WTAMU Grad Student to Teach in Japan Through JET Program

July 5, 2017

CONTACT:    Veronica Carrillo,

COPY BY:     Rana McDonald, 806-651-2129,

WTAMU Grad Student to Teach in Japan Through JET Program


CANYON, Texas—Veronica Carrillo’s dream is to see the world. So far, the West Texas A&M University graduate student has visited 11 countries, and she will add one more to her growing list when she travels to Japan this month as a teaching assistant through the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program.

 JET is managed by the Japanese government and offers participants from around the world a cultural exchange opportunity to live and work in Japan through its teaching exchange program. Carrillo, who grew up in Wheeler, will depart for Japan July 21 for a yearlong experience working with a Japanese teacher as a teaching assistant to help students living in a rural area of the island country learn the English language.

"I’m so excited. This is the one thing that truly makes me happy," Carrillo said. "I want to see the world and the different cultures. I’ve learned so much from traveling.

"I feel that I came from a background where I never thought I would travel at all," Carrillo said. I’ve been very blessed. I told a tutor once that I would like to see the world, and he said, 'why don’t you?’ I thought to myself, 'why don’t I?’"

And she did—mainly through study abroad opportunities at WTAMU. Her list of countries visited-to-date include the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and China. Japan will make it 12 countries for Carrillo.

The exchange program to her 12th country is definitely an impressive accomplishment for Carrillo. She doesn’t speak Japanese, and her first language isn’t English. But that hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm about spending a year in Japan. Carrillo was born in California, but her family moved to Mexico before she was even walking. They came back to the United States—Wheeler, in particular—when Carrillo was 12 years old. Spanish was her native language, and she struggled to communicate in her new English-speaking environment. That struggle only strengthened her resolve, and the determined Carrillo completed her ESL classes within a year’s time.

She conquered the language barrier, and that determination has stayed with Carrillo as she continues to challenge herself. The JET Program looked like a perfect fit for her and lined up perfectly with her desire to go to Japan. It was an eight-month, two-stage application process. The first stage involved the application itself along with two recommendations and an essay on why she should be selected for the program. Carrillo learned in January she had passed the first stage and began preparing for the second stage—a face-to-face interview in Denver, Colo.

 "I was really nervous—I don’t speak the Japanese language, I have an accent and no formal classroom experience," she said. "I understand the struggle though, and I know I can help the students."

Her determination paid off again when she received word in May that she has been selected to participate in the JET program. When she arrives in Denver on July 21, Carrillo will participate in a pre-departure orientation. In Tokyo, she will have a three-day orientation, followed by another short session once she arrives at her placement destination. She will be in the salaried position for one year, but Carrillo has the option to stay up to five years if she wants.

So how did a girl from Wheeler get so interested in Japan? Her older brother took a Japanese class from Dr. Paul Clark, WTAMU professor of history, and conversations with her sibling piqued her interested in the "fascinating, untouched culture." She has since taken one of Clark’s classes and now knows the basics of the language. She feels her request for placement in a rural area will help her learn even more.

"I am sure that Veronica will have a terrific experience in Japan," Dr. Paul Clark said. "She is an experienced teacher and is an incredibly hard worker—and has a real aptitude for learning languages. Japan will offer her many opportunities to see, learn and experience a unique and fascinating culture. Along the way, she will make enduring friendships and create memories that last a lifetime. It is a tremendous opportunity."

Carrillo earned a bachelor’s degree in 2016 with a double major in accounting and finance. She’s working on a master’s in finance and economics, but will put the degree on hold for a year while teaching in Japan. She one day hopes to earn a Ph.D. As an undergraduate at WTAMU, Carrillo was a McNair Scholar and active in the Accounting and Finance Association, serving one term as president, the Society of Human Resources and Management, a President’s Ambassador and ENACTUS, where she also served as president.

In fact, it was ENACTUS that got her interested in tutoring and teaching. Carrillo participated in an ENACTUS project where she tutored refugee children as well as adult ESL and GED classes. The experience of helping others through learning prompted her 2015 trip to Spain, where she served as an English teacher’s aid.

"It’s important for students to know that being involved in organizations can help not only with academic success but also finding the things you are passionate about," Carrillo said. "For me, I found out that I am really passionate about helping others succeed."

And that passion is now taking Carrillo to Japan. She obviously loves a challenge, too and packing for the trip could prove to be her biggest yet.

"There are shoes for everything. You have your indoor shoes, outdoor shoes, bathroom shoes, school shoes, school outside shoes, gym shoes, outside running shoes—my suitcase is just going to be shoes," she said.

There’s no doubt Carrillo will tackle that challenge, too.