What is the JET Programme? Why did I apply to it?
Both of these questions were asked during my interview and I think that these two questions are incredibly important to think about before someone decides to apply.
What is the JET Programme?
Well, the official title is the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. But it really is so much more than that. Yes, the position/role that you will most likely get is as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), but you are also teaching culture and different ways of thinking. The role of an ALT, if utilized properly, cannot be substituted with a textbook. Many Japanese students never leave Japan and never get a chance to interact with foreigners. In a world that is becoming more and more accessible, it is important to be able to interact effectively with different cultures. Remember back in the good ol’ days (sarcasm, for all you Sheldon’s out there) when great adventurers decimated thousands of people because of cultural differences? That doesn’t fly so well anymore. And now as modern and civilized people, we have to learn new ways of how to deal with cultural differences.
Anyways, back to JET. What does JET actually do? Basically the JET Programme acts as a hiring/placement agency. They are the ones who sift through the thousands of applications, weed out a few more to interview and then decide on the lucky few who get Short-listed (or accepted). The application process is long and grueling, but nothing feels better than reading you’ve been accepted. After you’ve been accepted, JET places you with a Board of Education, or Prefecture or some other division in Japan who will actually be your employers. As soon as your feet hit Japanese soil, you are no longer their responsibility.
So basically the JET Programme’s role is to get you from your country to Japan disguised as an English teacher, in order to encourage multicultural relations so that internationalization doesn’t seem so scary.
Why did I apply to JET?
Easy answer? I love Japan. Would that have gotten me into JET? Probably not. It’s important to show your passion or interest in the country. But if you come off sounding like an otaku (google it. I dare you) your form will immediately be tossed in the discard pile. My personal answer had to do with wanting to be completely immersed in Japanese culture while also sharing my (Canadian) culture. Now this is completely true. I took what I loved about Japan and what I hoped to gain from living in Japan and made it an answer that got me accepted. I also do enjoy talking about Canada. You try getting a 76 year old Japanese grandma to say “Saskatchewan”. It’s hilarious and amazing at the same time.
Now, I’ve worked towards getting into the JET Programme since the beginning of my second year of university. I had just come back from my first trip to Japan and I knew I’d found home. When I was there, this overwhelming feeling of comfort came over me and I knew I had to go back for an extended period of time. That fall semester there was a JET Programme orientation. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend, but it put a bug in my ear and I began researching. I knew I wanted to go to Japan. I knew I wanted to go with the JET Programme. They offered the kind of support that felt comforting to a young 20 year old about to leave everything behind in order to move halfway around the world.
JET also is more than just teaching English. Again, cultural exchange is also a huge part of it and Japanese culture is a huge interest of mine. I want to learn about not just the mainstream, advertised parts of Japan but also the localize, intricate rituals and beliefs that can only be taught by the locals.