So, there’s only a few weeks till the deadline for the 2021 intake.

For all those gathering their documents to send and for all the others who are still not sure if they want to join, let me give you a snapshot of life on the JET Program.

There, that’s JET.

Just kidding. Sorta.

It really depends on what your expectations are and what your school wants you to do.

On the JET Program, you’ll mostly work as an ALT or Assistant Language Teacher, if not CIR. Most participants on the program are ALTs and I am one myself so I’ll focus on that.

Sorry, CIRs.

As an ALT on JET, you will/might:

– teach alongside a Japanese teacher.
– be the main teacher.
– be a tape recorder.
– make exams.
– make speaking tests.
– encourage students to speak in English through games and roleplays.
– be in charge of an English board.
– teach in one school.
– teach in multiple schools.
– employed by a Board of Education.
– employed by a private school.
– work in a city.
– work in the countryside.
– live in a place with several ALTs or JETs.
– live in a place where you’re the only JET or ALT or foreigner in town.
– have to more than 60K yen for your apartment, excluding utilities.
– pay less than 10K yen for your subsidized apartment because your school or BoE is amazing.
– have to get a car to get to work because the bus runs only once every hour and you are not having that.
– squeeze yourself into the train filled with a thousand passengers like sardines because rush hour hell is a REAL THING.

As you can see, it varies. On the program, you’ll hear and see ESID being thrown around many times because, well, it’s true.

ESID means Every Situation Is Different. It’s not an excuse for bad things happening to you on the program (and you shouldn’t just take it because people says ESID) but it does paint a general picture of what to expect on the program, that is anything can happen.

If you work for a private school (I think this is only for Tokyo JETs?), it usually means a smaller community and being able to work alongside several Japanese Teachers of English or JTE.

If you work for the BoE, you’ll be visiting many schools. And that could be anywhere from 1 to 12 or something. That means visiting different schools on different days, working with many, many English teachers, sometimes needing to be earlier than usual to get to a farther school, and adjusting to the rules, dress code, and system of multiple schools.

Some JETs who work for the BoE, however, get subsidized rent on their apartments. You’ll find others pay 4K on their three-room apartment out in the inaka while city JETs have to pay as much as 80K for a tiny apartment.

Of course, if you do your research you can find apartments as low as 30K (or cheaper) in the city, but expect that they’ll be really small, comfortable enough for one person to live there for more than a year without itching for more space.

I myself live in a small apartment, but I can handle it because I’m not sharing space with anyone. If I were, I’d probably feel suffocated. And even now, I’m already dreaming of finding a bigger apartment in a year or two, but nothing final’s in the works.

Most of the people you’ll meet in Japan will be friendly, but do remember that, for most of them, you’re a fleeting thing, a visitor, a passing foreigner with no strong attachment to Japan or the school.

This will affect how they treat you in terms of how much they’re willing to involve you in class. It’s up to you to show them what the program means to you and what you want to get out of JET.

What you will experience will also depend on your prior exposure to Japan, Japanese culture, or teaching in general, which I’ll talk more about in another post.

Remember, though, that the JET Program is a job. While you might find some alumni or current participants talking about how easy their job is or how much downtime they have, that doesn’t apply to everyone. And your time on the program will be more meaningful if you put some work or effort into it — even if it means going out of your comfort zone to teach with someone or starting a project or course when you’re not teaching or preparing for a class.

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