This Open Road

A season walking southbound on the Appalachian Trail

Westgate Review

Several months ago, I wrote this post about my process of applying to, and then receiving an offer from Westgate. During those months, I was very impressed with their efficiency and professionalism and felt hopeful that this would continue once I was in Japan.

I’m glad to say that my experience with Westgate continued to be incredibly positive. From the beginning of the application process, to the day I left, I felt that the Westgate staff was very approachable, supportive and communicative. There were no surprises and all of the information stated on their website and in the contract proved to be accurate.

There are over 150 teachers working for Westgate, and most of these people are teaching in universities in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Certainly, with that many teachers, there are bound to be some who aren’t completely satisfied with their situation, but I was very content.

Support  Each teacher (or team of teachers) had a Program Coordinator and a Recruiter who were always available by cell phone and email. Whenever I sent a message, someone always responded within 24 hours if not sooner.

I became sick after climbing Mt. Fuji, and although I tried to take care of myself, I was not improving. When I finally let my PC know, he made arrangements to take me to a medical facility the next morning. He met me at the train station near Dokkyo and we walked five minutes to a nearby clinic. He filled out all the paperwork and explained my problem to the nurses. I saw a doctor right away who prescribed four types of medication (antibiotics, a pain reliever and two types of cough suppressants). The pharmacy was in the next block and I got my meds right away. The whole event took 45 minutes, and I still had time to get organized for class.

Communication  The Westgate staffers sent out weekly newsletters with reminders and updates. They kept us informed of any changes and always expressed appreciation for our work. Sometimes a student would want to change classes, either to a higher or lower level, and they would coordinate this request through the Westgate administrators. Then a staff person would send a text to both teachers letting them know of the change.

Lessons  Although we had a set curriculum to follow, we were also given a lot of leeway in how we delivered our lessons. We were encouraged to be creative and we could share our thoughts and ideas for every lesson on a feedback form that we turned in at the end of the term.

Making Changes, or Not  There were some things Westgate was more firm with, such as our flight departure times. We were required to depart Japan on July 20th (the last day of our contract), but if people wanted to stay longer (say, to travel) they were allowed to stay for 30 more days, although they still had to vacate their apartment on the final day of the contract. Also, our flights (which were booked in advance and reimbursed by Westgate during the semester) were scheduled to arrive and depart out of Tokyo, so even if people were traveling to other places outside of Japan (Southeast Asia was a popular destination), they still had to return to Tokyo for their final flight out of Japan. These arrangements had to be made ahead of time and could not be changed [update: in talking with other teachers more recently, I’ve learned that sometimes there is some flexibility in certain situations. It seems to be on a case-by-case basis]. It’s reasonable that some people might want to change their plans once they were in Japan, but it’s also understandable how this could create logistical issues for Westgate.

Inspections  Our apartments were inspected on the last day of our contract, and part of our final paycheck was withheld until the inspection. If there were any damages or additional items left in the apartment, or if the apartment was not adequately clean, a portion of our pay would be deducted. In my case, everything worked out and I received my full paycheck, but I did talk to a few teachers who were charged for certain indiscretions, such as leaving small appliances behind.

In summary, Westgate has clear rules and if one adheres to those rules, then the experience can be very positive. But if the established guidelines are not followed, then it gets complicated. Most of these regulations are stated on the website and all of them are in the contract which we’re required to read before signing. They were also reviewed at the orientation, and reminders were sent to us throughout the semester.

The only thing I wish could be changed is the schedule. Eight 40-minute classes a day feels like too much. The last class ended at 7:00 p.m. and by then I was burned out. I was fortunate that my train ride home was only 25 minutes. Many teachers had hour-long commutes, some longer. I think ending the day at 6:oo p.m. would be more doable.

The end of the term got busier. In addition to our regular schedule and the prep work required for the next day’s class, there was a follow-up training session we had to complete online in order to conduct the student evaluations. There was also a questionnaire and report we had to complete during the final week.

And yet, I’m going back. For me, the pros far outweigh the cons. I loved my students – even though the schedule was too long, at least I was spending that time with mature, motivated, kind and respectful people. I loved exploring Tokyo and traveling with some of the other teachers. I enjoyed my little apartment and living in Kasukabe. There were many returning teachers, and most had very positive experiences.

The intensity of Westgate’s program is short-lived. The abbreviated contract is what draws many teachers to this company. For people looking for a teaching experience that doesn’t require a full year commitment, that is well run and very organized, I would highly recommend Westgate.

* * *

Update – 10.24.2013

Recently, I’ve been asked about the possibility of bringing pets, specifically cats, to Japan in relation to teaching with Westgate. I checked with WG staff and was told that in Japan, there are few rented accommodations that allow having pets, and Westgate’s accommodation is not an exception. I hope this helps with your planning.

69 responses to “Westgate Review

  1. Melanie September 13, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Have you heard of anyone going from Westgate into a full-time University teaching position? That’s ideally what I’m looking for since I’ve taught at Uni’s in Korea, but I hear it’s more competitive in Japan.

