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Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

The JET Program - Working in Japan as an English Teacher
By:Jason E Gordon

Founded in 1987, the Japanese Teaching and Exchange (JET) Program was designed to help internationalize the youth of Japan while facilitating the country's English education program. Today with over 5,000 participants from over 20 countries, the JET Program has become the largest initiative of its kind. You already knew that though right? I'm more interested in telling you what being a participant in the JET Program is like.

There are three categories for JET Program participants - Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), Coordinator for International Relations (CIR), and Sports Exchange Advisor (SEA). By far the more prevalent are the ALTs which is what I was from 2005-2007.

Upon being accepted after the grueling application process, you will be contacted by your contracting organization and told about your assigned location and job duties. Hopefully your location will be to your liking because it can't be changed. I was lucky and got what I wanted. Many an ALT does not but that doesn't mean they are unhappy...we humans have a funny way of adapting to almost anything.

Next, you'll fly to Tokyo for your orientation - no need to pay much attention here. Just go to the workshops and meetings and try to enjoy yourselves. You'll notice the huge disconnect between what the big honchos at CLAIR and the Ministry are trying to accomplish and what actually goes on later.

Once you arrive at your post, you'll get settled into a place and figure out what is expected of you - this can differ widely and is one of the reasons why many JET Program particpants will say ESID...Every Situation is Different. I was lucky to work at a Board of Education with very understanding and friendly supervisors. They even speak English!

My own JET experience was working in a medium sized city where I am assigned to three junior high schools and had occasional elementary school visits. It wasn't ideal. I wasn't able to forge the kind of relationships with students and teachers that I would have liked because I was always coming and going. You'll notice that grumbling about your work conditions doesn't get you far in Japan so eventually I succumbed to a Japanese motto you'll hear often... Shikatta ga nai (It can't be helped.) I was lucky to live in a place with plenty to keep me entertained and I mainly hung out with other ALTs. Not because I didn't like the Japanese but because of my language skills, it was difficult to make friends.

After awhile, I settled into a routine and though I wished I could be making a bigger impact at work, I was content to enjoy my free time eating out, travelling, enjoying the nightlife, etc. Some JET Program Participants take up a Japanese hobby like Judo or Tea Ceremony and have found that a great place to make Japanese friends.

The time will go by quickly and it is up to you to make the best of it. Japan is a wonderful place to live and I encourage any of you still considering whether to apply to go for it. I have assembled a slideshow so you can get a better taste of what life in the JET Program is like. Click Here to view it.

Jason was a JET Program Participant from 2005 to 2007 and has assembled a blog about his experience to give possible applicants and future JET Program Participants an idea of what life in Japan is like. Click Here to view it. http://jetprogram.wordpress.com/

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