I am almost done with my second year at ALTIA CENTRAL. Since there isn’t a lot of information on this rather awesome ALT company, I thought I’d write about a little about my experience.
So why did I end up becoming an ALT?
Well, that’s kind of a long story. I’ll try to keep this short.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Animation and worked as a 3D animator for five years. I was working in Houston, so a large portion of the animation work was for the oil and gas industry. As some of y’all know, gas prices plummeted in 2015. Awesome! Unless you work in oil and gas.
For a year, I watched engineers and other artists get laid off from the company. For that year, I applied for other animation work because I knew my time would come; if engineers, the bread and butter of the company, were getting laid off, I knew a mere animator didn’t stand a chance. However, layoffs were not happening at just my company, but throughout Houston. There was a flood of people looking for employment. If I wanted to work as an animator, I’d have to move.
Rewind a bit.
When I was younger, I wanted to either be an animator or live in Japan. I read many cool JET blogs in middle and high school and thought it sounded awesome, but as a teenager the idea of moving to a foreign country alone was daunting. So I became an animator.
At the time of these layoffs, I was 28 years old. I had graduated college, worked professionally for a multinational corporation, and lived on my own. I had confidence. AND I still wanted to experience living in Japan.
In November, 2015, I applied for a job at ALTIA CENTRAL and I was interviewed by a man named Graham. They don’t interview in every city, but I got lucky. We met in the lobby of a hotel near Bush Intercontinental Airport after I was done with work. The topics for the interview were mostly about why I wanted to go to Japan and why I wanted to teach. He was really nice and easy to chat with. Apparently he thought the same of me, because I was cleared for the Japanese interview.
If you interview for ALTIA in Japan, the English and Japanese interview are done at the same time. If you’re interviewing overseas, the Japanese interview will be on Skype.
The Skype interview was a mess. We got disconnected a few times, there was weird lag and we had to repeat ourselves, but it went well. It’s short and you don’t need to have perfect Japanese. You give a quick self introduction in Japanese and answer a few questions. After this stage, ALTIA contacted me on Christmas eve to inform me they were starting the visa application process. At this point, there was still a small chance I could be turned down, so I continued applying for animation and graphic design work in and out of Houston.
The new year rolled around. Little did I know, 2016 would be a roller coaster.
Shortly after returning to work, I got called into an upstairs office at work. Company people told me about my severance package and I had to sign papers. I was laid off.
I went home in a bit of a daze. Sure, I knew it was coming, but it’s still a shock to suddenly be walked out of the office. I couldn’t even say bye or return to my desk for my things. Coworkers packed everything up for me and I got it all in the lobby the next day. My boss was really nice and treated me to a lunch afterwards. It wasn’t anyone in the office’s fault.
Business is business.
I got really busy applying for unemployment and doing job applications and doing training on Pluralsight’s Digital Tutors to brush up my skills.
About a week later, I heard from ALTIA. They were working on my COE and I was told to get my airplane ticket. I was hired! OMFG I was hired! I was going to have income again!!!
I continued to do what was necessary for my unemployment because I wouldn’t start work until March. Slowly, I sold stuff, boxed up what I was keeping, and moved back into my parents’ house for a couple of weeks before I flew off to Japan.
ALTIA New Hire Training
I arrived at Chubu Centrair Airport in Nagoya the Saturday before Monday training to get over jet lag and also so I could do a little sightseeing. The hotel was in Kanayama. I don’t remember much of my trip from the airport to the hotel other than that I was tired, my bags were heavy, and the path to the hotel was a little confusing.
The next day, I explored a bit. I met a few other new hires and we visited Nagoya Castle. It was fun meeting new people in the same boat as me.
Monday started five days of training. I later learned this is unusual. Most ALT dispatch companies have a day or two of training, if any. ALTIA really does its best to prepare its new ALTs before sending them off into the wild.
This training covered a lot of ground. It was sometimes boring, but I was pretty nervous about the new job and I really appreciate it. We covered self introduction lesson practice, how to put together a basic lesson, review of ALTIA teaching materials, living in Japan, setting up our apartments, and more. It was a lot of information.
We received our apartment information and got sent off into the wild with our info packets, keys, and supervisor’s cell phone numbers. One thing I can say is that ALTIA supervisors are very supportive. They were all once ALTs themselves and understand what it’s like to try to settle into your new life and new job in Japan. Don’t abuse their phone numbers, but if you’re in a pinch and don’t understand something, do call.
A Few Notes about ALTIA
- You must buy your own plane ticket to Japan. Outside the JET Program, companies that buy your ticket for you are very rare, so this isn’t anything special.
- Have at least 200,000円 when you come to Japan. You’ll receive your paycheck for April on May 20th, so you’re going to have to live without a paycheck for a while.
- If you’re a driving ALT, ALTIA will provide you with a car. There are two company car plans: Work and Work Plus. The Work plan is very strict. You can only drive on a set course and you can only use the car for work purposes. The company pays for EVERYTHING car related via reimbursement and it is free. If you pick the Work Plus plan, you can use your car as much as you want within a 200km radius around your home. The company takes 8,000円 from your paycheck to help cover insurance and you’re responsible for buying your own gas, but the company will reimburse you for all other expenses.
- If you’re non-driving and take mass transit to work, ALTIA will reimburse you for your commute.
- If you’re a driving ALT, you must get a Japanese drivers’ license within the first year of work. Your international drivers’ license is only good for one year. ALTIA provides a lot of support and will send someone out to help interpret at the DMV.
- Depending on your contract, your summers will be fully paid or 60% pay. In my first city, it was 60% pay, but the company contacted me with money money opportunities in the area. I worked about a week’s worth of days during summer and mostly made up that 40%. Under my current contract, I’m fully paid. The only downside is that I have significantly fewer days off compared to some other cities’ ALTs.
- You have 5 sick days off. These are specifically for sick days, so don’t waste them. Children are cute, but they’re very germy. We get over a month of paid time off during school breaks, so try to use that time for traveling and fun.
My Thoughts Now
After two years and working kindergarten, elementary, and middle school, I think I’m with one of the best ALT companies in Japan.
Unlike some other ALT companies, ALTIA prioritizes quality over quantity. They put a lot of effort into placing ALTs where they want to be (within their range) and provide a lot of training and support. The salary is also higher than many other dispatch companies.
I plan on sticking with ALTIA for the near future. I might begin taking up more art related freelance work on the side in the near future, but ALTIA provides a stable income and 95% of the time my work is done at 4:30. There are long breaks during summer, winter, and spring where I can do extra work or relax. It’s a pretty easy job and I enjoy chatting with everyone at my schools.
If you have any thoughts and questions, please feel free to comment below.