July 27, 2009

JET Program - Placement

JET placements are sort of like the stock market - random, unpredictable and the selections don't always make sense. That's how it can feel to an applicant anyway.

When filling in your JET application, the form asks you to list up to three placements you'd ideally like to have. Being both lazy and unsure about most of Japan's prefectures, I chose Kyoto Prefecture, Osaka Prefecture and Kanagawa as my top three choices (though Hokkaido was a close 3rd). I got none of the above, and looking back I'm really not surprised, but what I did get was a compromise.

At least from my experience, it seems like JET makes some attempt to accomodate your placement requests, even if they don't give you exactly what you asked for. I wound up being placed in Mie prefecture, a long, narrow prefecture on the east coast of Japan that borders Kyoto Prefecture and is only 30 minutes from Nagoya (Japan's 3rd largest city) and a couple hours from Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo by train. All in all, I think I got pretty lucky.

Placements can be one of the hardest waits throughout the entire application process, particularly if you're chosen (like me!) as a Prefectural ALT. When you're a prefectural ALT it's up to the prefecture to decide where exactly they need you, so placements can take a couple weeks longer than other ALTs.

I found out which prefecture I was going to be placed in when I received my notification of short list letter in the mail. My response was "Mie? Where the hell is that?!", followed quickly by a Google search. Finding out exactly where in Mie I was going to be living was another thing entirely. It was literally weeks of waiting with no word - nothing from the school board, nothing from my predecessor, just silence. It was very unsettling. I watched the weeks count down, and as each one went by without any word I started to get antsy. Were they going to wait until I arrived in Japan before letting me know where I was going to be staying? It seemed unlikely, but that's how it felt at the time.

I finally heard from my predecessor in the first week of July. They let me know the city I was going to be living in once I arrived in Mie, as well as anything I could possibly want to know about my apartment and the school. I would recommend asking your predecessor whatever you can, while you can. Some are more helpful than others, of course, but I was lucky enough to have a very helpful pred. Some general questions you might want to ask are:

- How close is it to the school, grocery store and train station (walking, biking, driving distance?)
- Does any furniture come with the apartment?
- Is your pred selling any of their old stuff?
- What are the monthly expenses like? (Your pred can give you a much better idea of how much it costs for rent, utilities, etc.)
- Is there anything you should know before you get there? (bug problem? mice? etc.)
- What kind of internet access is available? (dial up, fibre optic,etc.) And how long will it take to get it installed? (My wait will be a month, some are longer or shorter)

- How many schools do you work at?
- How many classes do you teach a week?
- The names of the different teachers will you be working with (and an idea of what they're like is nice too!)?
- What grades are you responsible for teaching?
- How academic is the school?
- Are you required to work Saturdays (if the school has Saturday classes), or join specific clubs (English club, etc.)
- What is their day like at the school (just so you can have an idea of what you're in for)

- Good contacts to know (Prefectural Advisor, helfpul neighbours, etc.)
- Location of good restaurants/bars in the area they can recommend
- Any particuarly interesting touristy things in the area they would recommend

The next big step after you find out where you're headed? Packing and Tokyo Orientation! More details will follow about Tokyo Orientation and what to expect once I get there myself - less than a week left to go!

1 comment:

bec said...

thanks for your informative posts of your progress on the JET program. i'm thinking of applying for next year and already the thought of a possible interview is scaring the crap out of me! congrats on your success!