By Annie Rhoades
Living halfway around the world from your hometown might sound intimidating to some, but for alumnus Atkins Trout (BA 02, MA 09) it’s an exciting adventure.
Trout began working with the Japanese Exchange Teaching (JET) Programme in 2008 teaching English to Japanese students and was quickly relocated to Kudoyama, located in Ito District, Wakayama, Japan.
“This was my first time to ever come to Asia, so I really did take a blind leap to move here before I had even visited,” said Trout. “However, I never felt more right about a decision for my future as I did when I made the decision to come to Japan. I’ve been treated with such kindness and respect the entire time I’ve been here that it made it that much easier for me to transition from living in America to living in Asia.”
Born in Memphis, Tenn. and raised in New Albany, Trout graduated from New Albany High School in 1998 and promptly headed to Ole Miss. He pursued his undergraduate degree in liberal arts in English with a minor in Spanish from 1998-2002.
During his time at Ole Miss, Trout was a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity, Phi Kappa Phi, Chancellor’s Leadership and elected senior class favorite.
After a brief stint in law school Trout realized he needed to pursue a different route if he wanted to further his education.
“After graduating from undergrad I just kind of panicked,” said Trout. “I knew I wasn’t finished with my education at that point.”
Trout took a break from school for a year and briefly worked for Emily’s Bakery and Catering Company. He began pursuing a master’s degree in English in 2004 while working as a teaching assistant for the English department.
It was during this time that Trout discovered his passion for teaching and first learned about the JET Programme from one of his students.
“She and I were talking about mutual interests in Japanese literature, cinema and so on and she mentioned that a friend of hers was coming over to Japan to teach on this program,” said Trout. “That really sparked my interest.”
Unable to speak the language upon arrival, Trout quickly began courses and now considers his Japanese speaking skills to be “highly functional.”
“I wouldn’t call it fluent but I can definitely shoot the breeze and go anywhere and get almost anything that I need,” said Trout. “When I first came to Japan I never imagined that I would be able to do that. I can even sing karaoke in Japanese now which even blows my mind and is completely mind boggling to my friends back home.”
Trout currently teaches the American equivalent of kindergarten through junior high school at schools in three different villages. He also teaches adult conversation circle classes.
Trout knows he would not have reached this point in his career without the help of several influential people along the way.
“My mother and father are still the guiding forces in my life. I ask for their advice and still trust their judgment above anyone else’s,” said Trout. “My mother’s mother is the only living grandparent that I have, and she is a bottomless wealth of information and knowledge about life in general.”
Trout also credits others including Ole Miss English professors Karen Raber and Benjamin Fisher with helping shape his future both personally and professionally and considers himself lucky to have received their guidance.
Trout’s memories of Ole Miss evoke feelings common among many alumni.
“It’s hard to put into words that feeling that you get when it’s autumn there on campus walking around,” said Trout. “I’ll never forget how full of natural beauty the Oxford campus is. I think we take that for granted a lot at Ole Miss.”
Trout laughs at the thought of possibly losing the “Southern” in him, having resided in a foreign country for the past five years.
“No way, that’ll never leave,” said Trout. “I love it. I’m always going to slip back into my accent and probably say y’all, and I’m not going to apologize for it.”
Trout takes a lot of pride in the fact that he came from the South and how it shaped him into the person he is today.
“I have no reason not to be proud of Ole Miss,” said Trout. “It’s one of the major reasons that I’m doing what I love right now and enjoying it so much, because I had the opportunity to go to a place like Ole Miss. I’m lucky.”
While Trout misses his home state often, he hopes to stay in Japan as long as permissible.
“If someone had told me six years ago I would be teaching kindergartners in Japan to speak English, I would’ve laughed in their face. I would never have believed that,” said Trout.
The JET Programme contracts its participants on a yearly basis, allowing for up to five years as long as the board of education that employs the teacher wants him or her to stay.
“Most of my colleagues I’ve met in this program from other countries stay for either one year or three years,” said Trout. “I’m currently the only person in my home country who has been here for almost five years. It’s flown by and really has changed my life in such a positive way. It’s hard to put into words what an amazing experience this has been so far and it’s not over yet. I’m still enjoying it.”