Job Hunting in Japan as a “Non-native” WOC in ELT

Job Hunting

I defended my PhD and graduated in March, 2019. Such a stressful month. Why? Because my student visa was valid till April 2nd, 2019, and I had to change my visa status to be able to continue working in Japan (Application for Change of Status of Residence).

As a student in Japan you can work up to 28 hours a week. You need to apply for “Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted,” which is technically a work permit. The application process is pretty straightforward and you just need to fill out a form. That is why I could legally start working part-time at several universities and at an English conversation school (eikaiwa) in Kansai area from 2017.

I am planning to blog about my experiences as a PhD student in Applied Linguistics at Osaka University, Graduate School of Language and Culture. I preferred to write about my job-hunting experiences first because most of the tips I was given or found were not really helpful. I do not think many folx will find my blogpost helpful, but the thing is this blogpost is for few English teachers who have a similar situation like mine to see I could, so can they.

If you see it, you can be it!

First, I would like to start with two confessions:

  1. I have never been turned down for a job in Japan because I am labeled as a “non-native” speaker. I have applied for jobs via email and have never heard back. I have applied for jobs and was not hired, but I have never been told that it is because I am a “non-native” speaker. Not in my face. Not yet.
  2. When I came to Japan, I was racially naive, unaware, and ignorant. For example, I thought white is a racial slur. I was a big fan of “Diversity” and “Inclusion” or mottoes like “We all belong to one human race” without critically thinking about them through a racial lens. So, I, as a WOC, maintained the status quo by being a white supremacy tool. Moreover, I used to overemphasize that I am not Arab, which I realized that it was a racist way to identify myself. Now, I am reading on race and I want to be an antiracist because as Ibram X. Kendi states, “You are either racist or antiracist. There is nothing in between.” I will blog about my racial awakening later. For now, I’d like to share another quote from How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.

#WOCinELT

 

Finding ELT Positions in Japan

Networking

According to Johnson and Dillon (1996),

Connections (jinmyaku) are important in any culture but in many cases seem to be a necessity in Japan. The best positions are usually not advertised in journals or newspapers, rather they are acquired by word-of-mouth. Basically, the chances of getting a good job are directly proportional to the quality of your connections.

Paul Raine (2012) is also quite honest about finding university English teaching positions in Japan:

The most common and effective way of finding university English teaching positions in Japan is through the referrals of friends and acquaintances. Indeed, many universities never need to advertise positions, relying instead on a surprisingly close-knit network of their current employees, employees acquaintances, employee’s acquaintances’ friends and… you get the picture. If job searching for university English teaching positions in Japan could be summed up in three words, they would be: network, network, network.

Teaching English at Japanese universities is a very rewarding profession, and English teaching careers are available to those with the motivation and means to undertake the qualifications required. If you are a passionate educator with an inclination toward academic research, then teaching at Japanese universities will definitely provide you with a wealth of opportunities. But be prepared to change jobs frequently, and network extensively if you want to stay ahead of the game.

James McCrostie (2010) believes:

It is no longer enough to simply pay your JALT and JACET membership fees—you also have to get involved with meetings, conferences, editing journals and similar volunteer service. Getting involved also helps one to make connections. Knowing someone never hurts in the current atmosphere of brutal competition.

Something which is missing in these articles written by white male “native” speakers is the fact that the ELT network in Japan is either Japanese dominated or white, male, middle/upper class, “native” English speakers dominated, which makes the job hunting process for non-white, female, non-Japanese, working class “non-native” speakers very challenging.

You need to be Japanese or you need to have what Nelson Flores (2017) calls white qualifications to be able to connect and network. Moreover, networking gets really hard if you do not drink alcohol and are not part of the nominication—from nomu the verb for to drink and communication—culture here in Japan. You can read on nominication culture here.

If white “native” speakers are dealing with “brutal competition” in James McCrostie’s terms, non-white, non-Japanese, “non-native” English speakers are dealing with racism, and if you are a white “native” speaker and complain about racism in Japan, I highly recommend you to read this oldie but goodie: “racism” vs. racism

The sadder news is that lots of times the job ads even on portals like JREC-IN are for formality. The recruiters already know who they want to hire. To formalize the process, they advertise the position. Once I withdrew my job application because of this reason. I was approached by a participant at an ELT conference. They asked if I am interested in teaching part-time at their university. I said, yes. They then advertised the job position. They were so shocked why many folx were applying.

As I confessed, I was racially unaware when I came to Japan. If I could go back in time and give myself some advice on networking, this would be it:

1. Avoid predominantly white ELT organizations.

Why? 

They are not meant for you. You are constantly otherized, you have to deal with loads of microaggressions (euphemism for racism), and this can lead to racial trauma. Read on othering at http://conference.otheringandbelonging.org/

Exception

If a SIG or a group for Scholars/Teachers of Color exists within the organization (e.g., KOTESOL People of Color Teachers SIG), joining the organization to get involved in those spaces is not a bad idea.

2. Avoid predominantly Japanese ELT organizations.

Why?

