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JETting Off to Japan Might Be Just the Change You've Been Looking For

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

If you find yourself dreading Monday mornings and living life from tea break to lunch brunch, weekend to weekend or even pay check to pay check – it may be time for a change. And if you find yourself dreaming of far off beaches, snow capped mountain paths or exotic cultures when you should be filing documents, crunching numbers or perhaps attending to that strange breed of creature called a "client" – then it's definitely time for a change.

Teaching English in a far off country (images of Asia usually come to mind) may sound like a great idea and an excellent opportunity to travel, make some decent money and get away from it all ("it" usually referring to a job, a lack of a job or society in general). But where to begin? Websites looking for English teachers are a dime a dozen, and some organizations can be as dodgy as the meat served in their local markets. Rather than paying for a flight ticket to someplace that you can't pronounce to find that the only English that you will be conveying to people are the words "what do you mean it doesn't exist?!" or "my quarters are lovely but I did not realize I would be sharing them with twenty other people…and that a roof seems to be by special request only", its best to use a reputable agency that will make your cultural adventure as awesome as it should be. And what could be more reputable than the super efficient organisation that is the Japanese government? They've been running the JET Programme for over 23 years now, and its positive reputation just keeps going stronger.

The Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme is designed to promote interaction between Japan and other cultures from around the world – or "internationalization" in Japan (to use a buzz word that programme organizers seem to have taken a liking to). You go over there with all of your cultural goodness and say "this is me, and this is what my country is about", and they say "this is us, and this is what our country is all about" (which you teach them to say in English, since that is the aim of the actual job that you will be doing) and happiness and understanding between the two countries ensues.

In order to qualify for the programme you must be older than 18 (and younger than 40, but nothing stops you from applying and attempting to dazzle them if you aren't), have completed a degree (anything will do – as long as it was in English) and have an interest in all things Japan. There are of course other criteria such as not being a crazed, mentally unstable lunatic or a prominent member of a drug smuggling criminal syndicate (amongst other things) but the ones mentioned give you an idea of what they're looking for. You don't have to have any experience in teaching English in even have any language qualifications (but having a TESOL or TEFL certificate won't hurt your chances of being selected), but you must have an above average level of English skills – and the ability to disseminate these skills loudly, proudly and clearly.

You won't be left alone to drown in the "I've never taught before, why are these kids staring at me" ocean, since each ALT (your title should you be chosen – it stands for Assistant Language Teacher) is paired with a native second language English teacher, and they will be the main teacher, and you'll be there to add some authenticity. You are required to teach certain points, help with lesson planning, help with training the teachers themselves and to do whatever other activities are required of you from the organisation that the Japanese government places you with (this can be anything from judging speech contests to taking part in cultural club meetings – it's all part of the fun of being a JET really) so don't expect to coast either. This is still a job, just one that's probably better than the one you have right now.

Where else can you travel to one of the most fascinating places on earth (this is the part where romantic images of temples and cherry blossoms will only serve to deepen the affect), work in a job that requires skills that are most likely natural to you already (the English language), build a great foundation for a career in travelling and teaching – and do all this while getting paid a decent salary? Not to mention the fact that the red tape is not so sticky and constricting (the organizers sort out VISAs, they are the government after all) – and once you've been accepted, your travel expenses to Japan are paid for. Just don't burn down any small villages or teach students words that don't exist – if you don't fulfill your contract and they have to send you back home, you have to pay back what's been spent on you.

Applications to be part of the JET Programme are a little different depending on what country you're in, but they generally open around October each year (and close in December). Those who impress with their written applications are called back for interviews and language proficiency tests around February and if you are successful and chosen to JET off to the land of the rising sun, you will be doing so around July. For details specific to your own country, phone your local Japanese Embassy (or you can find the information you're looking for from the Embassy's website) – and for more information on the JET Programme in general, the official JET website is what you're looking for.

If you're ready to leave the daily grind behind, or just love to travel and see yourself teaching English in locations that only first hand impressions can do any justice, then the JET Programme may be for you. A year or two from now and you just might be sipping on sake in a sprawling Asian metropolis, or small fishing village far from tourists eyes. And whether you're staring at bright lights surrounding commercial advertising that you can't read or the open fields surrounding a rice paddy, your current life will be a distant memory, overtaken by memories and stories that you will be recounting for years to come. There's never been a better time to prepare to JET off to Japan.


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