JET Programme

Update time! I’m in Japan… with a broken ankle

Well the last month has been an incredible blast of business, excitement, and unexpected bumps. Hence the lack of anything for the last little while.

The biggest bump? I lost a fight with a 3 pound dog, 3 stairs, and a blanket and broke my ankle in two places. I had surgery on July 4th and have more metal than bone in my ankle right now. That adventure is a story all on it’s own.

But I had my farewell party completely drugged up, missed my sister’s bachelorette party due to nausea from said drugs, and was a bridesmaid in a wedding for my best friend. Just the month before I left again will be another story.

BUT

I made it to Japan. Yes I have a cast. I’m currently in Tokyo at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku. We arrived on July 30th (Sunday) at Narita airport and had to drive to our hotel (another 2 hours). By the time we arrived everyone was exhausted and ready to crash. I was even more cranky because of how far I had to walk on crutches. As soon as I got to my hotel room at around 8 or so and crashed hard. Of course, as expected, I woke up around 3 am (my usual Japan jet lag wake up time). Our first day of orientation involved lots of talking, yawning, and uncomfortable pulling down of suit skirts (crutches suck). Yesterday we finished our second day of orientation and today we will be heading to our respective prefectures and cities to begin our lives in Japan.

I promise to update more once things settle down a little bit ūüėõ

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JET Programme

JET Programme- The Final Countdown

Sometimes life gets so hectic and I think I’ve never been so exhausted until the next big¬†thing happens.¬† And that next big thing is now. This morning I was so exhausted dragging myself out of bed that I was nauseous and ready to cry thinking about going to work.

And I actually like my job.

To put this in perspective, I am taking an intensive French course (5 days a week, 3 hours a day) for the last 6 weeks while working 30+ hours a week while also having an online course to do as well. On top of that I’m in the process of moving my boyfriend to¬†Vancouver and trying to pack for moving to Japan at the same time. I haven’t had a full day off in the last 4/5 weeks.

But as of yesterday, we sent all of his belongings and furniture with the moving company and all that is left is to clean the apartment- which would be a lot easier if it had actually been cleaned between the last tenant and him. So after work today, hopefully we will have the entire apartment scrubbed clean and then tomorrow after work we can just relax.

I only have 6 days left with him, and that includes the 3 days it will take us to get him to Vancouver, the two days I’m at orientation, and the day I fly home. Everything is so bittersweet and I’m literally at 2 opposite ends of the spectrum of emotions. It’s so draining. On one hand I am super excited for both of us finally getting what we’ve worked so hard for. On the other, I’m also very sad because we will no longer be together as we’ve decided not to do a long distance relationship¬†since I have no plans on coming back to Canada and he has no desire to move to Japan.

Then I have 2ish weeks in my city before I take another road trip this time with my mom, back to BC and having to say goodbye to her before leaving for Japan (thank you sister for getting married in Feb. and giving me a great reason to come back for a visit).

It’s crunch time and I still haven’t heard from my Board of Education (who actually is hiring me) or my predecessor. I have so much to do and only 4 weeks left in my city and¬†less than 6 weeks left in the country.

And with everything happening, it still doesn’t feel real that I’m finally moving to Japan. I don’t suppose it will until I am on the plane to Japan.

 

JET Programme

JET Programme — Part 5 — Placement!

Well it finally happened. I’m no longer waiting in JET limbo. Last night I received my placement in Japan and found out what city I would be living in.

Drum roll, ladies and gents.

As of July 29th 2017 I will be employed by the Board of Education for Takasaki-shi (city), Gunma-ken (prefecture).  I had never heard of Takasaki before so I had to do a quick google search to figure out where the heck I was going.

Takasaki_8

My heart almost dropped as at first, when the map was zoomed¬†the little place marker looked like it was in Tokyo, literally the one place I asked not to be placed. After I zoomed in though I realized I was outside of Tokyo. Only an hour an about 20 minutes to the center of Tokyo. After I got over the initial “Jesus Christ they put me in the one place I asked not to be” I began to dig deeper (well as deep as googling Takasaki can get you) into the city. The city is known for being the origin of the Daruma doll, cabbage, and something called konnyaku which is some type of root vegetable.