  2. Shiela March 13, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    Hi! I’m planning to teach in Japan. I already have ESL experience in an ISO-accredited ESL company and I’m looking a schedule for TESL certification. Hmm, this review is really persuasive. I’m just really looking for a long-term commitment. Can they like renew your contract for the next semester? Geez, this would really help.

    • Robyn March 29, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Hi Shiela,
      Thanks for you comment and sorry for the delayed response!
      Westgate will usually renew a teacher’s contract as long as they are in good standing with the company, and did a good job teaching. All teachers are observed at least once during the term and sometimes twice.
      Good luck with your time in Japan. I really miss it.

    • maryaberg1 July 18, 2016 at 6:43 pm

      Hi Shiela Just wondering if you were successful in teaching in Japan. I’ve just applied with WG and awaiting interview.

  3. cocobutterwithmilkSasha August 27, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    Hi there, This sounds perfect for me. But I can’t seem to find any information on salary. Could you direct to that information please?

  4. Shilpa May 13, 2015 at 4:55 am

    Hiya,

    What a wonderfully informative review. Hontou ni arigatou!
    Quick question, do you know why Westgate seem to be dead against cycling to work?
    Also, from what I gather, all of their schools/universities seem to be in the Kantou region. Is it at all possible to be placed to work in a specifically preferred region in the Kantou area?

    • Robyn May 14, 2015 at 12:59 pm

      Hello,
      Thank you for your kind words. Westgate also has schools in Nagoya, (Aichi Prefucture). I taught there for a semester and really enjoyed it. I have some posts here about it. You can request to be in a certain area, but ultimately they will place you where they need/want you. I think the cycling prohibition simply has to do with the image and professionalism they want from their teachers. I’ve never heard a reason, but based on other rules, I think this would be the reason. Best, R

  5. David January 16, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Hi there! Quick question: does Westgate contact your current or previous employers during the hiring process? Thanks for your time!

    • Robyn January 16, 2015 at 7:28 pm

      Hi David,
      When I applied, there was a form that they sent to the references. The refs filled it out (I believe it was a questionnaire-type form) and returned it. I’ve heard that in some, maybe not all, cases the references were called. It’s been three years since I applied, so it could be that they’ve changed how they do things.

  6. Kàrl September 8, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    I like what you’ve read. I also recommend Westgate. I worked for them in the summer of 2012 at Meiji University. Hoping to go back there some day.

  7. Steven May 14, 2014 at 3:09 am

    Hi there! First of all, a very useful (and up to date) blog, thank you!
    I’m due to interview with Westgate next week and although I know you’ve already answered the question about interview questions but aside from the usual TEFL questions were there any other specific questions they asked? I’d like to take some time to prepare for the interview but not 100% sure what to prepare. Are there any questions specific to Westgates method or TEFL in Japan that may be asked?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Robyn May 14, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Hey Steven,
      Congratulations on your interview!
      It was a fairly thorough process but was a good experience, at least mine was. You may be given some sentences to correct and asked to give some examples of situations from other teaching experiences. I don’t recall any questions specific to Westgate’s method or TEFL in Japan. Have a few questions ready for your interviewer. Prepare as you would for other teaching interviews and I’m sure it will go well. Good luck!

  8. Christine February 22, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Hi Robyn,
    Thank you for posting all this information. I have just applied for a job with Westgate. I have a question about the references. Do you know what type of questions they ask the references and is it a long questionnaire? My most recent teaching experience ended in Korea in 2012. I regretably did not get a contact for a reference at the time as I thought my days of ESL teaching were finished. I have sent an email to EPIK requesting a contact but I am not sure if it will be possible now. How strict are they with regard to the references? Thank you for any help.

    • Robyn February 23, 2014 at 3:18 am

      Hi Christine,
      Thanks for your question and comments. From my experience, when I applied two years ago, it seemed the reference question form was fairly straightforward. I only have this impression because although I didn’t know what questions were on it, a couple of my references told me the form was very efficient and they were able to finish quickly and send it back. They weren’t all from past teaching positions either, but a mix of teaching and other past jobs. I hope this helps and good luck with your application. Best, Robyn

  9. Suthichai Taupradist January 31, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    I’ve come across this website recently. I have recently have been declined by Westgate after my second interview. I was told that I would improve my chances if I had more experience teaching adults. However I have more than 2500 classroom hours of teaching EFL to adults. Do you know if there is something more specific I need? Thank you very much for your time on this question.