Again, they are not meant for you. You still need to “fit in” and deal with loads of racism as racism is not just a white phenomenon.

3. Find networks that are meant for you.

Why?

Because you do not need to “fit in”. Fitting in is not belonging. Stick to SIETAR Japan and join a union.

4. Educate yourself on microaggressions and racial harassment, and learn how to respond to them. Check this out: https://womenofcolorinelt.wordpress.com/microaggressions/

5. Your circle of support can be small but very strong.

6. Remember: After all, you are alone on this journey.

“Native Speakers” Only Ads

You see many “native speakers” only ads even when you are looking for university English teaching positions in Japan (e.g., click here: “The Kyoto Sangyo University Common Education Center is looking for native English speakers”).

If you check TEFL Equity website, you will find information on how to tackle native speakerism in ELT. It is often recommended that highlight your strengths, apply, and do not be put off by the “native speakers” only ads.

I no longer find this way of tackling native speakerism empowering because it sounds like we are fixing “non-native” teachers instead of fixing injustice and inequity.

In Adrian Holiday’s terms, native speakerism is ELT’s neo-racism. In his blogpost, Sulaiman Jenkins (2018) writes: 

Ostensibly, ‘native speaker’ means someone who grew up in an English speaking country and has essentially spoken the language from birth, but in reality it has often been used synonymously with being a White speaker from an English speaking country.

The preference for “native” speakers in ELT, which too often means white “native” speakers, is the white supremacy in the ELT industry. So, in our equity efforts, we need to focus on eliminating racist conditions, not on fixing marginalized teachers. 

Another blogpost that I am planning to write is about equity vs equality and how these two terms are being used interchangeably leading to an illusion of equity in ELT. For now, I would like to share a quote by Paul Gorski (2019) based on his article, “Avoiding Racial Equity Detours”:

It is not about fixing marginalized people, it is about fixing the conditions that marginalize people.

I applied for a “native” speaker only job ad once and I will never do that again because if it is not meant for me, I do not want it. I do not want to work with folx who do not understand or do not want to understand how hurtful, painful, exclusionary their job ads are. If you get a job through a racist, discriminatory job ad, you will most probably work at a toxic workplace.

Tokenism

Recently, “non-native” speakers from any nationality are encouraged to apply especially for university ELT positions in Japan. To be honest, it feels good to see such job ads; however, I highly recommend you to be careful as these are part of “Diversity” and “Inclusion” efforts to “globalize”, “internationalize”, and “diversify” Japan, and chances are, you will experience tokenism. From a racial perspective, tokenism is the practice of using People of Color to create the appearance of “diversity”, and that is why tokenism is a form of racism. Here is a narrative that can shed light on this concept:

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Source: Click here

To get more familiar with the concept of tokenism, please refer to this post: 8 Ways People of Color are Tokenized in Nonprofits

You might ask, how can I make sure that I am not going to be a token hire? How can I avoid tokenism?

Ask questions! For example,

  • Is your university/school a safe place for Teachers of Color?
  • How do you deal with racial harassment?
  • Does your university pay “native” and “non-native” teachers equally?
  • Am I the only non-Japanese, “non-native” teacher at your department/school?
  • Why do you hire “non-native” teachers?

How I Found my ELT Jobs in Japan

Like many folx, I found all my ELT jobs in Japan through my connections, and they are all white and “native” speakers. It feels like I need to be approved by a “native” speaker. When I am introduced by a “native” speaker, I simply start working without even being interviewed.

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Source: Click here

My first university job experience started this way:

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Source: Click here

It was a semester of racial harassment and bullying, and you can check these two links to see how it ended:

My first ever university job experience in Japan was disappointing, but I learned that as a WOC (Woman of Color: a term I learned from a Pakistani American friend here in Japan. Check here to learn about the history of this political term), I need to protect myself. I learned that I should not apply for any job ad out there without knowing about the workplace. I started talking to few folx in my small yet strong circle of support about my challenges, and they helped me find safe workplaces.

Visa Application: Designated Activities or Professor Visa?

As I wrote at the beginning of this post, March 2019 was very stressful. It was time to apply for working visa in Japan.

The first thing that I did was to talk to some folx who are involved in JALT Job Information Center (JIC). They told me that they do not know about visa requirements because most of them are married to Japanese citizens and have Spouse Visa. They also acknowledged that there is some discrimination if you are from a certain country such as Iran. They suggested that I should go to the Immigration Bureau and talk to the immigration consultants there.

Next, I contacted the universities to ask about visa sponsorship. One university said, yes, we will provide it for you and the other one said, “our school would not be able to provide visa sponsorship for a part-time instructor.”

