The Circle of Life for an ALT

A couple months ago I got an email from a friend in her final year at Mount Allison who had informed me she was applying to the JET Programme (and was looking for tips on application to JET as well as a timeline for what to expect and when). I was so excited to be able to provide this information, as I remember asking my friend who had graduated the year before me and was on the JET Programme at the time (and actually still is!) to help me, and was so grateful when she did. Today I got an email from the girl who had applied, saying she had successfully passed the application stage, and was scheduled for an interview! I was so excited for her! It brings back all my memories from my application process which I have decided (for memory’s sake) to write down and share here.

As most of you know, I applied to the JET Programme on a whim. I had no idea what I was going to do after university. I had always said (even before starting university), that the moment I graduated I was going exploring. I was leaving Canada and heading somewhere new. I hadn’t known where or how, but I knew I would. Unfortunately, due to my poor planning skills, I had found myself in my final year with no direction in life. Fortunately, I have awesome friends. Danica & Nick were applying for the JET Programme, and had encouraged me to apply as well. I managed to scrounge together an application in time for the deadline, and sent it off. I remember getting the phone call at the end of January to schedule an interview and I was so excited!

As the interview day approached, I had done little to prepare. I remember sitting at mom’s dining room table literally hours before the interview and thinking, “maybe I should look up news stuff related to Japan” – yeah, smart. I probably spent more time deciding what I was going to wear than what I was going to actually say (and when I say I probably spent more time, I mean I definitely did). I briefly googled “Japan” and then headed off to my interview. Did I ponder “What is the JET Programme looking for in an ALT?” or “What would make me a good ALT?” or even “Describe exactly what would make me qualified or ideal for the position of an ALT”?? No, I didn’t really bother thinking about that. Well, believe me when I tell you I was as unprepared for that interview as I could have been. Fortunately, I had a “whatever will be will be” mentality, which had led me to not prepare at all and not feel stressed about it. This may sound strange, but the day I sent off my application I had a gut feeling that I would be in Japan in a year’s time. I could just feel it in my bones. I hadn’t told anyone this (except my mother) at the time, due to the fact that makes me sound like a crazy person, but that is honestly the reason I didn’t really prepare for the interview and went into it with a “well, if I am supposed to go, I’ll go and if I’m not, I won’t” sort of mentality. I am not advising anyone who wishes to go apply to the JET Programme to also have that mentality. But I did.

Anyway, despite the feeling that I would be accepted into the programme, my interview went awful. (At this time my mentality basically changed to a “well, I guess that wasn’t meant to be” mentality.) I immediately went to the liquor store for some beers to ease the pain. I remember literally answering “I don’t know” to several of the interviewer’s questions. Once they even said “can’t you think of anything to say?” and I again replied “I don’t think I can, I don’t know”… Awkward. Regardless of my horrible answers and my complete lack of knowledge on anything Japan or education related, I was smiley, happy, and grateful for the opportunity. I really tried to let that show in the interview. Despite me clearly bombing, I think what they ultimately took away from the interview was that I was calm, happy, and easy going person, who despite obvious embarrassing moments, can keep calm and carry on. (This actually does come in as my most useful skill on the JET Programme, as embarrassment comes in daily doses and one must simply grin and bear it all. And not take it personally, otherwise you’ll fall apart.)

One fine day, Amy and I were home alone and had order a delicious pizza from Joey’s for dinner. Oh god how I miss delicious Joey’s pizza and garlic fingers. I was eating a scrumptious bite while checking my email. There, in my inbox, was my acceptance letter. I remember reading it and rereading it; then saying, “Amy…. AMY”. She had no idea what was going on and I was just screaming. “I THINK I GOT INTO THE JET PROGRAMME”. I immediately made the appropriate calls to family and texts to friends and the rest is history.

Now, almost 6 months later to the day I left, I sit here at my desk at my office in Japan, with my re-contracting form signed on the dotted line; another year in Japan. I feel this is the circle of life for the ALT. Helping aspiring ALTs from your home country (go team Canada), while also remaining in contact with your older ALTs. I still keep in contact with the ALT who helped me, and I hope that I will remain in contact with any new ALTs I can help as I sign up for my second year in Japan.

Best of luck with your interview, and I hope to see you here in Japan soon!

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