    • Robyn February 1, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      Hi Suthichai,
      Thank you for writing, I’m sorry about not being offered a position right now. I don’t have any insight into all of the criteria that go into WG’s final decisions. Since it seems you have the amount of hours teaching adults required, it might be valuable to ask the interviewer if there’s something else that would increase your chances of being offered a contract in the future. I’ve heard of teachers who were not accepted the first time around, being offered a contract later, so it could be the timing just isn’t right. Trust the process, and if you are still interested, apply again for the next term. Best, Robyn

  10. Jennifer December 1, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Hi Robyn, thanks so much for posting an in-depth review about your experience with Westgate Corporation. I’m currently enrolled in a teacher credential program (my subject area being English) and I was thinking about applying to teach abroad for the experience, and to save some money for masters after I finish the program in fall 2014. I had a few questions I hope you could help me with. The first being, I was wondering if you had a choice in what university you taught at? One thing that motivated me in seeking a teaching job in Japan is I have a few friends who will be studying abroad in fall of 2014 at Hosei University. I’d love if we were nearby when I am able to go during the spring semester, and I read online that a few Westgate teachers taught at Hosei’s Koganei campus. Might you know if Westgate teachers had a choice, or if Hosei University really worked with Westgate?

    Another question I had is in regards to teaching experience. By the end of the credential program I should have around 500 hours of teaching experience, but this is unpaid and setup through the program. Is this something that is satisfactory? Should I work as a sub for a year or so before considering applying for Westgate?

    Thanks so much for any input you might have,
    Jennifer

    • Robyn December 1, 2013 at 9:45 am

      Hi Jennifer!
      Thanks for your comment and good questions. Yes, you can request a specific university (and it looks like WG currently does have a contract with Hosei U, as I confirmed with another teacher), but that doesn’t mean a lot. Even returning teachers often don’t get placed in schools they request, although some do. I don’t know how they determine who goes where, but it’s certainly worth asking about.

      As for your teaching hours, the qualifications for the University Program are:
      1) 500 plus hours of classroom teaching experience (including non-EFL/ESL) for those who have EFL/ESL teaching certificate/degree and/or elementary/primary/secondary teaching credentials/qualifications;
      2) 1000 plus hours of classroom teaching experience (including non-EFL/ESL) for those without any of the above certificates/credentials/qualifications
      (http://www.westgate.co.jp/application/program/university/qualifications.html )

      So if you had an EFL/ESL certificate in addition to your 500 hours, it seems that you’d be qualified. I don’t know if it matters that those are unpaid hours. I would encourage you to contact WG and ask before you go to the trouble of applying. They are very helpful and should give you a clear answer.
      Thanks again and good luck! -R

      • Jennifer December 11, 2013 at 4:16 am

        Hello Robyn, thanks so much for your response. I was close to basic TESL/TEFL certification through my college, but I do not have any more funds to finish the extra classes as fast as I would like (before spring ’14). However, I could afford CELTA certification and finish before when I want to apply! I will contact Westgate this winter and inquire about the unpaid hours and if CELTA certification is satisfactory in addition to my preliminary teaching credential.

        Thanks again!
        Jennifer

  11. Cery November 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Hi Robyn,

    I have recently stumbled upon your blog while doing some research on WG, and am so happy that I did because it is so informative! I’ve read most of the post by you and other people to avoid asking double question, but my question for you is….

    How long is the application process for WG? I’ve taken a look at the website and the step-by-step process of the application, but in terms of time length, how long did it take you to fill out the application, collect various documents, and then finally receive your contract from WG?

    It is now the end of November, and I am very interested in the upcoming Spring 2014 intake; however, I’m unsure if it is too late for me to begin the application process right now.

    Last year, I was considering going overseas to teach in South Korea, I had submitted all of my documents, and the application process took me almost 5 months to do because I was waiting on my national background check to arrive in the mail and my diploma, unfortunately, once I had shipped out all of my documents, it was too late, and all the positions had been filled approximately a week prior to receiving my documents, I hope the same would not happen if I begin the application process now for WG.

    Any information or suggestion you have regarding this situation would be so much appreciated!

    Thanks in advace! =D

    • Robyn November 22, 2013 at 9:17 pm

      Hi Cery,

      Thank you for your questions. I contacted HR today and they are still taking applications for the Spring term. As I recall, it was approximately 2 months from the time I applied to the time I was notified that I was accepted: November – early January. I left for Japan in April.
      I would suggest that you proceed with the application process and if you have any questions during that time, just contact Westgate to see if they can tell you what the status is. From my experience, they are very responsive to inquiries.
      Good luck with your application! -R

  12. Karina November 19, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Hi Robyn,

    I’m really enjoying your blog so far!

    I’m considering applying for the spring term. Can you provide me with some more information regarding the curriculum? Is it enough to spend an hour reviewing the lesson the night before? I guess I’m wondering what you mean by deciding “how” you are going to teach your lesson.

    How is the commute on the trains? Is there a separate “culture” to this? Is it relatively safe getting home alone after dark (as a female)?

    Also, is internet included with the apartment? And I think I saw somewhere that you have to provide a gift for the building manager? Can you shed some light on that please?

    I’m sorry for all the random questions, I thought I only had one….
    Thanks!

