Harro!

So my life has taken a sudden uptick and I haven’t been able to devote as much time writing as I’d like to.

Just letting you all know I’m still alive and well – just busier than normal.

I’m hoping to be able to post more, but in the meantime I hope everyone is well! ❤

Remember, if you’re looking to apply to the JET Program and have any questions, feel free to ask me. I’ll try to do my best to answer them.

Likewise, anyone doing NaNoWriMo this year? Let’s hear about it!

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Tackling the JET Program (Part 7): Placements!

 

Hey new JETs, it’s that time of year again! After what feels like months of agonizing silence, you’ve finally gotten your placement!

I love this time because the internet explodes with curiosity, excitement and uncertainty. New friendships are formed as leaving JETs get in contact with their successors and vice-versa. The staying JET community is flooded with excited gossip about who’s coming next, where they’re from and what they look like (Yes, I’m serious. I dare anyone to argue with me about this).

This is a super exciting time as it means that you’re one step closer to moving to Japan! Having an assigned prefecture/city/town/island makes it all the more real. Ahhh!

Here are some tips that I found helped me when I first got my placement in the wonderful Kumamoto prefecture.

 

 

  •  Reserve your judgmenet about how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ your placement is

When I googled Yatsushiro City, the only thing that came up was the depressingly barren Wikipedia page. I actually don’t think it’s changed at all since I last checked it three years ago. I learned about a giant pommelo fruit (banpeiyu) that is grown there, a festival in November…and the main shopping area that is ‘in decline’.

To be honest, I was a bit bummed. Where was this strange place that I was going to? All my other friends who had been accepted to JET were rejoicing in their placements that were only a couple of hours from Tokyo or Osaka. I felt as if I had kind of been exiled to Kyushu – far away from my friends and the big cities that I associated with being ‘REAL JAPAN’.

When I actually arrived in my city, however, I found it to be so much more than I ever expected. There were two giant malls, a gorgeous mountain range to the east and a port to the west. There were ample hiking opportunities, I was super close to a train station and they were actually building a shinkansen (bullet train) stop that was to be completed within the next year.

My point is: don’t put full faith in whatever you happen to scrape together about your placement on the internet. There’s really no way to know how much you’re going to like or hate it until you are actually there. Don’t be discouraged! It’s far too early!! 

 

  • Don’t compare yourself to other JETs and their placements.

I touched on this briefly in the last bullet point, but it’s important. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Especially those who think they know all about their placement. I had people at Tokyo Orientation practically bragging to me about being placed in X Y Z prefecture and how they were going to be so close to A B C and how they were going to do D E F every weekend.

Coming to Japan is exciting, it really is. I think that some people get so caught up in the excitement of it, though, that they start to fantasize they’re already living the life they’re dreaming about. It might sound great to be located only three hours from Tokyo. The reality, though, might be having to drive/take a bus 50 minutes through the mountains to get to the nearest train station in order to hop one of two daily trains that head that direction. Not quite as glamorous as it sounds.

If you compare yourself to other new JETs who are bragging about their placements before even getting there, you might start to feel unnecessarily bad about your own awesome placement. Pay them no mind. Just nod politely, maybe give them the ‘wow, cool!’ that they so desire…and then forget about it.

 

  • Start connecting with people ASAP!

I am a very social person. As such, I immediately began to scour Facebook and other social media when I received my placement. I discovered the AJET page for Kumamoto, joined it and announced myself. I was met with an incredibly warm welcome and instantly found myself put in contact with other JETs in my city or nearby. I then got to ask them all of my noob questions and, in the process, became even more excited about going.

I found in my time in Japan that, as a whole, the JET community is amazingly supportive and welcoming. Take advantage of this social network. In my experience, JETs in your prefecture are just as excited to meet you as you are them. Trust me 🙂

 

  • Reevaluate your expectations.

Surely, if you’re moving to Japan, you’re prepared for things to be different. But knowing your placement can solidify things you had been wondering about. Maybe you’re going to have to get a car and you didn’t think you would need one. Maybe you’re going to be a high school ALT and you really really wanted junior high/elementary. Maybe you’re going to be the only person in a village of 3,000.

I think that, applying to JET, many of us have expectations about what it could be like. When you get your placement, however, these expectations could shift slightly or be totally obliterated. If you were planning on being super close to Hiroshima because you studied there once…only to be found out that you were placed in Northern Hokkaido, you might have to reevaluate your expectations.

Like I said before, don’t get discouraged because things turned out different than you had expected/wanted. It’s important to keep an open mind and roll with the punches. Not only is it required almost every day as a JET, it’s quite possible that you will grow to love your placement more than you ever thought you could.

 

And that’s about all the advice I can think of at the moment! As I said, this is an exciting time and it’s a step closer to the reality of moving to Japan! Enjoy the time you have left while you prepare for your adventure!