I then went to Support Office for International Students and Scholars, Osaka University many times. I also went to Osaka Regional Immigration Bureau twice (the immigration consultants there do not speak English) and asked which kind of visa I should apply. I brought all my documents and explained my situation:

  1. I will continue teaching part-time at Kobe City University of Foreign Studies (6 classes per week)
  2. I will start teaching part-time at the University of Hyogo (2 classes per week)
  3. I will continue teaching part-time at an eikaiwa (6-7 fifty minute classes per week)
  4. One of the universities will provide visa sponsorship and the other one does not.
  5. My boss at the eikaiwa is willing to fill out any necessary form.
  6. I have applied for a full time position at Baika Women’s University (got rejected), Kwansei University (still waiting for the result), and Konan University (still waiting for the result)

We checked List of Statuses of Residence together both at the Support Office and the Immigration Bureau and I was told that I need to apply for Designated Activities (特定活動) visa for the purpose of continuing job hunting in Japan and I need to wait till my graduation day (March 25th, 2019). The length of the initial Designated Activities Visa is 6 months and it can be renewed.

I started collecting all the documents and filling out the forms for Designated Activities visa. I included all the documents that proved that I am in the middle of my job hunting (e.g., rejection letters, emails). It was mid February, everything was ready, and I was just waiting for my graduation day. I have learned from experience that I need to double check everything. That is why I went to the Support Office again, and I was not sure how to answer a question on one of the the visa application forms. They called the Immigration Bureau to find the answer and they suddenly told me that I should apply for Professor (教授) visa because if I apply for Designated Activities visa, I cannot work as a part-time lecturer!!!

It was a big shock to me because I did not have much time and one of the universities had told me that they do not provide visa sponsorship.

Another source of stress was that “native” part-timers usually teach 20-25 university classes per week (I have no idea how they can do that) and I only had 8 university classes and 6-7 eikaiwa classes, which meant my monthly salary would be around 270,000 yen.

I tried to apply for more part-time positions that I happened to know about through personal Facebook pages of some of my friends and colleagues (this is a common way to advertise part-time ELT university positions!). In the meantime, I started preparing the documents for the Professor visa. I noticed that the sponsorship form looks more like confirming that this teacher has a one-year part-time contract at our university and her annual salary is XXX yen. So, I contacted the university that told me they do not provide visa sponsorship for part-timers and shared the file with them. They said they will fill it out for me!

Here is the link to the form (last page: For organization):

http://www.moj.go.jp/content/001290150.pdf

It is worth noting that this is the only question which is related to language education on the form and there is nothing about native speakerism:

Total period of receiving the foreign language education when you teach the foreign language

Also, unlike UK or Canadian visa forms, there is no question about your previous visa refusals or about your travel history. As Bathsheba Okwenje (2019) says,

There is the toll of a possible rejection – a rejection which will affect every subsequent visa application for the rest of your life, because whether you have previously been denied a visa is a specific question on applications. This rejection becomes yet another obstacle to overcome, another area for you to prove that you are indeed worthy of travel and of being in a country that is not your own.

If I am not mistaken, this kind of visa application is known as self-sponsorship among “native” teachers in Japan who need to apply for visa, but I never heard this from the immigration consultants at the Immigration Bureau or I never saw this on the visa application forms.

Visa-queue

Source: Click here

Finally, I applied for the Professor visa with only 8 university classes (2 on Tuesdays, 4 on Wednesdays, and 2 on Fridays) and 6-7 eikaiwa classes (on Wednesdays). I could not find more part-time university jobs. My application for Kwainsei University full-time position got rejected and I never heard back from Konan University (if you are a recruiter, please consider that some folx can show rejection letters as a proof of their job hunting). I paid only 4000 yen for the visa application, which is pretty cheap compared to UK or Canadian visa application fees. The immigration staff checked all my documents to make sure that everything is OK. In general, the application submission process went smoothly, and I was eventually granted the Professor visa. 

Note: I have decided to confront my perfectionism and imposter syndrome and I am planning to blog more. I do not have time to proofread. So, I embrace all my mistakes and typos, which might also be perceived as mistakes. To me, they are the sign that I write in another language: My mother tongue ❤

TESOL 2020: Where the World *Cannot* Come Together!

My Visa Story

I realized that I happen to have one of the most “powerless” passports in the world when my UK visa got rejected three times and I could not attend EUROCALL2017 in person, and many thanks to Virtually Connecting, I could participate in the conference online (You can read about my visa story here: Denied yet Present at EUROCALL 2017: A Memoir).

Now that I have these visa rejections in my visa resume, every single time I apply for a visa I have to disclose them to the visa officer(s). Maybe this is the reason this bitter memory doesn’t fade away (I have written in detail about the nightmare of conference visa applications here).

Why am I writing these again (and again and again)? Because I want you to exactly know why I am “too sensitive” about visas and why I care “too much” about the unfair, and let me be clear, racist Trump travel ban, known as executive disorder among Iranians.

TESOL and Visa

As an ELT scholar, I have always wanted to attend TESOL conferences. I am a working class English instructor and for me TESOL is not an affordable conference to go, and of course I only have Iranian passport, so I automatically don’t submit my abstract(s) to TESOL conferences.

If you check TESOL2019 visa information page (click here, and I couldn’t find the similar page on TESOL2020 website), they ask:

Need A Visa?

For general visa information, visit the U.S. State Department website.