 

It is basically the flattest part of Japan and is dead center in the middle of the entire country. There is even¬†a city in Gunma that has a belly button festival where people paint their stomachs and dance around, so I mean that’s pretty cool. It’s no penis festival though.

On my application I had requested Hyogo prefecture or Kansai, but I’d left the third preference blank. I’d kind of hoped that I’d get close to those places since most of my Japanese friends live there. I was shocked and slightly nervous about not being placed somewhere familiar. Since I’d never heard of Takasaki I automatically assumed I’d been placed in a super tiny city with no trains or buses. I was wrong though! Not only is there trains and buses, but there are two bullet train routes that pass through!

The city merges with the capital city of Gunma, Maebashi. From central Takasaki, it takes 20 minutes to the nearest Costco (thank all the kami), and there is so much to do in the city. And when I get bored, I can just hop on the train and visit Tokyo. It really is the perfect situation — a not too overwhelmingly large city and near an overwhelmingly large city.

I’m very excited to start my new life in Japan! Hopefully in the next little while my predecessor will contact me and I will start to fit the final pieces together.

Only 10 weeks and 1 day!

 

JET Programme

Lost in Japan — Part 4 — Study Abroad in Kobe

I absolutely love Kobe. Maybe it is because Kobe was my first introduction to life in Japan, maybe it is because of my spectacular study abroad program, or maybe it’s because most of my Japanese friends live there.

Kobe is known more for being a business city, since it is home to a fairly major port and was one of the first cities to start trading with Western countries after the reopening of Japan’s borders.¬† It offers tourist attractions without being overcrowded by tourists like Tokyo, Kyoto,¬†and Osaka.

I lived briefly in Kobe for 3 weeks, in an international students dorm. It was summer so there weren’t a lot of people living in the dorm. I think I met 3 other people there and one was our Dorm Resident Assistant.¬†I wasn’t a fan of our dorms, but it worked for the 3 weeks we were there. My biggest issue was the lack of internet. If you wanted internet, you had to sign a 3 month contract and it was insanely expensive. At the time, portable wifi boxes weren’t very popular so I couldn’t even rent one for my trip. Although to be fair, I probably didn’t even know they were a thing at that point.

My school,¬†Kobe City University of Foreign Studies,¬†was a public school lacking extra funds,¬†and so¬†they also lacked wifi (Update, they have wifi now). Our teacher, Shibata-sensei, was so friendly and the school did what they could to make us feel comfortable. I had to write an exam for a class back in Canada and they provided someone to sit with me while I wrote it. The school was clean and way nicer than my university in Canada. Buying lunch at school was actually affordable (120 yen ($1.20) curry rice!) compared to the $7 dollar bare bone salad my university offers.¬† There was an outdoor pool, tennis courts, archery field, and so much more and we had access to it all. We were also partnered with Japanese student mentors, who would take us shopping and just hang out with us in our free time. There were only 2 other study abroad students — another girl from the same university as me and a 30+ year old guy from Switzerland. All of our mentors were female, and showed more interest in the other girl and I (the Switzerland guy made them a little uncomfortable). My mentor was super sweet, but was also in the middle of her finals so she was quite busy. It was okay though, as everyone just hung out together and she joined in when she could. Her English was pretty good, and she really forced me to speak in Japanese and helped bring my confidence in speaking Japanese up.

The school set up a lot of interesting cultural things to do, such as kendo lessons from the schools club, a cruise¬†on a boat¬†around Kobe’s harbor, and a trip to Kyoto for some more temple and shrine hopping. We also were able to participate in a weekend homestay, which I will save for another blog.

The classes were really nice, and focused on our abilities (considering there were only 3 students, it wasn’t hard to do). I got really good at conjugating verbs that summer (bring it te form).

Unfortunately the summer program did not award any credits at my home university, but for those who cannot afford a full semester abroad, I’d still¬†recommend even going for a summer program. I learned a lot, did a lot, and met some incredible people who, 4 years later, I’m still in contact with.

 

 

Japan · JET Programme

JET Limbo — All the Feels

I’ve officially entered JET Limbo- that time where you can’t really plan or prepare too much because you still don’t know where you are exactly going, all your forms have been submitted, and you just feel stuck.