If you’re a JET, where are you headed? If there’s anything else that I could maybe help with, feel free to leave a comment! And, if you’re headed to Kumamoto, congratulations!! 😀 

TACKLING THE JET PROGRAM (Part 6): Hurry Up and Wait

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Hey JET hopefuls!

I have been busy this week helping out with interviews! I am, of course, not allowed to divulge much, but I WILL say that I had a great time and it was surprisingly tiring.

It was very interesting seeing the range of applicants who came through the consulate. It was great to see that JET appeals to such a wide, diverse range of people. I think that speaks to the success of this cross-cultural program and it’s no wonder it’s been around for 27 years.

I saw loud people and quiet people. Confident people and nervous people. Really cool people who I would want to party with and a few that I would rather avoid. I saw applicants who I thought would be great on the program; and those who I thought would…not be so great on the progam.

But for those of you who’ve interviewed, it’s done! You can breathe easier and relax a bit!

 From here on out, it’s just as the title says: Hurry Up and Wait. Results will be out in April sometime. My advice is to put it out of your mind and focus on enjoying life. But, of course, it’s easier said than done.  

Have you already had yours? If so, how did it go? Nervous? Confident? Unsure? I’d love to hear from JET applicants who have already had their interviews. How was your panel? Did they grill you on stuff? Were they nice? Did you cry? Hopefully not! 

Thanks again to all of you who have read my ramblings about the JET Program. I hope I’ve been able to assist some of you. When placement results come out, I’ll most likely do another post about what to expect!

お疲れさま!

TACKLING THE JET PROGRAM APPLICATION (Part 4 1/2): So you didn’t get an interview…

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Hello again, JET hopefuls! By now, you’re probably aware that interview results have been released for the US! Did you check them?!

If you’re among the lucky ones whose seven-digit application number appeared in that eight-page document, CONGRATULATIONS! You’re one step closer to becoming a JET. You’ll soon be on your way to the consulate to plead your case as to why you should go to Japan and teach English! Hang tight because I plan to have a post about the JET interview soon.

But what about if your number wasn’t on the list?

First let me start by saying, I’m truly sorry. A lot of applicants who apply to JET are super excited about the possibility of doing it. It’s an exciting thing. But when it doesn’t work out, it can be pretty crushing.

If you were one of the ones who didn’t make it this year, this post is for you.

Know that I understand exactly how you feel.

During my second semester at uni, I saw a pamphlet for the JET Program. I instantly fell in love with the idea and decided that I would work toward the goal of going to Japan to teach English after I graduated. As my senior year came to a close, I meticulously (even neurotically) crafted my application. I made sure that my p’s, q’s, i’s and t’s were dotted, crossed and whatever the hell else they needed to be.

I asked two people to write my letters of reference. I wrote, re-wrote and re-re-wrote my Statement of Purpose. I pored over forums and blogs written by current and former JETs. I was pretty intense about it.

So imagine my shock the following month when I stared at the interview result screen in front of me and didn’t see my number.

I have no shame in saying that it hit me really hard. It was a slap in the face that knocked those gleaming stars out of my eyes. That night, I definitely cried. I remember having to tell my family that no, I hadn’t gotten an interview. My friends, too. Hell, all the people who had heard me chattering nonstop about this awesome thing I was planning to do. I had to explain to them that nope, I didn’t get an interview. It was awkward for them and embarrassing for me.

As I picked myself up, my mind was filled with so many questions: What had I done wrong? What could I have done better? Were they even looking for someone like me? The most frustrating thing was that there were no answers – at least, no concrete ones.

I wandered for a few days, the rejection setting in like a haze over my head. I had foolishly placed all my eggs in the JET basket…and look where it had gotten me.

But then I realized something.

It sucks to get rejected by a PDF document. It sucks even worse to not really know why. But I was letting the fact that I didn’t get an interview sour my mood and ruin my days. I realized that the only thing that could be shittier than being rejected by a PDF document is letting it affect me so much. I decided that I was done wallowing in self pity and angst.

The best thing to do is pick yourself up, put a smile on your face and keep on going. JET may seem like the perfect thing for you after college or wherever you currently are in your life. But just because it didn’t work out this time doesn’t mean you should beat yourself up about it too much.

I found that, in my year following the JET rejection, I had a great time. I was able to enjoy working at my job for another year, I got to hang out with friends, made a bunch of new ones,  acted in a local theater, and volunteered to be a reading tutor at a local elementary school. Most importantly, I got to snuggle with my cat for another year.

The following year I applied to JET, made it in and had an amazing experience! To be honest, I doubt I would have had such a great time if I had made it in the first time I applied.

So please don’t look at this as the end of the road. Take time for yourself and reflect on your good qualities – just because JET didn’t say yes doesn’t mean that you’re not still awesome at X, Y and Z.