    • Robyn November 19, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      Hi Karina,

      Thanks for your questions!
      Regarding the curriculum – WG gives teachers a lot of freedom (in my opinion) in using their teaching talents in their own way. There is enough structure so you don’t have to create a new lesson every day, but enough leeway so you can be creative within that structure – you get to either follow the lesson as it’s suggested in the notebook, or teach the lesson however you want to as long as you achieve the “Aim” of the lesson for that day (this is explained in the online training that you’ll do if you’re offered a contract). For me, and most of the teachers I know, prepping the lesson the night before is adequate.

      The commute can be long depending on where your school is. I’ve had a 50 minute commute, door-to-door and an hour and a half commute, door-to-door. Also, the trains can be packed in the mornings and evenings in Tokyo. During my first term, I had a short commute on a light train with no transfers. Last term, I had a long commute on packed trains, with two transfers. It just all depends on your assignment.

      The culture of Japanese trains: Not supposed to use cell phones, eat or drink (although these rules are occasionally broken, even by Japanese people sometimes). Also there is very little talking. It was weird at first, but now I love that a train can be packed and no one is saying a word.

      Japan is known for being one of the safest countries in the world and Tokyo one of safest cities. But crime happens here, if rarely. That said, I always felt very safe at night as did my female friends.

      Internet is included in the WG-sponsored apts. You do not have to pay any gift money. If you arrange your own housing then I believe that is part of the deal in renting an apartment here, but I’ve never done that – I’ve always stayed in a WG apt (Leopalace is the chain of apts). I think it’s great that WG passes you off from one person to another, from the airport to your apt and stays to make sure everything is working. Someone is always available by phone if you ever need anything. (You’ll get your cell phone on arrival at Narita.)

      You asked great questions that others might have as well. Thanks and good luck with your decision to apply!
      -Robyn

  13. ashley November 5, 2013 at 1:57 am

    Hi Robin!

    What a great and informative site. I have taught English for three years in Buenos Aires, Argentina and currently am in school taking my pre-requisite classes to apply for a second degree in nursing back in NYC. This coming semester, my classes are rather simple and can be done online. I was wanting another another adventure before nursing school starts. That being said, would the load at Westgate be to much to handle while taking two (easy) online courses? Did you have time for reading or other activities?

    Thank you!

    Ashley Barnes

    • Robyn November 5, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      Hi Ashley! Thanks for the comments and question. While each school may have a slightly different schedule, in general all of the WG teachers work all day, all week long. I’ve never been home before 7:15 and my first term it was closer to 8pm. It all really depends on how long your commute is. So if you can do your online work in the evenings and weekends, you should be fine. It also depends on your energy level. Teaching, as you know, can be fulfilling but draining. I’m pretty tired on weeknights and personally wouldn’t want to think about dealing with a class. But if you’re motivated and focused you can do it. I do have time for reading in my spare time, and am usually out and about on the weekends. I hope this helps. :) Best, -R

  14. Nancie October 23, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Hi Robin, I have really enjoyed reading this post, since I am in the process of interviewing with Westgart in the next couple of weeks. I have a cat, and I am wondering if she can be accommodated, If no, then I would have to make other arrangements for her. Of course, that depends on receiving a job offer!

    • Robyn October 24, 2013 at 7:55 pm

      Hi Nancie,
      Thank you for reading the blog and I hope it is helpful to you. You may have seen the note I posted below, but I checked with WG staff and was told that very few rented apts in Japan accept pets and the WG apts are no different. I hope things work out for you in coming to Japan! Thanks again, R

  15. Kammy October 9, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Hi Robyn! I’m so happy to have discovered your blog. I am interested in teaching in Japan (not with Westgate, since I don’t have teaching experience), but I have a couple of questions. The only thing that is giving me hesitation is my concern about my cats. I have two cats and would want to take them with me.

    Do you know of any teachers who took their pets with them? If so, could you tell me about their experiences?

    Did your apartment allow pets?

    Are cats often not allowed in apartments that eikaiwas put teachers up in?

    Any insights would be much appreciated! :-)

    • Robyn October 10, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      Hi Kammy! Thank you for your comment and question, which is a good one! I don’t know if pets are allowed… none of the people I know have cats, but I will ask some of my Japanese friends to see if they have insight into this. Also, I don’t know anything about the eikaiwas or their policies. If other readers who are familiar with eikaiwas see this, hopefully they can offer some insight. In the meantime, I’ll ask some folks about the cat question and get back to you.
      Thanks again! R

      • Kammy October 24, 2013 at 6:48 am

        Thanks, Robyn. =)
        I did have an interview with one recruiting company and it was a very short interview after I told them that my cats are not optional. The interviewer was nice about it, but said no to my little fluffy ones. =( The search continues!

        • Robyn October 24, 2013 at 7:53 pm

          Hi Kammy,
          The information you have is what I just learned today after getting some feedback from WG staff. I’ll update the review, but in essence I was told that very few rented apts accept pets and the WG apts are no different. I’m sorry this might hinder your efforts to teach in Japan. Thank you for getting back to me and good luck with your plans. R

  16. Daisy October 4, 2013 at 1:48 am

    Hi Robyn! Very informative blog
    I am interested in the 4month contract with Westgate but don’t have much teaching experience… Just how crucial is previous experience? I have some experience tutoring but not much with ESL teaching. I am from an english speaking country and am fluent in english…

  17. Jamey Nicholas S. (@kidamadeus) August 27, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Hey there! I enjoyed reading your blog and review of Westgate.

