JET Program 20 Questions

It’s already October! Halloween will be here shortly. Then Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years… Time seems to go by quicker and quicker with each year…

Since the school year has started, classes have kept me busy! Not that I’m complaining- I love spending time with the students and seeing them learn new things and enjoying the games we play.

This week however is midterms for the high school kids. So with the free time I had today, I figured I would do a quick blog post. I saw this around on other blogs and figured since I’ve been here for more than a year now, I can fill this out and have it up on the blog for any readers out there curious about the JET Program (since it also looks like  the application window for JET has opened once again).

Name: Sara

Prefecture Placement: Nara

Prefecture Requests: Osaka, Kyoto, (No Preference)

Teaching Experience: None whatsoever

Number of Schools and age: Two schools in total. One high school (ages 15-18) and one junior high (ages 12-15?)

School Level: Very low. If I remember correctly, not many of the graduates of my high school attend college (most of them go right away into looking for work). English is seen as a very difficult subject for the majority of the students but I do have some students at the high school who are interested enough in English and advanced enough to have a simple conversation with.

Average number of classes a day: 3-5 classes a day is the average. I help out with classes about four times a week.

Closest JET to you distance wise: Only one other JET in the village, just down the street.

Best part of the job: Seeing students who weren’t even interested in English try hard enough to have fun in class!

Worst part of the job: A lot of seat-warming and a lot of feeling ostracized.

Best part of living in Japan: There are a lot of things, but being able to utilize Japanese in everyday life and being able to drive around and discover some really cool areas are some of the big things. This is also our first time living on our own (abroad no less) so we’ve learned to become independent and self-sufficient.

Worst part of living in Japan: Sometimes the language barrier can make things that were simple to do back home, very frustrating. (Things like buying concert tickets, making doctor appointments, missing delivered packages, etc) Also, for Trevor, he gets a lot of stares because he’s white. (Oddly enough, this happens more so when we’re in the busy cities than in the village or even isolated areas)

Favorite memory so far: When the teachers at the high school threw together a welcome BBQ for Trevor and I. It was a great way to get to know some of the other teachers and it was our first time having Totsukawa-style BBQ (which Trevor has been hooked on since!) A lot of drinking, a lot of food, and a great atmosphere to see everyone in.

Hardest time so far: Getting my driver’s licence was by far, the worst experience I have ever encountered.

What do you miss most about home: For me, my pets, my mom’s cooking, my family, and my friends. I also miss having access to some of my comfort foods like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, my sister’s red velvet cupcakes, Dinosaur Egg oatmeal, ANY cereal brand other than corn flakes and granola. The list can go on. For Trevor, it’s my car and Taco Bell. He really misses Taco Bell.

What would you miss the most about Japan if you left tomorrow: I would really miss… I don’t know, just the way life is here? There are so many awesome things about Japan and where we live that it would be hard for me to put into a list. I think I would miss everything. Except the driver’s test. Fuck the driver’s test.

What’s one thing you wish you’d brought with you to Japan: More photos and a high school yearbook. I had no idea that simply having photos around the apartment would make it feel more like home. I also wish I brought a yearbook because it would have been a cool thing for my students to look at.

What’s something/things you brought that you wish you didn’t: Extra clothes. There are some pieces that I haven’t even worn yet and they’re taking up space in the drawers.

Tip for living in Japan:

Do your research and study Japanese. Be prepared to stumble every now and then. (It’s okay to make mistakes) Learn at least the basics of the language (“hello,” “thank you,” etc). Make an effort to study in order to communicate. Use a helpful dictionary app.

Ask, ask, ask! If you’re ever in a pickle or have any problems or issues you want to resolve, always ask questions, whether it be to your supervisor, coworkers, other JETs, etc.

Learn to budget! (Unless you’re a lucky bastard and don’t have any loans to worry about >_>) For Trevor and I, this means making meal plans so that when we grocery shop, we don’t overspend. Sending so-and-so amount every month for loans and whatnot. Setting aside money for bills that aren’t taken out already from my paycheck (like insurance, cell phone bill, internet bill). And also trying to set aside money for fun stuff because we deserve it every now and then.

Tip for being a JET:

ESID. The phrase Every Situation is Different is tried and true, no matter how annoying it is. In these cases, it’s probably better to leave any placement specific questions to your supervisor, one of your JTE’s, or your pred.

Be prepared and adjust to the needs of your school. It only took me a little over a year to finally adjust to my JTEs schedules. (lol) I can now expect to be teaching on so-and-so days with this JTE and on so-and-so days with that JTE. Have lessons, activities, and games ready so that if your JTE does unexpedectly tell you that you have class 1st hour of that day, you can smile back and say “OK!” (Instead of pulling a deer-in-the-headlights-look and stuttering “O-okay?!?”)

Don’t feel bad about saying “no.” Okay, so this is my personal opinion. From the start when I was accepted onto the program, I’ve heard on many occasions the phrase: “Always say ‘YES!’” While I think yes, getting the opportunity to do this-and-that is an amazing experience, don’t feel bad about declining any events or parties. To me, a person’s health or even simply, preferences should be taken care of first and foremost, and if that means missing so-and-so to stay in on a Saturday binge-watching Netflix, then so be it! People should not have to feel bad about their decisions if it makes them happy.

And that’s that!

d-(‘ – ‘)z

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