Skip navigation
Memorial Day Closure

TCC will be closed Monday, May 27, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday.

Elijah Kelly – From Studying on the East Coast to Teaching in East Asia

Elijah Kelly leaning against a railing before a backdrop of trees and brush

Portsmouth native Elijah Kelly always knew he wanted to work in Japan someday, and he began studying the Japanese language on his own during his freshman year at Tidewater Community College. 

One day on campus, Elijah met a TCC student government representative who told him she was a former participant of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. Founded in 1987, JET has sent more than 77,000 participants from around the globe (including more than 35,800 Americans) to work in schools, boards of education, and government offices throughout Japan. This chance encounter not only formed a friendship and introduced Elijah to his new Japanese tutor, but it also gave him a clearer career trajectory.  

“The professors and instructors at TCC take an interest in their students and care about their success,” says Elijah, explaining how his time at TCC taught him a good work ethic and study strategies. He was also part of TCC’s Champions for Change, a men’s youth group centered around uplifting young men to complete their education. 

“My teachers were heavily invested in making sure students were not only learning the material but trying to apply that material to real life. I find myself continuing to use the skills I’ve learned from those classes today,” says Elijah.  

After graduating from TCC with his associate in social sciences in 2019, Elijah attended Old Dominion University, majoring in Asian Studies. Shortly after earning his bachelor’s in 2021, he joined JET and now has been teaching English for two years to elementary and middle school students at five different schools in the Kumamoto area.

Amid the adjustment and cultural differences that come with living overseas, Elijah says it’s been a once-in-a-lifetime experience that may never have come to fruition if not for his time at TCC.  

“Not many people get the chance to go overseas and live here for an extended period on their own. It’s a very different challenge to tackle, and it’s been very eye-opening,” reflects Elijah. “I learned you just have to have confidence in yourself. If you want to do something, try to make it happen, because it’s possible. Your only limit is yourself.”