Life As a JET: Thoughts From a First Year – Part Two

Jeremy Tan joined JET in 2013, becoming a CIR in Kochi-shi, Kochi-ken. Now 9 months on, he gives his thoughts on what it’s like being a JET, especially the wait, the preparations for departure and how Every Situation Is Different. This is a special two-parter to help those with short attention spans.  In this post, he talks about what the Programme is really for. Part One can be found here.

So? What does it mean? Give up on JET? Well, if you really want to be a hardboiled teacher of English, it’s going to be different from the way you were trained. Japan’s government and current society realizes that. It’s a
stoic country still stuck in their old ways. Japan likes its traditions. Sometimes too much and it can be hard to move on. But that’s Japan’s specialty; without that, you won’t get Kyoto, Kamakura, and all the old Japanese temples, clothes and things that we now respect as part of Japan. It develops and becomes the culture, because it is their culture. So it will take time for them to develop their English.

Then why all these requirements? It is a program, and it is run by the government. They don’t want to just hire and give money to young people. They want to show that they are being responsible. That’s what the degrees are for. Of course, our generation is now slowly changing our perception of what a degree means. But the truth is that, you won’t take on a degree unless you’re serious, have enough logic, won’t get yourself into massive criminal complications or make a mess of yourself. That’s sort of why they want your degree – you committed to something and completed it. Another part of what being on the JET program is about. Complete it and you will find the experience the best thing in your life. Just like all of us.

This is not research, just the thoughts of what I have experienced over the months. Writing this to tell you about Japan, somehow helps. It really shows that in agreeing to Japan, you’re actually saying, “Yes! I want to be
someone that can be myself, learn about the people and I want to make friends.” You see, if the is one thing people mistake when coming here, it is the work aspect. I don’t want to belittle the program. I am on it. But it’s not really work, so to say/speak. It’s like a buffer program, so that, should you wish to stay on in Japan or even return home, you know how to act, survive and persevere in a Japanese workplace, community and lifestyle.

Now, I think when the program was first conceived, they wanted to generate work. They wanted participants to feel like they could come together with the people of Japan. That’s what I feel. I think what they found out is that, by teaching, you get to know families, the kids, the parents, the teachers and ultimately the community. This is the main reason for your teaching role in Japan. As above, they want people to help the children to realize, there is a world out there. People from other countries. You can teach, just remember, stay true to yourself.

It was particularly hard for myself, as I can be quite a perfectionist. Somehow being here has really transformed into a realist. As I write this, I am sitting down in an office with people screaming over the air, phones ringing around me, kids coming in asking for things and some teachers just sleeping. It’s an interesting place. Japan really is. However, I don’t think I can say I was when I came.

Finally, I want to say, consider yourself the luckiest people alive. It’s an honor to be on a program designed by a country that ultimately wants to help its people to become internationalized. There are troubles that our
previous “senpais” or predecessors have caused. They lay scars and marks into this lovely country. Please don’t become one. Really Japan, its people and your contracting organization do not ask much of you. A little
quote to ease the life, “When you can be trusted with little, you can then be trusted with much.” The JET program is actually entrusting you with much straight away. They only ask of you to follow some simple rules.
Don’t get yourself into trouble or engender trouble for your family or friends. All the bad stories can actually be avoided if the people in questions just thought carefully, asked for advice and looked for help before making their decision. Hey, you’re reading this, I think you’re not so stupid.

Internationalization, being global, grassroots. Those are words, if you studied English, some of them don’t actually make sense. A lot of the text is hard to really grasp. It’s Japan’s way of saying what they can only actually express through their feelings and through having you come on the program. Japan might not do it the best way, if you’re a perfectionist like me. But they get the job done. Over the 27 years (Funny, the program is exactly as old as I am) the program has survived, many of those that experienced it (over 57,000 people) have become people that can explain to others around them, what Japan is really all about. So be excited that you’re going to make new friends and have fun with them, the way they do in Japan.

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