At the latter end of 2017, I applied for the pretty ambitious position of an Assistant Language Teacher on the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme, or JET for short. After hearing about it in my 1st year of uni, it had always been in the back of my mind as an option for when I graduated.
What is it?
The position involves moving to Japan for a year and assisting in the teaching of English at one, or a few, Japanese schools. You get to live and work in Japan and, the part that convinced me to apply, immerse yourself in a whole other language and culture!
Why did I apply?
I think the position itself is reason enough, but there are a few more perks that helped me when deciding to apply. For example, the JET programme is run by the Japanese government and so you know that the placement is safe and well-organised, meaning that the logistics of moving (in my case) to the other side of the world is a lot simpler. Another great perk of the programme is that you don’t need to be fluent in Japanese to take part, you don’t even need to know the language at all, so it’s a great opportunity to learn a new language while you’re over there.
The actual process
The process for me was insanely stressful. There’s a strict deadline that needs to be met to even be considered. Unsure about whether or not to go ahead, I had a meeting with my University career advisor, which, if you have the opportunity to do, I would definitely recommend. This meeting helped me weigh up the pros and cons. After a lot of deliberation, I decided to apply, however this meant that I was quite close to the deadline when I made up my mind.
I filled in the online application that was pretty lengthy and submitted a few days before the deadline! However, my moment of smug pride didn’t last too long as I soon received an email listing the documents that were needed to be sent to the EMBASSY OF JAPAN… in LONDON… a FEW DAYS later! Now, I would love to say I kept my cool, casually and efficiently collected the documents, slid them confidently into a large envelope and sipped a green tea and honey whilst my application sauntered across the nation via special delivery. I would love to say that, but that would be a ridiculous lie and completely out of character.
Instead, I stared anxiously at the enormous list of required documents and proceeded to repeat this list to myself and whoever else would listen, at least 14 more times. These documents included degree certificates, proof of graduation, a personal statement and passport photocopies, as well as two written academic references. This last requirement was the most worrying for me; so the lecture after receiving the email I frantically asked my tutor if she’d be able to throw together a reference for me… say by… maybe…two/ three days later?
Despite the short notice, both the tutors I asked amazingly and thankfully managed to write something and the application was coming together. One hiccup arrived when I misread one of the requirements and almost, but not quite, paid a hefty amount of money for a doctor’s report that wasn’t needed (thanks mum).
So, the day before the deadline I had my printed checklist, my thousands of photocopied documents and insanely high blood pressure. I triple checked the documents before sealing my envelope and rushing to the post office to send them off before the next post, met a very lovely post-office lady who made the joke that a student being hit by a car would instantly jump back up again, mumbling that they didn’t have the time. Relating to this at an insane level I laughed and simultaneously, and ironically, questioned if this joke was going to make me miss my seminar. Being too British to rush off, I continued in idle small talk, thanked her for her help and whilst running to my seminar, texted all those involved in the process, informing them that this travesty was over and that all that was left to do was wait…
After I applied, it was a few weeks before hearing if I’d gotten to the next stage of the application process, an insanely daunting but exciting interview at the Embassy of Japan in London.
Advice for the application
-Do your research: Discuss JET with a career advisor/ someone with relevant experience, read blogs and visit the JET website so you can make an informed decision
-Even if you have a small interest in the JET programme, apply!
-Print out your document checklist (a paper copy is just better to have)
-Have your references in mind
-Give yourself enough time to apply!