Kim said. "It isn't a coincidence we had three people selected."

It is the second year in a row UNG had at least one student accepted into JET, as Brooklyn Rouse was selected in spring 2019. Dr. Tomoe Nishio, a UNG assistant professor of Japanese who advised Rost and Wright during the application process, hopes UNG's selections shine a light on the opportunities with JET.

"I hope Aubrey, Katherine and Margaret being selected will encourage others from UNG to apply for this opportunity in the future," Nishio said.

Students interested in learning more about nationally competitive scholarships should contact the Nationally Competitive Scholarships office at ncs@ung.edu for more information.

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