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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How To Get Into The JET Programme

My buddy Vince informed me via e-mail this morning that this week people around the world are being notified whether they have been accepted or regretfully declined into the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

Vince writes he "saw one posting on the (JET) forum I thought was interesting. It was from a coordinator in the Miami (Florida, USA) consulate. He let people know the notices were going out. In passing, he mentioned them getting the list back from Japan and that one candidate he thought was perfect for the program and got high scores in the interview, was not accepted. So even the coordinators in the consulates don't have a clear idea how people are selected."

So... what becomes a semi-legend most? What allows some people to get into the JET Programme and others to not get in (at least this time)? Try again if you fail, right? Right!

I have no clue. If there was a cut and dry answer, I would present it to you, but there isn't.

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree
I travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody's looking for something.

The Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)

Just what is that certain something... that certain je nais c'est quoi (which translates into that certain I don't know what).

I've been to Japan on the JET Programme - stayed the full three one-year contracts I could sign (the maximum stay until recently where it has been upgraded to five years) between 1990-1993.

I can guarantee you that when I glanced at many of the would-be JETs newly arrived in Tokyo awaiting disbursement to our various cities, towns and hamlet, I wondered to myself - how the hell did they get here? Some of these people are real duds!

My first exposure to a fellow JET was my roomie who was nerdy, looked nerdy, acted nerdy and wanted to stay in our room the first night. I went out by myself, and while I was humbled by the culture shock, I still went out.

I went back into the hotel after a short walk around the hotel and met Kristine and went: wow... this hot, little chick is so full of life... no wonder she's here. She and I dominated and 'led' her group of rookies around Tokyo... they were all from her part of Japan... and even though she and I had never been in Japan before, our brash but cheerful personalities ruled the day. Oh! We could have had such beautiful children! Or amazing sex. Twenty years later, she said she would have slept with me if the opportunity had better presented itself. Always nice to know.

But I digress... as I am wont to do.

In my three years in Japan, I met people who were so stuffy, boring, unfriendly, shy—but all smart people, though—that I wondered why they came to Japan.

They probably looked at me—this metrosexual (I was one before the term was created) buffoon with the perfect hair (My one vain characteristic that I gladly admit to)... a loud-mouth, always joking around and rarely serious... and wondered how the hell did he get into JET?

Good question.

I can't speak for anyone else's situation... but two years before going to Japan... I was a shy, quiet individual... cheerful, sort of smart... a slacker with no goals or ambition for life.

Two years in journalism school cured me of the shyness, and excelling in print journalism, I had a career in mind - mostly... but, at the time of the JET interview in Toronto, I was still somewhat bashful to flash anything to the Japanese JET people except a confident smile. And the truth, of course.

Back to Vince's question... no one really knows what a high score entails on the interview, except that it exists... I'm not sure how they grade prospective interviewees...

However... at MY interview, I bred confidence, possessed an easy-going personality, ability to think quickly on my feet (they ask some weird questions - so I thought), could smile, laugh, had no preconceived notion of Japan, dressed well enough, looked different, spoke with a neutral English accent, was a journalist (and thus could, hopefully, communicate - I know plenty of journalists who are dour SOBs), and wasn't a teacher, nor considered myself a teacher. I was just Andrew.

I really think that being a trained teacher can backfire against a would-be JET applicant. They already have a teacher (Japanese teacher of English)... they want someone to work with that teacher... it's not real teaching... and if you, the prospective JET think you are a teacher or will be a teacher, your job expectations will kill your ego when you start work.

At the JET interview... I think they look at the interviewee's rap sheet... I taught piano and clarinet. I coached girl's and women's soccer. I was playing 3rd base in an adult men's baseball league and leading it in home runs, batting average and errors, as I could grab anything with beautiful dives to either side, but that throw from third to first got in my head...

That's the arts and and sports. Multiple sports... that made me a sportsu-mahn... very much revered amongst the Japanese... but I'm sure the teaching of music also worked in my favor... I noted I could play all brass, woodwinds and keyboards and dropped my uncle Harold Joseph's name as the former conductor of the New Delhi Symphony ( I'm a brown guy whose parents are from India, while I was born I London, England, but living in Canada since I was not yet four-years-old). 

I was a leader at journalism school, publishing a school paper even when the school was on strike (called it the Ad Hoc, since our school was the Humber Hawks) (yes... my idea to name it that).

I was asked how I spent my free time... I gave the previous year's answer—I love to read comic books (still do actually) and play video games (like all Japanese kids) (still do actually), go out with my friends... they asked what I did with my friends, so I said, we'd go out drinking beer and getting rejected by women. The truth. They laughed at that and said my honesty was refreshing.

But, I added that that activity had slowed down a bit, as I told them that in my last year of journalism, while being the paper's Managing editor and doing a full load of classes, I had eight private students for piano, did baby-sitting, coached a league soccer team, and my college's women's team. I was also doing a 2-day a week internship at a paper or two. I did not mention that I was fired from one.

The folks doing the interview at the Japanese Consulate in Toronto must have liked the fact that I was as busy as their own Japanese teacher's doing club and school... and thrived in it. I did, too.

Some people I know didn't know how to be busy in Japan.

I did. Even when I was by myself watching TV, doing a puzzle, housecleaning (every other day, including laundry - small machines) reading a book... hell... if I had a laptop I'd be watching US TV...

I taught after school at clubs, took archery lessons, taught once a week privately (later 3x a week), went to city parties, was visible in the community... fun-fun-fun!

Seriously, if I wasn't so immature re: women, I would have been happy 365/yr.

Still... when amongst people or doing stuff, I was in my element!

Not everyone can say that or trick themselves into believing that.

I think I was perfect for the JET Programme.

I just didn't want to go to Japan. You should read my first blog for a bit of bother on that topic: HERE.

Andrew Joseph

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