JET Tip: Learn to Read

So a while ago, I wrote this big thing about being contacted by my contracting organization with a bunch of information and my opinion on the situation I thought I would be going into.

I had all kinds of plans and ideas of what I was going to do and how I was going to approach everything upon my arrival, but something told me to go back and take a look at the email I had received.

Sure enough, I realized that I misread a crucial part of that email.

Initially, I expected to be in the part of town that was along the coast, which was near the train lines, meaning I would be able to get by without a car. It was rural, but had plenty of restaurants and convenience stores.

Rereading the email, I realized that I had been given the address to my contracting organization, not the location I would be working at. I quickly shot back an email asking for clarification on this, and within a day had it confirmed… I was looking at the wrong address.

Now, instead of being on the coast in an area that has plenty of convenience stores, grocery stores, and public transportation, I now find out that I’m going to a location that is further inland, has barely any public transportation (certainly no train station), and only a couple of restaurants. I had initially thought I’d be in a rural placement. Now I’m in a rural placement.

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit stunned and disappointed to find out I had been looking at the wrong area on the map. I quickly deleted the blog post I made on this topic and waited for more information before I made any more posts. That’ll teach me to jump the gun and write about a situation I wasn’t 100% sure on. Especially considering one of my biggest concerns was with having to get a car while I’m there, I was forced to deal with the fact that I probably will end up having to drive. I was looking forward to living on the coast, but now I will be going further into the mountains with more extreme weather than I was expecting.

Eventually, however, I was contacted by my predecessor and things started to move forward. I am lucky enough to end up with a predecessor who has provided me with a ridiculous amount of well-organized information, and my mind has been somewhat put at ease.

While many of my worst fears have been realized (having to drive a car, very few cafes and restaurants nearby, no gym with a weight room, etc), I was able to talk with my predecessor about overcoming some of these obstacles. Although our interactions have been brief, I’ve been able to extrapolate enough from the information I was given to allow me to start planning. At least I won’t show up in the country thinking I’m on an entirely different side of town.

It’s definitely crucial to look on the bright side of things like this. Judging by what I’ve seen, I’ll definitely still be able to do some traveling in my area, and where I am isn’t as bad as I had initially thought. There is enough to do around town to keep me busy, and I’m close enough to everyone else that, despite being the only ALT in my area, I can still make plans to go out and meet up with others. The more I look into driving in Japan, the less I’m worried. And because I’m in such a rural location, my situation will definitely be unique compared to the other JETs or tourists visiting the country.

You have to view these types of things as positives, even if it might not seem very positive at first. Rural Japan will have its challenges, but it will also have its rewards. I’m looking forward to being the only ALT in my area. I’m looking forward to practicing my Japanese with everyone in town. I’m looking forward to living in my own unique setup. And yes, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m looking forward to driving a car.

JET is tough in a lot of ways, even before you leave your home country. So far, there have been multiple times where I just misread something and come out with the completely wrong interpretation. This is one of those times. There are many situations where you will be left completely in the dark, and you’ll have to plan without having any sort of information that will help you. Until earlier this week, I had no idea how much I’d be paying in rent, what kind of schools I’d be teaching at, or even what side of town I’d be in. There are many punches that you just have to roll with, and I’ve had to change my plans many times already. Every time I feel like I’ve got enough information to work with, I’ll turn around and realize that there is something that I misread, or just skipped over entirely. I keep finding out things that I wouldn’t have otherwise thought about, even though I’m constantly doing my research. I can only imagine what kind of problems I’ll run into when I finally get to Japan.

But most importantly, you need to read. I don’t know what it is, but for some reason I have misread a ton of emails that lead me to conclusions that were pretty much the opposite of what was actually the case. You will get information with time, and I definitely recommend reading it thoroughly. Even have other people read it so you know you’re not missing anything. When I first got my alternate email, I just assumed I was shortlisted and started planning on JET, only to be crushed by that missing word “alternate.” You want to make sure that you’re not making plans based on false assumptions, and you can handle it by just reading what you’re told.

There is a ton of information that will be thrown at you. You want to make sure that you get all of it correctly. Otherwise, you’ll just end up like me, riding waves of excitement and disappointment until someone sets you straight.


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