My answer to this question is a big yes, and I did check the US State Department website. I found this brochure, and of course the following information:

On Trump Travel Ban

Nationals of seven countries are currently subject to various travel restrictions contained in the Proclamation, as outlined in the following table, subject to exceptions and waivers set forth in the Proclamation.

The President issued Presidential Proclamation 9645, titled “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or other Public-Safety Threats,” on September 24, 2017.

Source: Click

Country Nonimmigrant Visas Immigrant and Diversity Visas
Iran No nonimmigrant visas except F, M, and J visas No immigrant or diversity visas
Libya No B-1, B-2, and B-1/B-2 visas No immigrant or diversity visas
North Korea No nonimmigrant visas No immigrant or diversity visas
Somalia No immigrant or diversity visas
Syria No nonimmigrant visas No immigrant or diversity visas
Venezuela No B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visas of any kind for officials of the following government agencies Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace; the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration, and Immigration; the Corps of Scientific Investigations, Judicial and Criminal; the Bolivarian Intelligence Service; and the People’s Power Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and their immediate family members.
Yemen No B-1, B-2, and B-1/B-2 visas No immigrant or diversity visas

Source: Click here

You might wonder what “except F, M, and J visas for Iranians” means:

M and F visas: Student visas

J visas: Exchange visitor visas

This protest sign can explain why Iranians get this wavier:

DK-CnlSUIAAnbmm

Source: Unknown (A friend shared this with me)

Let’s keep in mind that this waiver doesn’t mean that you can get the visa as you will be subject to “increased scrutiny”.

And the family members of the individuals affected by Trump travel ban are living in limbo.

Scholars of Color and Travel Ban

I guess now everyone knows about Trump travel ban. Infographics have been designed (one example here), documentaries have been made (one example here), and Twitter accounts have been created (one example is @UndoFamilyBan). Speaking of academia, Scholars of Color have been directly affected by Trump travel ban. Some examples:

You can read more about scholars’ travel ban stories here:

Banned Scientists 

Documenting the impact of the immigration ban on U.S. science

TESOL and the Actions I Took

First, I contacted @TESOL_Assn on Twitter. Here are my private messages:

 

I was told that if I have concerns regarding attending the TESOL Convention, I should contact conventions@tesol.org, and if I have any other questions, I should feel free to let them know.

I then tweeted this:

And I kept mentioning @TESOL_Assn and @TESOLConv.

And I wrote an email to the organizers (I usually refer to them as People in Power Positions):

Wed, Jul 11, 2018, 9:40 PM

Hi,

I hope this email finds you well.

I am contacting you about TESOL 2019 which will be held 12–15 March in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. I have noticed that “Where the world comes together” is being used to publicize the conference on TESOL social media. In this challenging, divisive time, this is not possible and I hope TESOL PR team reconsiders the way the word “world” is used. I am aware that some conference organizers (e.g., International Society for Language Studies) have decided not to hold their conferences in the USA until the travel ban is lifted. This is something that TESOL might want to consider. Moreover, opportunities can be provided to people who are affected by the travel ban to present online synchronously or asynchronously. I look forward to being able to participate at TESOL conferences.

Peace,

Parisa

I received a very positive reply and I was told that TESOL is against the travel ban and is trying to provide opportunities for those who are affected by the ban.

Note 1: Check ISLS’ response to Travel Ban here. ISLS 2018 was held in Canada and ISLS 2019 will be held in Hong Kong (check here). 

Note 2: I am sharing these private efforts because when you blog or share something on social media and express your concerns, you are told, “Why didn’t you write privately to them?”.

Recently, I noticed that “Where the World Comes Together” is still used for TESOL2020. I mentioned @RiahWerner and asked her to be my voice and bring this to the attention of TESOL’s Social Responsibility Interest Section (@SRIStesol) people as I know that she is involved in that SIG.

She then kindly suggested that I could write for the Social Responsibility Interest Section newsletter. I thought that’s a good idea and I immediately opened a Word file and started writing. I was in the middle of writing and researching that I noticed the theme of the conference for TESOL 2020 is “Where the World Comes Together”!

The TESOL ​2020 convention theme is Where the World Comes Together. Join the international TESOL community in Denver, Colorado, USA, and experience what makes this association unique: Engage in dialogue with present and future practitioners, administrators, researchers, and advocacy leaders about language education and policy as you enrich your knowledge, networks, and professional experience.

If you are an ELT professional or scholar or in a related field or content area, you are invited to submit a proposal for the TESOL 2020!

Source: Click here

That moment I realized that I should write what I want to say here on my platform.

To TESOL and Scholars of Color

Dear TESOL,

Thousands of academics have signed a letter opposing Trump’s travel ban (click here).

Thousands of scholars have protested against Trump’s travel ban by boycotting academic conferences held in the US (click here).

In solidarity with people affected by the ‘Muslim Ban’, an academic boycott of international conferences held in the US has been formed (click here).

I understand that it might not be easy to hold your conferences outside the US, however, I believe:

  • Changing your PR slogan was/is still possible.
  • Providing opportunities for virtual presentation and online participation was/is still possible.
  • Choosing a meaningful theme for educators who are constantly being told to be “inclusive” and teach “critical thinning”, “critical literacy”, and other buzzwords was possible.

if and only if you truly care. 