    I’ve been an ESL teacher for a few years now in the states and I’m thinking about making the move to Japan (for work and also for romance). Of the eikawa schools out there, Westgate seems like the best I’ve encountered. However, it seems like a longterm is not really a possibility there. Do you have to fly home after the end of each 3 month contract no matter what? If they want you back for the next term, do they have any interest in keeping you in Japan?

    If there are no possibilities for long-term employment there, do you have any recommendations for schools that hire long term that have generally favorable reviews? I’ve heard a lot of terrible stories about NOVA, CocoJuku, etc…

    Any tips would be great! Thanks again!

    • Robyn September 5, 2013 at 8:54 pm

      Hi Jamey,
      Sorry for the delay in responding – I was backpacking for several weeks, then traveling in New England and didn’t have reliable connectivity or computer access during that time. I’m now getting caught up on everything! :)
      Westgate has been my only experience with teaching ESL in Japan so I can’t speak for other companies. There are exceptions to having to leave the country after a three-month contract: – a teacher has 30 days after the last day of the contract day by which time they do have to exit Japan. This is if you are staying in WG-sponsored housing. If you are in Japan on your own, living in your own apartment then this rule does not apply, obviously. If you’re staying in WG housing then they help you get registered in the city in which you’re living. Otherwise one is pretty much on their own regarding registering and other logistics outside of the actual teaching obligations.
      There is a longer term contract in the Young Learners Program during the fall term. That description is here: http://www.westgate.co.jp/application/program/young-learning/index.html

      I hope this is helpful and good luck with what you pursue!
      R

  18. Maria March 28, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Hi Robyn,
    I’m starting with Westgate on the 5th and your blog entries on Japan have been really invaluable as part of my research! I hope you don’t mind but I was wondering if I could pick your brains on something. I’m having a bit of a last minute stress concerning work clothes. I’ve lived in Korea during one of those hot, humid Summers but fortunately I didn’t have to work at the time and could dress casually. What kind of work clothes you would recommend bringing for the hotter months?.. I have a few smart skirts but, seeing as tights are a must, I’m wondering how practical they are going to be.
    Cheers!
    Maria

    • Robyn March 29, 2013 at 4:01 am

      Hi Maria,
      Congratulations on coming to teach in Japan! I’ve actually been traveling to get here so I apologize for the delay in my response. The dress code for teaching is a bit problematic since it does get hot and humid as summer approaches. I always wore pants but some women wore skirts and just tolerated the hosiery requirement. My building (and I think most buildings) had air conditioning so it’s comfortable in the classrooms. The worst was walking to and from the trains. July was the hottest month and although it’s uncomfortable, it’s not intolerable. Good luck with your travels and I hope you enjoy your teaching assignment!

      • Maria March 29, 2013 at 9:09 am

        Thanks Robyn! It’s good to know there’s air conditioning anyway, that’s something that’s definitely been hit and miss teaching abroad. I think I’ll try to find some more trousers to take but otherwise make do with the skirts. Good luck with your new assignment too!

  19. Dean March 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Hi Robyn,

    thanks for the informative blog. Refreshing to see quality information delivery like this.

    I’m due to start at Westgate this Spring and wanted to ask how far the salary goes after rent is taken out. 275000 – 81000 = 194000 / month = approx $470 per week before insurance is taken out. I’d have to pay national health and nursing care insurance so say around $400 / week remaining?

    For an average lifestyle (non smoking, little drinking, a couple of restaurant meals out a week) do you have much left if any?

    I guess I’m assuming weekends are often spent exploring as not enough time / energy in the week – and this exploration costs something! How far do you get to explore with those bullet trains?

    Also, do you socialize with your Japanese work colleagues as well as Western colleagues?

    Many thanks,

    Dean.

    • Robyn March 15, 2013 at 7:33 pm

      Hi Dean,
      Thanks for reading the blog and I hope you find it helpful.
      Congratulations on working with WG – I hope you’ll have a great term!
      It doesn’t seem like that much when you break it down, does it? I actually got a higher figure based on today’s exchange rate, but you’re right, it’s not a lot. However, I was able to save quite a bit and still enjoy my time by going out with friends, taking a couple trips locally, visiting museums, buying gifts, etc. Of course everyone’s level of frugality is different, but it’s possible to save a chunk. It’s also possible to burn through the cash since Tokyo is so amazing and distracting! :)
      I didn’t take any bullet train trips during my last two terms, but am planning on doing a couple trips this spring. Some folks went to Kyoto during long weekends via the bullet train and were able to get a substantial visit in.
      Yes, the weekends are the best times to get out as the week is full, although if you’ve read some of my posts from last term, Hannah and I had a ritual of going out for dinner at least once a week and sometimes more. Otherwise I cooked at home or picked up something cheap.
      The WG teachers that I knew were super fun and did socialize with some of the Japanese staff as well as the Westerners. It just depends on the dynamics of your school crew and PC. Orientation is a great time to meet a lot of people and make some connections, as well as talk to returning teachers about their experiences and get some other answers to your questions. I think you’ll have a great experience!