Assess where you might have gone wrong in the application, but don’t obsess over it. There’s really no way of knowing with certainty where you went wrong. Try to  think of what you can do to better it for next year (if you decide to apply again). I also strongly recommend getting involved in your community by volunteering etc.

And if you don’t think you’ll be able to wait another year, there are always other ways to get to Japan. Interac, Peppy Kids Club and other private companies hire throughout the year.

I wanted to write this because I haven’t really come across any blogs or articles that deal with this subject explicitly.

I hope this post helped a bit. I wanted to tell my story and let those who may be hurting know that I’ve been there and I know how it feels. I’ve experienced staring at the screen after having Ctrl F-d and finding that my number wasn’t there. It felt like a Ctrl Slap right to my face.

It can be hard, but just keep moving forward. It’s definitely not the end.

Until next time!

Tackling the JET Program Application (Part 2)

Back for a second round of JET Application tips! Let’s get to it, shall we?

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13. Driving in Japan: This is a question of personal preference, I think. Do you want to drive in Japan or not? Some people think that answering ‘NO’ on this question when they have a driver’s license makes them seem ‘less flexible’, but I disagree.

I did not drive while I was in Japan. I had a blue, 5-speed bicycle named Shirley that my happy ass zipped around on for three years. Biking everywhere was great exercise, convenient (for centrally-located me) and something I had never done before.

However, there were times where I definitely wished that I had a car.  The swelteringly hot summer days, the days of torrential rain that would fall in sheets, the frigid winter mornings where the biting wind would slice through my 7 layers of clothing and those incredibly windy days where I felt as if I were swimming through a lake of molasses.

There were times when I needed to get things home that my little front basket just couldn’t handle. It wasn’t uncommon to see me tottering carefully back and forth down the street – multiple plastic bags dangling from both my handlebars.

Laundry with a bike was also fun – shoving my collapsible hamper into my front basket and hurriedly riding through my town, hoping that neither the nosy obaachans nor my students would catch sight of my damp, brightly colored undergarments.

Looking back, I’m glad that I didn’t drive in Japan. Biking everywhere had its fair share of difficulties, but for me it was worth it.

Sorry for the bit of TL;DR. I’ll stop before I ramble on forever. In short…

Driving in Japan

PROS – Freedommmmm, protection from the elements, Able to travel further distances, Can be convenient and even necessary if you have far schools.

CONS – Expensive (Buying a car, insurance, the ‘optional’ (read: mandatory) insurance, upkeep, gasoline, shakken etc.), People hitting you up for rides/favors *cough totally something I DIDN’T do… *cough* 

So consider your options when answering this question. Depending on your placement, if accepted, you may HAVE to get a car.

And speaking of placements…

14. Placement Request

This is a big question: Where do you want to live in Japan?

There’s some debate over how you should answer this: some say don’t put anything down and show that you’re flexible and willing to go wherever while others say that by requesting areas in Japan, you present yourself as a more researched (and therefore serious) applicant.

Personally, I think that either are acceptable but I lean more toward the latter argument. Researching areas in Japan can only benefit you and you might even discover something cool that you didn’t know before!

However, if you just request ‘Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe’ or another combination of highly populated areas, you might cause some eyes to roll. Spoiler alert: very few to no JETs are placed in large metropolises like the ones listed above. You’re safer off requesting something else.

You’re able to choose whether you want an urban, suburban or rural placement. Once again, consider which kind of placement you’d do best in. I chose semi-urban and was placed in a sprawling city of 135,000.

Keep in mind, though, that placement requests are all fine and dandy but if you’re accepted, the JET Program can and will send you anywhere. I was lucky enough to get my second placement request of Kumamoto. I was asked about my placement choices in my interview and apparently gave a satisfactory answer.

Next up is the Further Explanation section. This is pretty much self-explanatory so I won’t be giving too many tips here. I recommend you just be open and honest about everything (especially question 16 pertaning to your criminal record!).

For 18. Placement Request Near a Specific Person, if you’re requesting to be by anyone, make sure you have a damn good reason. Married couples and fiancées have a good reason for wanting to be placed near to one another. You and your bff from middle school…probably don’t. At least not to the folks at JET.

Also, when expanding upon your placement request on 19. Placement Request for Specific Location, be sure to write something thoughtful. ‘I requested Chiba because I heard Tokyo Disneyland is in it and it’s real close to Tokyo, which would be cool for me to go to on the weekends.’ is a terrible response.

A better one would perhaps be, ‘I requested Miyazaki prefecture because of the popularity of surfing. I am an avid surfer in my home country and hope to connect with the local community over something that we both enjoy in our respective cultures. Additionally, the proximity to other prefectures in Kyushu would allow me to experience other aspects of Japan.’ Perhaps that’s a bit over-the-top, but you get the point, yes?

Okay! That’s all for this post! I hope I’m helping people out there 🙂 As always, if you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below!

またね!