I have read your TESOL Statement on Second Immigration Executive Order many times! I used to be a big fan of Public Statements, but I’ve changed my mind. Apparently, they just serve the power structure. Also, I do follow your advocacy program which “addresses issues that affect the profession worldwide”. I’ve repeatedly asked myself, Why don’t these advocacy efforts facilitate real change? I then go and read @pgorski‘s article again: Complicity with conservatism: The de-politicizing of multicultural and intercultural education.

Dear fellow Scholars of Color,

When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.

quote-when-we-speak-we-are-afraid-our-words-will-not-be-heard-or-welcomed-but-when-we-are-silent-we-are-audre-lorde-114756

Peace,

Parisa

 

Why Did I Have A Good Time at EUROCALL2018? Advice for Marginalized Scholars

Why Did I Have A Good Time at EUROCALL2018_ Advice for Women of Color Scholars

I finally made it to EUROCALL! This year’s conference, EUROCALL2018, was held in Jyväskylä, Finland. Check this video if you are not sure how to pronounce Jyväskylä. I had a good time at EUROCALL2018 and here are the details why.

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Because:

The Nightmare of Visa Application Ended Happily!

My UK visa got rejected three times and I could not attend EUROCALL2017 physically (here is the link to the story: https://parisamehran.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/denied-yet-present-at-eurocall-2017-a-memoir/). If you have a powerful passport, I invite you to read my blogpost (please click here) on the nightmare of conference visa applications, which are very complicated for scholars who are from the Global South (yes, I dislike the term “developing countries” because outside Iran I realized that people are from the so-called “developed countries”, however, their behaviors are truly under-developed!).

Because:

I Educated Myself on How to Survive at Academic Conferences!

One of my Twitter friends introduced me to Raewyn Connell’s series, titled Survive and Thrive at an Academic Conference: A Guide for Beginners, in Five Outbursts and a Couch, about a week before the conference.

Finally, someone has said: “Academic conferences can be hard to decode, even alienating“, “cliques form, and ignore or exclude outsiders”, “you can have toxic experiences: harassment, bullying, or other aggression”, and I could not stop reading this paragraph:

‘Border protection’ by governments often excludes leftists, Muslims, and intellectuals from societies in conflict. I was at one conference in a rich white-majority country where a keynote speaker arrived, was seized by immigration police at the airport, and immediately deported – strange to tell, a woman of colour. Heroically she managed to give the keynote address by Skype.

After finishing reading the series, I googled and found more resources on this topic and the following part from a blogpost, titled Advice for Attending Academic Conferences (For Scholars on the Margins), is close to my heart:

We must be honest about the additional concerns and burdens of conferences and interacting with other scholars in general—the external burdens of microaggressions, harassment, stereotyping, disrespect and the internal burdens of self-doubt, mental health problems, and fear — for scholars on the margins.

Because:

I Decided to Apply the Lessons I Learned the Hard Way!

In 2014, I obtained the Japanese Government Scholarship and am now doing my PhD in Japan. I realized in the first few days of living in Japan that there are certain stereotypes about the Middle East, especially about Iran my homeland. Attending conferences has gradually become alienating and I always feel the tension in the air as all the micro/macroaggressions that I am experiencing on a daily basis have made me acutely aware of the inequities imposed by the intersection of race, gender, and physical appearance (please check this blog where I record my ouch moments: https://beyondyourstereotypes.wordpress.com/). Therefore, the question of “how should I look” is recently always with me!

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Because:

I Attended Wikipedia for Language Teaching and Learning Workshop!

My EUROCALL2018 journey started with attending Wikipedia for Language Learning and Teaching workshop by Teresa Mackinnon and Niklas Laxström.

You can find my notes at the following tweet:

That was a great start, because if you know Teresa, you can imagine how welcoming her session was ❤

DlMKYdmW4AAVbpb

Because:

I Was the Virtually Connecting On-Site Buddy!

Last year, Virtually Connecting connected me to EUROCALL2017 and this year I was the on-site buddy! Check this link to watch the recordings:

http://virtuallyconnecting.org/blog/2018/08/05/virtually-connecting-at-eurocall2018/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Because:

I Became Friends with Two Like-Minded EUROCALL First Timers!

Danyang Zhang

She is a CALL enthusiast and doing her PhD on MALL and Vocabulary Learning at the University of Cambridge.

Image_ff9ec46

Jessica Zipf

She is a linguist and doing her PhD on Computational Linguistics at University of Konstanz.

Image_caf5e75

We had deep conversations about feeling marginalized at academia and explored EUROCALL2018 together, especially the parties which are the hardest parts of conferences to attend!

Because:

My Voice Got Heard and I Won the Best PhD Student Poster Award!

I stood beside my poster the whole day and I presented it to more than 50 people because I believe my story is the story of many scholars who are from the Global South and should be heard.

Here is the link to the poster:

Because:

My Allies Were Around!