      • Dean March 16, 2013 at 2:50 am

        Hi Robyn,

        thanks for that. Good that it’s possible to save something, although finances were definitely not the driver for this adventure! I think immersion into the culture and making friends comes first, hoping that the job will enable this.

        Cheers,

        Dean.

  20. Mez March 3, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Hi Robyn, thank you so much for this unbiased and fair review of Westgate! (it’s so hard to find reviews that are balanced!)

    Compared to a lot of eikawa/ALT jobs, Westgate sounds like a great place to work for in Japan. I’m really impressed by the amount of support they give – since I can only speak basic Japanese, having the company help you out is definitely a plus. I realise you wrote this post over 6 months ago, but I’m hoping that you still have the time to answer a few questions!!

    I’m really hoping to come to Japan later this year, probably around August. I graduated from university with a Bachelor’s degree at the end of 2012, and have only taught music privately one-on-one. Do you think I have a good chance getting a job at Westgate? You replied to an earlier comment that many of the teachers were quite experienced, so do you think having little “group” teaching experience (added to the fact that I’m only in my early twenties) will affect my application?

    Also, I realise you taught the university program with Westgate, but do you know of anyone who worked through the Young Learners Program? Perhaps I should apply for both programs and see how I go…

    Thank you in advance and again, thanks for writing the helpful review! :)

    • Robyn March 3, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Hi Mez,
      Thanks for your questions. If you speak basic Japanese, you’re already ahead of a lot of us! It’s not a requirement to speak Japanese, but to know it would certainly help your day to day life.
      I wish I had better answers to your questions, but I really don’t know if your music teaching experience would be enough to qualify you to teach ESL with WG. It might depend on how much teaching you did. I wonder if you have a TEFL certification or could get that soon? That would help. I don’t think your age would be prohibitive, as there are several teachers in their early 20s. Experience is more important. I would suggest contacting WG and just ask if it would be worth applying given your teaching experience. I think that would be better than going through the whole process (it is involved), then finding out you don’t have the qualifications. The other teachers I personally knew all taught in the university program, but if I find anyone who taught with the YL program I’ll let you know. But, yes, applying to both certainly would be an option. Not sure this helped, but thanks for asking. Good luck with your decisions!

      • Mez March 3, 2013 at 5:21 pm

        Wow, thank you so much for your quick reply!

        Thanks for your advice – I can definitely see what you mean about needing experience. I’ll shoot them an email and ask them, but since I posted my previous comment, I’ve been reading their website thoroughly and it seems that they definitely want some experience so I have a feeling they’re probably going to tell me I won’t qualify. I’ll just have to continue my eikawa/ALT company search!

        Anyway, it’s great to hear that you had such a fantastic experience with them. Thank you again, I really do appreciate your reply!

        • Robyn March 3, 2013 at 5:32 pm

          You’re welcome. Maybe WG will be a possibility for you in the future after you get some more ESL teaching experience. Thanks again and best to you!
          R

  21. Erica December 27, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Hi there, I really appreciate all I’ve read on your blog as I’ll be teaching with Westgate in the spring. It’s been great getting to find out as much as I can in advance! Do you know anything about teachers staying in Japan after their contract with Westgate is up? I applied for a job with them because I read online that teachers are able to stay after their contract is up and possibly find work elsewhere, but it sounds from your review like they are quite strict about making teachers leave. Can you provide any insight? Thanks!

    • Robyn December 28, 2012 at 9:23 pm

      Hi Erica,
      Congratulations on your assignment – I hope you have a great experience!
      Although WG encourages teachers to leave Japan on the day their contract is up, there is the option of staying for up to an additional 30 days and still be reimbursed for the second half of your plane ticket (you’ll get reimbursed for the first half with the first full paycheck). I’m not sure what would happen if you stay on indefinitely, other than having to pay for any fees for changing your flight arrangements. I know some teachers have stayed on and found work with other companies, but I don’t know the details of how their reimbursements worked out. (I’ve edited a bit of the content in the post after talking about this with other teachers.)

      Hopefully, other former teachers will pop in to give share their experiences here.

  22. Terrie Chrones December 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    this is a new question. My boyfriend is interviewing. We are both teachers; I am retired so we are ‘older respectable.’We’re not two young kids trying to scam the system for a free apartment. Is it allowed to have visitors for a short visit? I’d like to visit as I am a culinary instructor and would certainly access the cultue while he is working. thanks.

