As the JET Programme application deadline fast approaches, I thought I would do a short two-part post on why you should (Part 1) and also why you maybe shouldn’t (Part 2) apply for the JET Programme. I hope you find this useful, and if coming to Japan isn’t on the horizon for you, I hope you find these points worthwhile in any big decision you might be considering.
1) It’s terrifying
Taking the first step to do something outside of your comfort zone will always be uncomfortable and it’s no different with the JET Programme. When I first realised that I had an interest in living in Japan, I tried researching further about my field (UX writing), and the ways I could get in. Knowing what I know about UX, I quickly realised that I didn’t know enough about the people and culture to bring any real value to the field in Japan. I would need to upskill myself, especially when it came to the language. Also, I realised that Japan looked so different from the life that I am used to living, that I wasn’t sure if I would survive trying to live here on my own.
That’s when I stumbled across the JET Programme. On paper, it offered all the things I was looking for: A chance to learn about Japanese life, language and culture direct from the source. Above all, it offered me the chance to attempt something that terrified me. I love my family and friends and the thought of leaving them behind to start a new life alone in another country is an idea that has always terrified me. This would be fine had I had no desire to live abroad but alas here I am with grand dreams of one day retiring with a literal world of experience under my belt. I guess I can say that it’s lucky that last years application season happened during a time that I had decided to actively push past fear and do the things that frightened me the most. It’s been a really rewarding decision that has resulted in so much life being injected into my life.
2) You learn about how others see you
One of the requirements of the JET Programme is to get two recommendation letters from your University professors or previous work colleagues. I chose to ask one of the lecturers I had become close with during my undergrad studies and also a friend I had been Google Student Ambassadors with during my time in university. I chose these two with purpose because they fed into the story I wanted to tell about myself as an applicant. So I wasn’t surprised when my lecturer touched on my final year project and how it dealt with topics of inter-person relations on an international level. Or even when my friend talked about how our time on the Google programme had given us a chance to meet like-minded youths from all over the continent who we shared thoughts, ideas and friendships with. What I was not expecting is how they spoke about me.
I’ve always known that my lecturer fostered a soft spot for me since my varsity days but I guess a part of me has never truly understood why. The recommendation gave me my answer and man it really hit me how we seldom see ourselves the way we are. We take for granted the small interactions and things we do with people and write them off as normal, whereas the reality is that you might have been the only one willing to show up in that way. The letter from my friend also destabilized the view that I’ve held all my life about being a wallflower. I learnt that I might not be the girl that fades into the background like paint and I guess that was kind of cool to know.
3) You develop a new level of patience
To describe the application period for the JET Programme for someone who thinks they have been through a long application/interview period, what I would say is that what they have experienced is probably more like a human woman carrying a baby 9 months to birth whereas JET is more like an elephant mother carrying a baby 2 years to birth. At my previous job, because of all the security checks that one needs to go through to work at a bank, I felt that the interview and job onboarding process took too long. If I remember correctly, I applied around November and received an interview around early February before finally starting work in May. That’s 6 months of having to stick it out at a job where you are itching to jump ship. But when it came to JET, I experienced a new level of waiting.
Applications usually close around October/November and then interview results are only released around January for interview dates around end January to beginning February. Then the real waiting game begins. Prelim results then take another 3 months to be released before the final placement information is released 2 months later. Now, this may only look like a months’ difference to the banks’ process but the reality is when you are planning to relocate to a whole different country, every minute counts. I grew to hold a higher level of patience during this process but that’s not after having broken down 2 or 3 times along the way due to anxiety. I learnt that patience is pretty easy once you learn how to keep the anxiety monster at bay. There’s no power that anxiety has that can help the time go quicker.
So whether you’re still trying to decide whether you should apply or not, it’s good to consider what you are signing up for. There are many stressful things you’ll encounter during this application period, but on the bright side, you might learn something new about yourself and even overcome one of your fears during the process. Good luck to all those giving it a shot. Gambate!