On-site allies (in alphabetical order):

  • Sahar Alzahrani
  • Kate Borthwick
  • Mark Donnellan
  • Mirjam Hauck
  • Kym Jolley
  • Teresa Mackinnon
  • Louise Ohashi
  • Shannon Sauro
  • Michelle Stannard
  • Richmond Stroupe
  • Victoria Willingale
  • Sarah Winspear
  • Mari Yamauchi

Online allies (in alphabetical order):

  • Maha Bali
  • Martina Emke
  • Simon Ensor
  • Helen DeWaard

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Because:

I Dispelled Stereotypes!

At the dinner party, one of Japan-based colleagues approached me and asked:

-“Are you allowed to dance?”

I just said, “yeah” because he was drunk.

When he saw me the next day, he came to me and said:

-“Oh, you took it off!” (pointing to my head. He meant my headscarf.)

I replied:

-“Because I am allowed to do whatever I want!”

He said,

-“Yeah, you want to get some sun.”

I said:

-“No, because I am proving my humanity!”

He laughed, did not say anything, and left.

Here is the link to the blogpost of this story:

https://beyondyourstereotypes.wordpress.com/2018/08/30/are-you-allowed-to-dance/

For the record, here is a photo of me from EUROCALL2015 held in Padova, Italy.

BTW, have you ever changed your physical appearance to be treated fairly at conferences? If yes, please leave a comment.

Picture1

Because:

I Received the Nicest Comment Ever!

Talking to Shannon Sauro about my challenges, she said this at the end of our conversion:

You are an activist!

Because:

It Was My Birthday!

August 25th is my birthday and I received the best birthday present ever: The EUROCALL2018 Poster Award 🙂

In conclusion, I would like to share my experiences which might be used as advice for marginalized scholars. The things I wish I had known before becoming a conference goer:

awp-womens-caucus

Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/2C9f9vs

  • I do not add people that I meet at conferences on Facebook.
  • I sometimes follow people on Twitter or LinkedIn. Recently, I have decided to not follow the big names. If I have the chance to get to know them, which means they are approachable, I’ll definitely follow them on social media but still do not add them on Facebook.
  • I do not say hi to everyone (this is so hard because greeting is a huge part of my culture and I need to remind myself all the time not to say hi!).
  • I do keep smiling! 🙂
  • I do not take the initiative to socialize with people, especially at the so-called “networking” events. If people want to communicate, they come to me.
  • I spend most of my time with first timers. Most of the time they are willing to communicate even when they do not belong to minority groups.
  • I find marginalized fellow scholars and socialize with them.
  • I do not take photos with keynote speakers, big names, or people I do not know.
  • I watch inspiring speeches by women before the conferences. This is my favorite: https://edition.cnn.com/videos/cnnmoney/2018/06/07/oprah-winfrey-nmaahc-exhibit-opens-sot.cnn
  • I hold my head high, feel proud of who I am, and I walk into a room, just as cool as you please! 😉

I am sure I’ll update this list as I get more experience. Please leave a comment if you would like to add to the list.

Peace ❤

Connecting to Puerto Rico through Augmented and Virtual Realities

This is the story about human connections, about caring, about planting seeds of hope, about changing the world.


Chapter 1: Visa Rejections

Denied yet Present at EUROCALL 2017

My UK visa got rejected three times and I could not physically attend EUROCALL2017. I think the world knows about my visa story, but I share the link here again, just in case:

Denied Yet Present at EUROCALL2017: A Memoir


Chapter 2: Helen DeWaard and VC

I got to know Helen DeWaard through Virtually Connecting (VC) through which I could virtually attend the conference.


Chapter 3: Antonio, Alan, and Postcards for Puerto Rico

After the conference, we stayed in touch on Twitter. She mentioned me in a tweet and introduce a a campaign of mailing postcards to Antonio Vantaggiato and his students, devised by Alan Levine, to say unlike Trump about using these hashtags  . You can read more about the details of the campaign here:

El Puente de Puerto Rico: A Bridge of Postcards by Alan Levine


Chapter 4: My Message

I wrote my message and sent it to Antonio and announced it to the world, and encouraged others to join the campaign.


Chapter 5: Connecting to Puerto Rico

Here are the tweets by Antonio and Alan after receiving my message. Antonio’s blogpost made my day:

I got mail from el Puente de Puerto Rico


Chapter 6: Podcast

I’d love to record one live while Alan is in Australia and interview Parisa Mehran, the author of the first postcard to arrive here, which carried the powerful message:

A woman who has to prove her humanity every day.

We want to talk humanity.

And we did and here are the links to the podcasts:

http://blogs.netedu.info/2017/11/15/podcast-puerto-rico-connection/

http://blogs.netedu.info/2017/12/16/prconnection-episode2/


Chapter 7: Elisabeth Fernandes

Elisabeth

Elisabeth is a great friend and I know her through JALT, . I talked to her about the campaign and she suggested that we could introduce it to our Japanese students and make a lesson pan on how to empathize in English.


