Job 5: The JET Programme
Posted by Heliocentrism on May 22, 2015
August 2010 – August 2013
The JETs: July ~ November 2009
I actually started working on my JET Programme application about 6 months before they started accepting them. I knew it would be a long and hard process. While in Japan working for GEOS, I met some JETs. My second year in Korea I found that one of them worked for SMOE just like I did. She gave me several pointers on applying; the most important one was to start early.
While I waited for the 2009 applications to be put on the JET website, I got many of the documents I knew I needed. I asked many co-workers for references. I ordered several copies of my college transcripts. I started writing my why-do-you-want-to-work-for-the-JET-Programme essay.
Once the application was available, in November 2009, I put everything together. It was as thick as a booklet. Then I took 6 days to read everything over and over again. It had to be perfect. I mailed the application within a week of downloading it, along with all the other documents that were asked for.
I was in Korea when I applied. I had no intention of flying all the way back to Miami for the interview. (For the JET Programme one has to be interviewed in one’s own country.) The plan was for Mark and I to bum around Thailand for some time then do the interview in Guam, the closest US city with a Japanese consulate.
Once you’ve passed stage one of the application process, you get about a week or two of notice before your interview. You are given a time and date to be at the Japanese embassy you chose in your application. Luckily for me, my interview coincided with some Thai or public school holiday. I brought Mark with me and we only had to ask for one day off and no one asked for a reason. My boss and supervisor must have assumed that we were heading to the beach or something.
Most people who apply to the JET Programme get rejected. I didn’t want to burn any bridges unless I had to. If I didn’t get into the JET Programme Mark and I were going to stay in Thailand for at least a year. If I did get in, we would have left right before the new job started. But, you already know how this Thai job ended.
Mark and I were on vacation on Koh Tao when I got an email from the Japanese embassy in Guam. They were sorry to inform me that I had not been given a position with the JET Programme. I was to be reassured, that this was not the end however. I had been placed on the list of alternates. I would be called if someone dropped out for some reason.
I took that as a rejection. It was like being first runner-up at a beauty pageant. Sure if Miss America cannot fulfill her duties, you get the job. But, what are the chances of that?
After quitting our jobs in Thailand, Mark and I went to the states. We visited family and friends. We joined my brother, Malcolm, on a month-long camping-around-the-country trip. We just happened to be at a campground that had wi-fi when I checked my email one day.
I found out just in time that I had been upgraded from an alternate to a JET. Since I was no longer in Thailand I would be processed by the Miami consul instead of the one in Guam. I was in the C group, which was the last group to leave for Japan that summer.
I had to get back to Miami for some paperwork and pre-departure prep by the end of July.
I was to later find out that I was the only person in group C from Miami. So, instead of awkwardly throwing a party and holding meetings just for me, I was invited to join group B. They would leave the day after the dinner at the consul’s home. I would stay in the US until it was time for group C to go.
In Tokyo I met up with other group C people from other cities and countries. We spent 2 nights in Tokyo for orientation. Groups A and B have a week-long orientation, but groups C gets to Japan after the school year begins. Our orientation is the abridged version, which is nice.
The Japanese government put us up in a swanky hotel across the street from the Tokyo Metropolitan Building. I listened to speeches, lectures, and heard lots of advice on life in Japan. We were told about what we needed for our cars (JETs must have optional as well as mandatory car insurance) and our healthcare plan was explained to us (JETs get additional health insurance).
We were in meetings from dawn until dusk and we never left the hotel. Well, once we did go out for a late dinner. I didn’t really want to eat, I just wanted to get out of he building.
By the end of August I was in Japan and working in 2 high schools. A few weeks after that, Mark joined me. He later got a job teaching at a private pre-school.
I worked for the JET Programme for 3 years and I loved it. If I had any kind of problem there was someone there to help me; from my supervisors at my schools, to my JET representative or the head of the Oita Prefecture board of Education.
I could also count on AJET to keep me entertained on many weekends. They planned lots of sports days, camping trips, or dinners at restaurants around town.
My job a the JET Programme is one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
My advice on working in the JET Programme:
- Don’t buy any of the books they sell at orientation. Most likely some teacher before you bought an earlier version of that book and it is already sitting at your desk. If not, you probably won’t need it.
- Look online for lesson plans. There are tons of websites out there that are absolutely free. Don’t pay for anything.
- Ask if there are any teachers’ apartments in your town and if you can get an apartment there. The apartments might be older, but the rent is ridiculously cheap. I lived in one for 3 years and paid about $120 a month in rent.
- Socialize as much as possible. Make friends with other JETs, your Japanese co-workers, your neighbors, anyone. Sign up for cooking classes, piano lessons, knitting circles, anything. When homesickness hits, you will need a support group to run to.
- Before you buy anything pricey, browse at the recycle centers. That is where you can find used goods for a fraction of the cost.
- Daiso has good stuff.
- Look for local produce shops where fruits and vegetables are cheaper than in grocery stores. These places tend to not be open everyday.
- If you are going to buy a car, buy a used kei car from a mechanic shop near your home.
- Small mechanic shops have the best deal on used cars.
- If and when your car breaks down, you want to be within walking distance of help.
- Keep a suit jacket and/ or make-up in your car. No one will every tell you when it’s photo day until it’s too late.
- Always have an extra generic topic lesson and several vocabulary games ready to go at a moments notice.
The next post should be about the job I currently have, but since I still work there, I will not write about it. I will post Job 6 entry as soon as I leave this job.
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.
Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)