I guess I’m kind of lucky though, as I have 6 weeks of classes left to help me kill some time and keep me distracted. But I only have 10 weeks before I leave. God, that feels weird to say.

Day to day, I’ve kind of become numb to my feelings about moving half way around the world. I think that it’s because every time I do think about moving, I’m overwhelmed by too many emotions and all I want to do is cry.¬† I’m just kind of maneuvering on autopilot.

Now don’t get me wrong — I’m so freaking excited to be moving. I’ve spent so long dreaming about living in Japan and imagining what my schools might be like, that sometimes everything feels like a dream.

But I’m also terrified. You don’t appreciate how simple life is until you’re facing a whole new way of life. I’ve done extensive research as to the differences between Canada and Japan’s different systems– medical, insurance, government, etc. Heck, adults have a hard enough time dealing with these things in their home countries where they speak the language. I’m terrified to leave the simple behind. I’m also kind of excited, because it will really challenge my Japanese skills, but that won’t come until I’ve settled a bit.

There isn’t much that I’m upset about leaving (apart from family and friends). My city isn’t anything spectacular, I’m not leaving a job I’d consider for my career, and my relationship with my boyfriend would be over the end of June/July anyways (he’s moving to Vancouver, I’m moving to Japan).

I think the most difficult thing about moving abroad, is having to leave your friends and family. I’m super close with my mom and sisters, and I know I’ll be able to Skype them (heck, I’ll probably even talk to them more when I’m in Japan than I do now), but Skype can’t replace a hug from your mom when you’re having a really bad day.

I always feel bad when I bring up Japan around those I’m closest too. My mom always tears up when I talk about Japan, even though she is also the one who encouraged me to follow my dreams and is just as excited as I am.¬† My friends are the same way, they tell me how excited they are but I can still tell they are sad.

I think JET Limbo really forces you to think about what you are giving up, because you still don’t really know what you’ll be getting at the other end. All I want is to be able to pack and plan and prepare myself for my new life in Japan. I want a tangible location to tie myself to, while I slowly give up my old life in Canada.

JET Programme

JET Programme — Part 4 — Results

I thought I cried a lot when I received my email about getting an interview.

Well nothing would have prepared me for what happened when I read the line, “We are pleased to inform you that you have been Short-listed.” I couldn’t even finish the whole email before I started hyperventilating (I kid you not) and crying while trying to find my phone to call my mom. I couldn’t talk and she started panicking until I barely mustered out, “I’m in. I got in.” Of course she knew what I was talking about and even she started crying.¬† After I hung up with her I started calling my sisters, friends, boyfriend, everyone. My mom wanted to prevent any more heart attacks and texted everyone (including me) “if Meggie calls you, it’s good news”. So I purposely started each conversation with something like, “I have bad news… I won’t be here for your birthday.”

I don’t think I would have had¬†such an intense¬†reaction though¬†if it hadn’t been for the intense and horrible hour and a half wait.

The Embassy of Japan in Ottawa had posted on Facebook that the results would be released — about an hour before I saw it. So I messaged two other people I knew who had applied. One girl had gotten a response and was an alternate, while the other girl had no response yet either. Of course this was happening the day before a test, when I was supposed to be studying and instead I had my phone turned up all the way, and had my email opened up on two computers. After about 30 minutes of waiting I had started to accept my fate — I didn’t get in. I figured that they wanted to tell those getting in first, so that they could message their respective consulates if they had questions. So between comforting the girl who got Alternate status, while also speculating what was taking so long with the other girl, my emotions skyrocketed. I just couldn’t imagine what would happen if I got in, or even if I didn’t get in.

For reference, there are 3 results you can get; Short-listed (guaranteed position), Alternate (if people drop out, you might get called), and of course not accepted.

The first ping came from my phone. Second, laptop. Third, the other laptop. “New Email from JET DESK.” I almost didn’t open the email.¬† I wanted to puke and cry from nerves. Thankfully I clicked the email, read half of the first line, and well you know the rest. With this email comes a bunch of forms that need to be filled out and mailed (yes¬†, stamp and envelope) by certain dates along with a few other things that you need to get yourself.¬† I mailed almost everything in by the end of the week. Again, pay attention to specific details when you submit things¬†(no staples).