Chapter 8: How Can I Change the World: Bookmarks for Puerto Rico

We chose bookmarks as an “educational” item on which our students could write encouraging messages in English, and which could then become a keepsake for the Puerto Rican students.

All about me_001

 

Through the use of virtual reality (VR), our students were able to “travel” to Puerto Rico to experience the devastating results of the hurricane. They were also able to explore the campus of the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón through 3D images.

 

Universidad del Sagrado Corazón 360 View


Chapter 9: Reconnecting to Puerto Rico

Here is Antonio present in our classes.

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Chapter 10: We Care About Puerto Rico

 

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We also utilized augmented reality (AR), Blippar, to bring our #care4sagrado message to life.

AR

My English major students also wrote essays about Puerto Rico:

1-1hggbgj-1ncjsqr.png

http://write4change.edublogs.org/2017/12/04/4-we-care-about-puerto-rico-3/

http://write4change.edublogs.org/2017/12/12/4-we-care-about-puerto-rico-3-group-brainstorming/

http://write4change.edublogs.org/2017/12/12/4-we-care-about-puerto-rico-3-group-outlining-collaborative-writing/

 

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Chapter 11: Humanity

Most of the time I have to deal with micro/macroaggressions and reply to questions that they sound like an interrogation, and people even don’t know my name. “Postcards for Puerto Rico” made a bridge and connected me to people who know my name and they don’t ask me questions. They don’t want me to prove my humanity.

Peace

Denied yet Present at EUROCALL 2017: A Memoir

Denied yet Present at EUROCALL 2017

Photo created by Canva

update: I received 74,192 yen from Takemura Lab, Osaka University, and 40,000 yen from the EUROCALL members. In total, I paid around 150,000 yen (translation fees included) and I was reimbursed the sum of 114,192 yen. I’d like to thank my supervisor, Prof. Takemura and the EUROCALL community for their support.

photo_2017-11-07_19-33-46


Together with Mehrasa, we attended EUROCALL 2015 in Padova, Italy. This is how I became a EUROCALL member and got connected to the community.

We submitted two abstracts to EUROCALL 2017 to present the results of our joint PhD project, titled Osaka University Global English Online, and shared it publicly on Facebook.

Facebook 1

Both of our submissions got accepted and the UK visa journey then started.

First round of visa application

Mehrasa and I applied for the visa on May 25th, 2017, and we both got rejected. We announced the rejection publicly on Facebook.

Facebook 2

It is worth mentioning that we submitted a confirmation of invitation letter from the conference chair, Kate Borthwick, confirming that we have been invited to present our Research and Development papers at the EUROCALL 2017 conference. Our supervisor, Prof. Haruo Takemura, also wrote a letter and guaranteed that all the travel expenses to attend the conference are covered by Osaka University.

Second round of visa application

We applied again on July 11th, 2017, and provided stronger documents. We added the names of some of our British friends in the application form, and one of them wrote a recommendation letter for us. We wrote exactly the same reason for our travel (we did not paraphrase it):

“This conference presentation is part of the requirements for the completion of my PhD course at Osaka University. I will publish two papers in the conference proceedings, one with my name as the first author, then I will be able to defend my PhD.”

Our documents were the same to a large extent except for my marriage certificate and our bank transactions. I had worked part time at a university as an English instructor and I had received about 180,000 yen (1200 GBP) monthly from April 2017. Our scholarship (148,000 yen, 1000 GBP) is fixed, and I wrote in the application form that I had worked part-time and provided a copy of my contract in English.

Mehrasa luckily got the visa, and I got rejected again because:

“While I acknowledge that you have been invited to present a paper at the EUROCALL 2017 conference the evidence you have provided does not explain why it is needed for you to complete your PhD at Osaka University.” 

I announced the second rejection on Facebook.

Facebook 3

Third round of visa application

I applied for the third time on August 2nd, 2017. I submitted an extra letter I received from one of the coordinators of the EUROCALL Special Interest Groups (SIG), Mirjam Hauck, in support of my application for a visa to enter the UK so that I can be elected into my new role, secretary of the EUROCALL Graduate Student SIG, during the meeting on August 24th in Southampton.

I got rejected for the third time, and wrote on my Facebook page that I will be at the EUROCALL 2017 conference in spirit.

Untitled

Here you can find my “Refusal of Entry Clearance” letters.

 

After my first visa rejection, I read a visa story about an Iranian artist, Ehsan Abdollahi (#visaforAbdollahi), who was denied entry to the UK to attend Edinburgh book festival for illogical reasons, very similar to the ones I received regarding my bank statements, but decision has finally been overturned by the UK embassy in Tehran and fortunately he could attend and hold his workshops at the festival. Here, I would like to share his illustration in reaction to his visa refusal with which I strongly identify. It shows an animated Abdollahi in a bottle in reference to his book, A Bottle of Happiness, along with the words painted in colors: “I rubbed out the words ‘No Entry’ and wrote with all my colours: Happiness, Flying, Kindness, Hope, Love.”

f-(2)[1]

Photo source: https://goo.gl/EaLVUw

Feeling disappointed but hopeful, I decided to attend the conference online!


