Working for JET was awesome for me, and now it can be your turn!
After I graduated from college, I worked for two years in Japan as a CIR through the JET Program, and it was – no exaggeration – the best experience of my life.
I’m not someone to say that lightly either. To be perfectly honest, I’m really not a fan of traveling or immersing myself in other cultures; I’m perfectly fine “traveling” via watching YouTube videos, all the while eating microwave pizzas.
But the JET Program was different. It gave me something no YouTube video or week-long vacation to a foreign country could possibly give me: the opportunity to live and work in Japan at an actual Japanese organization with actual Japanese people.
For those unaware, the JET Program directly employs people in two different positions: ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) and CIRs (Coordinator for International Relations).
ALTs are typically native English speakers (occasionally other languages) who assist the English teachers in Japanese public schools by acting as a native language resource. They help with pronunciation, run dialogues, perform skits, play games – anything to help get the Japanese kids excited about learning English. No Japanese language ability is required to be an ALT.
▼ The typical ALT, explaining the very important
English idea of “cat” to Japanese students.
CIRs are also typically native English speakers (occasionally other languages as well) who work in Japanese government organizations, such as a city hall, an international organization, or elsewhere. They interpret and translate between Japanese and English, plan and carry out international exchange events, receive guests from abroad, and more. There’s no official level of Japanese necessary to be a CIR, but around the JLPT 1 or 2 level would be best.
▼ The typical CIR, explaining Japanese robot ninja samurai to foreign guests.
When I was a CIR, I worked at a city hall in Okinawa, where I was the only English-speaker in a nine-story behemoth of a building with hundreds of employees. I was responsible for not only the translation of all documents within city hall (marriage licenses, tax pamphlets, etc.), but also interpreting for international guests from all over the world, interpreting for the mayor when he visited U.S. bases, as well as acting like a fool in front of kindergarteners and elementary schoolers to make them laugh and hopefully not think all Americans are monsters.
▼ My wife and I running a Halloween party event for local kids.
I am dressed as the very spooky Chopper.
▼ Me interpreting the vice-mayor’s speech on a stage in front
of thousands at an annual festival on a nearby U.S. base.
But the best part of being a CIR in the JET Program was actually having a legitimate job in Japan with Japanese coworkers. I got to experience life in Japan firsthand, not a zoo-like experience which a lot of study abroad or other teaching/working programs can end up as. I lived in a real Japanese apartment, spoke Japanese at work every day, and hung out with my coworkers after hours and on the weekends for fun.
▼ I even wore official Okinawan work attire: Hawaiian shirts known as
kariyushi. They’re worn from May to October, but I rocked it year round.
▼ I also achieved my lifelong dream of appearing
in the newspaper… for a respectable reason.
Even though I didn’t work as an ALT myself, my wife did work as an ALT employed through the board of education while we lived in Okinawa, and it was such a great experience for her that we recently moved back to Japan so she could continue her dream job of teaching English.
When I worked as a Japanese tutor in the U.S., I had a lot of college students who wanted to go to Japan after graduation. I recommended the JET Program to each of them as the absolute best way to experience the real Japan.
Not only do you get an awesome job (that pays pretty well), but JET helps you every step of the way: they put you in contact with your predecessor months before you leave so you can get the low-down on your new home, have a training session before you leave, have another training session after you arrive, and make sure that you are comfortable and settled in your apartment with everything you need.
▼ And if you’re lucky like me, you get the amazing experience of having
your sink, shower, and toilet all share the same floor.
If you’re interested in applying for JET, then watch this video below, which the organization recently released. You can hear the stories from many different JETs and see if it’s something you’d like to do:
Personally, I learned more during my two years in JET than four years at college. Before JET, my only experiences in Japan were a zoo-like study abroad, and a confusing internship in Tokyo. JET finally gave me the realistic experience of living and working in Japan that I’d always wanted, and it can do the same for you.
If JET sounds like something you’d like to try, then head on over to their application page. The official application doesn’t start until next month, but even as someone who loves JET, I have to admit that their application process is long and stressful. There’s no better time than now to start asking for those letters of recommendation!
Best of luck to new applicants, and if you were a JET yourself, what was your experience like? Let us know in the comments so we give any future JETs the best support we can!
Source/featured/top image: Facebook/Official JET Program USA
Insert images: ©RocketNews24