    • Robyn December 20, 2012 at 5:45 am

      Hi Terrie,
      Just to clarify, the apartments aren’t free. The rent/cost of utilities/maintenance/key money is (as of this time) 81,000 yen, and is taken out of the monthly salary. I can’t speak to whether visitors are officially “allowed”, but it seems that having a visitor for a short time would be reasonable; just my opinion, not speaking for WG ;). Good luck to your boyfriend! As a culinary instructor, you’d have a great time exploring the food culture of Japan.

      • Terrie Chrones December 20, 2012 at 7:08 am

        Thanks. I know they are paid out of salary, meant more of the opportunity for me to visit. Thanks for your reply, your blog is very clear.

  23. Rebecca November 29, 2012 at 2:59 am

    Hi Robyn,

    Apologies for randomly popping in on your blog. I came across you while researching Westgate.

    I have a Westgate interview coming up in about a week and a half. Are you able to offer any insight as to what I should expect when I speak to Ms. Nozawa?

    Also, I saw your apartment photos. It looks identical to a place I lived (and loved) in Osaka a few years ago. Is it a Leo Palace?

    Best,
    Rebecca

    • Robyn November 29, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      Hi Rebecca!
      Never apologize for popping in on a blog – we love that! :)
      Yes, this is a Leo Palace apt. Pretty standard but effective, I think! I enjoy living here. I haven’t been to Osaka yet, but hope to get there sometime.

      My interview was quite thorough – it lasted about 45-50 minutes and was a very good one, I thought. I was asked all the expected questions – about my background, more detail about my teaching experiences; I was asked for examples of what I did in certain situations, and what I would do in given scenarios. You might be read some sentences that need to be corrected and asked why they’re wrong. She might give you more detail about the program and will ask if you have any questions, so having a few prepared is a good idea. I’m sure you’ll do fine! Good luck to you!

      • Rebecca December 3, 2012 at 5:03 am

        Thanks, Robyn! Osaka is certainly worth checking out, but I particularly enjoyed Kyoto. If you haven’t been I highly recommend a visit.

        • Rebecca December 6, 2012 at 12:13 am

          I had my interview last night. Thanks for the useful pointers and the great company/experience related information on your blog! :-)

          • Robyn December 6, 2012 at 6:01 am

            You’re welcome and good luck with the rest of the process!

            • Rebecca January 14, 2013 at 8:02 am

              Hi Robyn,

              I have received an offer from Westgate and wondered if you could answer a question. My contract states that I will be paid on the 26th of the month. However, my last contracted day is the 21st of a month. Will I be paid at that time? I am expected back at my US Uni and will not be able to stay past the 21st.

              Thanks again,
              Rebecca

              • Robyn January 14, 2013 at 10:31 am

                Congratulations on your offer! On the last month you should get your regular salary minus 50,000yen deposit money. This will be paid in cash on the last day of your contract after the apartment inspection. It would be a good idea to contact your recruiter just to clarify these dates, so you know for sure. But you are not expected to stay beyond your ending contract date and you’ll get paid your regular salary.

  24. Ian November 18, 2012 at 4:37 am

    Hi Robyn,

    Thank you for writing back. It’s good to hear from an insider. Do you have an idea of roughly how long the process takes, from original application, to getting a job in Japan?

    I don’t mind small apartments either. At least in Japan there is usually a lot of thought put towards the place anyway, so even though it’s small, it has what you need.

    It is tricky though when you don’t know just how loud your neighbours will be. I was stuck in an apartment tied to a job in Japan before and my neighbour was a nightmare. He was a college student with money from his folks probably, just partying every single night with such a random schedule, and I was getting to worst sleeps. I’m somewhat confused as to why the charges are over 8 man too for the Westgate places. Maybe if my place was in Shinjuku or something I wouldn’t mind, but if it’s just some random area, I don’t understand why such a small place would have to have such high rent.

    It seems that apartments are usually about an hour’s commute from the schools. Are some people closer? If not, are the apartments ever in interesting/popular locations?

    I’ve done a few things in Japan. I was originally on JET as an ALT at public jr. highs. I later worked at an eikaiwa, mainly teaching young adults, then back as an ALT through a private recruiter, then back again to an eikaiwa.

    Thanks again,

    Ian

    • Robyn November 18, 2012 at 5:50 pm

      Hi Ian,
      The process took a few weeks, but they kept things moving. They are rather thorough and will send a questionnaire to your references. Once you get past an initial “screening” you’ll be assigned a recruiter who will interview you and be your contact through the rest of the process. Mine was/is very helpful and always responded right away during the work week. I’ve heard the same of other recruiters.
      Regarding the apts – there is an option of getting your own place and not going with the WG apts. If you’re comfortable finding places in Japan, this might be a good route. For someone new to Japan and/or doesn’t speak Japanese, it would be rather difficult. The convenience of having an apt already set up including utilities, etc was nice. Someone from WG escorts us to the apt from the airport and makes sure everything is working properly. I’ve read about the fees and gift money that must be paid to an apt manager and from the bit of figuring I did, the cost seemed about equal to what we pay in rent.
      In terms of location – it’s literally all over the map. I’ve lived in the suburbs and have been content. Others like being right in the middle of Tokyo. I can’t say the areas I’ve lived in were that interesting, but they were fine and it was easy to get to more interesting places. People have requested to be in certain areas and some get placed where they wanted to be and other don’t. It just depends on where WG needs to put their teachers.
      A contract is only for three months. If it’s not a good fit, then one isn’t committed for a whole year as in many ESL contracts.
      I hope this helps and good luck with whatever you decide!