Unfortunately, after you get your results you still have to wait again for your placement, which is the stage I’m at right now. Literally any day now I will find out where I’m going and who I’m possibly teaching.

I’ll update more once I find out ūüôā

JET Programme

JET Programme — Part 3 — Interview

I cried when I got the email that said I was selected to be interviewed. I didn’t even care about the $500 plane ticket for¬†a day trip¬†to Vancouver either. I read somewhere that only 50% of people who apply (in Canada) get interviewed, and then only a further 50% of people interviewed get accepted. Of course this could all be made up numbers since JET doesn’t actually reveal their statistics.

But there I was, January 13th, bawling over the phone to my mother while also trying to check out flights. With only two weeks notice, I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. Thankfully I had started preparing on the off chance I did get an interview.

****MOCK INTERVIEWS ARE YOUR FRIEND****

Seriously, the best way to prepare yourself is mock interviews. Again, just like with your statement of purpose, get different kinds of people to interview you. Have them read your statement of purpose, give them a list of potential questions (just google, there are lists upon lists). Don’t just focus on your answers, also pay attention to body language and any nuances (like, ummm). If you can, record yourself. My biggest struggle was I waved my hands around like a little bird. I still ended up waving my hands in my interview, but being aware of it helped decrease how much I did it.

I was interviewed by three people — a Japanese man affiliated with the JET Programme some how, a previous JET who lead the interview, and a Japanese teacher who seemed very intimidating but was actually really sweet.

I walked into the building with my best genki face (super happy, outgoing, friendly)(I swear the word “genki” will one day make it’s way into frequent use in Western societies). I made small talk with everyone — other candidates, other interviewers (which set up a fun tone with my actual interviewers). I’m pretty sure I was a little delirious by this point — I’d been awake since 2 am Saskatchewan time, and my interview was at 3pm Vancouver time, about 5pm Saskatchewan time. I had flown in from Saskatchewan that morning and basically wandered around Vancouver the entire day.¬† Maybe my exhaustion added to my genki-ness?

Anyways, so while I was waiting for my interview, a couple other interviewers went to get coffee and chatted with my interviewers. One of the men, when he came out, jokingly told me to watch out for the “sensei” (teacher). This was great because it created a connection with her once I entered as¬†she laughed when I told her the man’s warning. I was ushered to a side table to put my things down, show them my ID (don’t forget this) and shake hands with everyone. I sat down at the lone chair in front of them. Not gonna lie, this was super intimidating. Everyone was super friendly though, and most of the questions they asked me were found on the lists I’d seen online.

-Why JET?

-Why Japan?

-Why your placement and what will you do if you don’t get it?

-How would you deal with misbehaving students? (Bonus, read the ALT handbook on the CLAIR website)

Some questions that weren’t on the lists

-If a JET close to you gets better benefits (better apartment, subsidized, car, more holidays, etc) how would that make you feel?

-Say you bought a ticket to a once in a life time event on the weekend, but the school needed you to come in, what would you choose?

My most memorable question was if I knew of any recent events in Japan. I read the Japan times every weekend, but for some reason I completely blanked at this question. The only thing I could remember was a story I’d read a few months before about a 40 year old man tormenting the guys who bullied him when he was 10 by sending over 500 pieces of garbage in the mail. The best part? He put their address as the return address so he didn’t pay a cent for shipping. Surprisingly this story went over very well and everyone was laughing a lot. I’m pretty sure the more your interviewers laugh, the better your points will be.

I also had to do a mini lesson on a song I would teach to elementary school kids. I picked “Head and Shoulders” and got all the interviewers to stand up and participate. Thankfully I only had to go through it once, because the room was large and echoed and it was just a super awkward experience trying to teach adults pretending to be children, children songs.

Overall the interview was actually a lot of fun. Typically, interviews are supposed to be between 20-30 minutes maximum but I ended up staying for over 40 minutes (good sign?) and after I walked out, I was really glad that I was just able to be interviewed.

Until March hit (when results are announced), and again the refresh button on my email became my new best friend.