Now that I’m officially on the shortlist for the JET Program, I can finally relax. It was a long process of not knowing for sure if I would end up going, but now it’s just a couple months of coasting before I take off.
I wanted to talk a little about what I’m expecting out of the program. I think it will be interesting to look back on this post in the future and see my thought process a week after being shortlisted.
As of right now, I’m still in the initial euphoria phase of it all. I am still processing the fact that I really, truly will be able to go to Japan for a year. I’ve been trying to look up as much information about the program as possible, simply because I like thinking about the fact that I’m going. I’m sure it will wear off soon enough, and I am trying to remain realistic, but I can’t help being excited.
I haven’t gotten my placement yet, so I have no idea what to expect from that. I hate that we don’t get to find out where we’re going until May, but I’ve been patient thus far… what’s another month?
From what I’ve heard, the placement requests don’t matter a whole lot. When I first applied, my requests were Kobe, Sendai, and Saitama because they were urban locations without being “too” urban. My initial concern was with being stuck out in the middle of nowhere by myself, with an expensive train ride to the nearest city. Now, I’m at the point where I would rather live further from a city because I want to have an excuse to explore parts of Japan that others rarely get to. In addition, city living is significantly more expensive, and I would like to save some money.
I’m sure that I’ll change my mindset about a thousand times between now and when I get my placement, but there’s really no sense in dwelling over it. It’s likely that I’ll get placed in a city that I’ve never even heard of, and once I get placed I’m there for good. I even recently learned that you can’t transfer locations when you renew your contract, so wherever I get placed, I hope I can tough it out for at least a year.
Once I’m there, I hope that I can save money. Because I don’t have a clue what my budget will look like, it’s hard to tell how much I will be able to save. Considering I plan on going back to school once I’m done with JET, I would like to have at least enough to keep me on my feet when I return. I currently live a pretty budget-conscious lifestyle as it is, but I do know that Japan is an expensive country. We’ll see how this one turns out.
On that note, I’d like to be able to study while I’m there. I’ve heard that JETs have quite a bit of free time they have to fill. I’d like to use this time studying for grad school, as well as working on my language skills. In addition, it would be cool to also work on my hobbies, focusing on filming some stuff while I’m in such a photogenic country.
As far as the work itself goes, I really have no idea what to expect. Most people who write about being a JET tend to gloss over the whole “teaching” part. Perhaps there’s a reason for this. I definitely want to get involved as much as I can because spending a year in a random Japanese city would be a lot more difficult if I was a hermit, but I feel like this entirely depends on the school I end up going to and what they’ll expect out of me.
To reiterate what I was saying earlier, I’m trying to keep myself grounded about the program. I understand that JET is not the end-all-be-all of where I want to be in my life, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. While there are pros and cons to taking this job, I feel like I would regret not taking such an opportunity. Believe me, I know all the jokes and stereotypes about English teachers in Japan. I realize that it won’t magically turn my life into everything I’ve ever dreamed of. I realize that working as an ALT does not count as “real world” experience and won’t get me into a massive company doing financial analysis as soon as my contract expires. I also realize that there are probably tons of problems and hangups that I’m going to run into that I can’t even imagine at this point.
But trying to think ahead, I would much rather take a chance in life and get to spend some time living abroad rather than being stuck where I am now and regretting it. Who knows what will happen between now and this time next year? All I can say is that I’m looking forward to it, whatever it is.