      • Ian November 19, 2012 at 7:43 am

        Thanks again for your words.

        This helps me understand a bit more about what to possibly expect.

        Does the general feel of the company seem to be non-Japanese or Japanese-run? I remember when the original NOVA was still around, and although being a Japanese company, it seemed quite foreign-run, with foreign managers who didn’t seem to have any interest in Japan other than being a manager at NOVA. (That’s probably part of the reason why they went bankrupt).

        That’s good to know that utility fees are included in the rent. I know in winter, those expenses can rise quite a bit.

        Do you know of anyone who’s worked there long-term, like over 2 years?

        • Robyn November 19, 2012 at 6:58 pm

          Glad this information has been helpful. This is a Japanese-run company with a few westerners working on the lead staff as well. I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with everyone I’ve worked with.
          I might have a long-term contact for you. Will let you know when I hear back from them.
          Best,
          Robyn

          • Ian November 20, 2012 at 2:59 am

            Thanks. I don’t necessarily need to talk to anyone else, but was just wondering if they’re out there. Some companies have a high turn-over rate, which gets me thinking why. I know I’ve seen Westgate ads for years on every “Jobs in Japan”-type job lists. Anyway, I’m glad to hear that your experience is generally positive. I’ve got a lead for a job in Japan, but whether that falls through or not is another question. Also, it’s hard to know how a job will really go before starting it (or even being in the country), so I may apply to Westgate in the meantime.

            Thanks again. Have a good day.

  25. Ian November 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Hi,

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been looking at Westgate’s information off and on and haven’t completely written them off yet.

    I’ve taught in Japan for several years and may have work coming up in Japan soon, although I’m out of the country now.

    I’m tempted by the fact that Westgate teaches adults. That has always been my favourite type of teaching in Japan.

    However, what always stops me from applying are the stories of the apartments. I hear that they are very small and the rent is much too high for what they are. I don’t mind small spaces, but what I do mind is sound. I like to forget that I have neighbours. I have also heard about curfews.

    Are the curfews actually imposed? I find it hard to believe that grown adult teachers have curfews imposed on them, or that they’re not allowed to have guests overnight.

    What would you say the general attitude of the teachers is? Are most people just there for a fun time, or are there a good amount of people genuinely interested in teaching and/or learning about Japan and speaking Japanese fluently?

    I’m considering working on my Master’s degree in Education once I get back to Japan to teach. I’d like to take a distant education course, and am wondering how plausible that would be with what seems to be a very busy schedule at Westgate.

    With the busy schedule, is much time necessary for preparing classes, or can teachers usually just do classes with just a little preparation?

    Thanks!

    • Robyn November 17, 2012 at 11:01 pm

      Hi Ian,
      Thanks for your questions. Yes, the apartments are small. I enjoy living in small spaces so it doesn’t bother me. The two that I’ve lived in are quite basic and nice and in nice neighborhoods. Here is a link with pics to my current apt: http://wp.me/pR192-LU. In that link is another link to my apt last term. My apts have been quite soundproof. Another teacher has had difficulty with an upstairs neighbor who is rather noisy, so I think the noise factor can depend on who else is around you.

      There is some info on the Internet about Westgate that is out of date, which is perhaps where you’ve heard about a curfew, but no, there’s no curfew that I know of, and certainly no one around to enforce one even if such a thing existed.

      There are many teachers working for WG, all with varying degrees of attitudes. There are many returnees, which I think speaks for their experience here. For the most part, people seem content even if there are minor annoyances. Some teachers have been dissatisfied with aspects of their experience, but I’ve not shared those aspects.
      All the teachers that I’ve met are quite experienced, having taught in other countries before coming to Japan. There are all ages and many nationalities represented. Some are quite interested in the fun factor and have gotten to know the nightlife of Tokyo well, but still, they’re professionals and take their teaching seriously. I’m sure there are exceptions but I haven’t met them yet. Some are interested in learning Japanese (like me) but it’s not a goal for others.
      I too have considered an online course/degree, but I would find it difficult to pursue while working. Everyone has a different situation, but in general, there is a significant commute to and from the universities, and the workday is full. It just depends on your time management on weekends and in the evenings and the flexibility you have with the program you choose.

      The Westgate curriculum is already established, so there is little prep time involved during the week. You have to know how you’re going to teach your lesson each day, but you don’t have to come up with a new lesson from scratch.
      What company have you taught with in Japan?
      I hope this helps! Thanks again for your questions.

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