Twitter

I started checking the conference hashtag, #EUROCALL2017, every second, and I could connect to the conference by tweeting, retweeing, and communicating with the twitterers. Periscopes also really helped me keep connecting.

Here is the link to my EUROCALL 2017 Storify, and you can see all the moments of connection, hope, and love: https://storify.com/ParisaMehran/eurocall2017

I also created a list of tech tools based on the EUROCALL abstract book and asked the twitterers to help me complete the list.

Tech Tools from EUROCALL 2017


Virtually Connecting

Following the tweets, I noticed that I could connect virtually through Virtually Connecting (VC). I singed up for the two virtual conversations: the first one at 2 a.m. and the second one at 7 p.m. in Japan. VC connected me to the two of the keynote speakers, Steven Thorne and Shannon Sauro, and I got to know other CALL scholars. One of the virtual buddies I met online was Simon Ensor. You can read his blog post, This Stream Is Not Online at Present, where he asks:

“How many people do not have access to learning, to conferences as a result of visa restrictions, financial barriers, family constraints, statutory constraints etc, etc?   This was exemplified by Parisa Mehran who was accepted to present this year, but was unable to attend due to visa rejections.”

giphy

Here are the screenshots I took during the virtual sessions, and I am happy to announce that I was just invited to join the VC team to set up virtual sessions as a virtual buddy:

 

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Skype

I was able to attend my sessions via Skype with the help of the EUROCALL organizers and my friends who set up everything before my presentations. Here I share some of the schreenshots. You can see excitement in my face!

 

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Here are some screenshots of the sessions Mehrasa helped me attend after our presentations:

 

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The Mobile Guide for EUROCALL 2017

I installed the app of the conference, virtually “checked in”, and stayed in touch with the attendees there as well.

 

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Shannon Sauro’s Keynote Speech 

I know Shannon from EUROCALL 2015, and since then I stayed in touch with her through Facebook and Twitter. She contacted me on Twitter and said that she wanted to mention my story in her keynote and the challenges I had faced in trying to come to the conference. I asked Mehrasa to get online on Skype to be able to listen to Shannon. Then, I saw Shannon’s tweet sharing the livestream link for her keynote “Looking to Fandom in a Time of Change”.

viber image

Shannon started with talking about the Trump travel ban and recounting the story of a researcher, Shahlah Adi, who could not attend the CALICO 2017 conference because of the ban, and then my story. I was in tears and touched by her powerful talk. I filmed my screen and you can watch the video here.

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Photo taken by Mehrasa

Here are the screenshots of the tweets after Shannon shared my story:

 

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Louise Ohashi (Associate Professor, Meiji University, Japan) is a close friend and I know her through JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching). After Shannon’s keynote, she made an appeal (click here to watch the video Mehrasa took while Louise was talking) to the EUROCALL community to support me, and she collected about 350 (GBP) to cover my visa application fees.

In total, I paid around 150,000 yen (1000 GBP). Each round cost 21,000 yen (150 GBP) and for the third round I paid 30,000 yen (215 GBP) extra to use priority service. The cost of translating my documents was also about 40,000 yen (280 GBP).

After Shannon’s talk and when Mehrasa shared some photos, I received these massages on Facebook from CALL scholars:

Steve McCarty (Professor, Kansai University, Osaka Jogakuin, and the Japanese government (JICA), Japan):

“Parisa, that’s the global community of scholars in action, sharing common academic standards and ethics. Maybe at a suitable time I could contribute a paragraph to your blog or wherever on the ironies of demonizing Iran.”

Kalyan Chattopadhyay (Associate Professor, Bankim Sardar College, Calcutta University, India):

“Your story has become epiphanic of pain and anguish of thousands of academics who were treated whimsically. So you have a fandom and I’m proud to be your fan.”

Ali Bostanci (Lecturer, Nevsehir Haci Bektas Veli University, Turkey):

“Dear Parisa, I have attended the EuroCALL conference in Southampton (only for a short time on Friday afternoon) and participated in Shannon Sauro’s Plenary Speech in which she talked about the details of how your visa application has been rejected 3 times. Until recently you were in my friend list at least this is how I remember it. Anyways, I just wanted to let you know that many people were disappointed to learn about what happened to you in this process. I really hope that you this frustration will somehow turn into an opportunity for you.  I really do! One thing for sure is that you are very popular now among CALL researchers 🙂 I wish you best of luck in everything.” (Ali sent me this message privately and I asked for permission to publish it here).


Despite being denied, this was the story of my presence at EUROCALL 2017. Words fail me to thank all those who cared about my story, supported me along the way, and helped me cross the borders and be there.

During this journey, I learned and practiced how to take action by sharing stories as stories have the power to change the world. I am now impatiently waiting to receive my conference pack and a lovely T-shirt, and I am planning to wear it at EUROCALL 2018 online or hopefully on site 🙂

T-shirt

Photo taken by Mehrasa at the Elizabeth House Hotel, Southampton, UK

Keep calm, stay positive, take action, and share your story!