This is something that is very difficult to address, and I think that most (if not all) JETs and JET hopefuls will understand this post.
STAGE 1: PAPER APPLICATION
Since last year, I’ve been diligently preparing admission papers, official documents and the likes for the sake of being accepted into the JET Programme. It all started around September/October 2012 when I started thinking about the JET admissions. I filled in the basic admission papers online in October and started collecting the secondary papers in November (school transcripts from Cegep and University, letter of graduation, etc.). I got into gear for my recommendation letters pretty late into the game. In all honesty, I had forgotten about them and I found myself panicking about it a few days before the deadline (Nov 30th). The worst part of the paper application process was trying to get the letter of expected graduation out of my university’s uncooperative Admission’s Office. The office didn’t want to give me an expected date of graduation (for fear of being liable if ever I didn’t pass). Finally, with lots of haggling between them and the Consulate of Japan, I finally managed to get my letter … on the 29th.
That night when I came back home, I stayed up until 4a.m. finalizing all documents by reading and re-reading each one several times. I scanned each one (as they had to be submitted online as well as via snail mail) and then concentrated on my SoP (statement of purpose). Yes, I’m talking about *that* essay where you have to pour your whole life/heart into it. I had written a draft and corrected it twice before but for some reason, it didn’t suit my taste anymore, so I rewrote the whole thing on the eve of the deadline … crazy? most likely.
I finally submitted all of the documents online, feeling both relieved and worried as to their contents and the quality of the essay. Being a student of English Literature (and boasting about it quite a lot), I was really worried that my essay would be judged as being “mediocre” or “inadequate” due to my last minute scrambling. I’ve written tons of essays but this one was by far the most stressful (even though it’s only 2 pages long!).
Friday, November 30th, I went to my Chinese class in the morning and around 11a.m., dropped off my application at the post office (alongside one of my friends whom I brought along for moral support). I remember the stress around the way of attaching the documents together, or as I like to call it: “the dilemma of the infamous paper clip”. I know it sounds silly but trust me, paper clips are serious business for the JET people at the Consulate. The instructions clearly stated “use ONE standard-size paper clip to attach ALL documents in the prescribed order”. Problem is, a “standard” paper clip didn’t hold everything into place! In the end I took the chance of using a slightly bigger paper clip (provided by the lovely post lady who was helping me that day) and then proceeded to test out which direction I should place the papers in the envelope. Serious business I tell you. I must have looked pretty darn insane to all the other patrons that day, as I was trying to figure out if I should place the papers face-up, face-down, paper clip facing towards the top of the envelope or towards the bottom.
In the end, I don’t even remember how I placed them inside the envelope, but I remember the utter feeling of relief when I finally let go of the packed and watched the lady place it in the outbox.
STAGE 2: INTERVIEW
Fast forward to January, I received the call on Jan 22nd that I had passed the first stage of application and was now invited to do the interview in February. This induced a whole new wave of panicking/stressing about the next stage of selection. I watched hundreds of videos about interviewing and the JET Programme. I read a phenomenal amount of blogs on internet about current and former JETs, trying to get a sense of what I should do to ensure my success. I found several lists of questions from previous years and thought to study them religiously however, I realized after reading the first few questions from one of the lists that I was going about this process the wrong way. I didn’t want to get into the programme because I had lucked out, or because I had memorized all the Q&A provided by other participants. I wanted to do this on my own, and succeed without anyone’s help.
After I came to that resolve, I decided to stop searching for information on internet, and concentrate more on my own feelings in regards to the programme. From that point on, I didn’t think much about the interview, nor did I stress myself out by thinking of possible questions and figuring out the best answers.
I went shopping for a suit a few days before the big day, and found a good one for a reasonable amount (I didn’t want, nor had the funds, to buy a really expensive suit). On February 5th, I went to McGill University to pass my interview scheduled for 10:30a.m. I bought a cup of coffee from Tim Horton upon arriving at the train station. I then took a leisurely walk up the infamous “Hill of Death” towards McGill, got lost for a minute or so (I had taken the wrong turn at an intersection), tripped and almost fell in the stairs leading up to the building, and finally made it to the Thomson House unscathed and on time.
While I was waiting for my turn to interview, I met a fellow candidate and we bonded instantly. Both of us were thrown into a world we didn’t know all that well, which made us connect faster than in any other situation. The staff that was with us in the waiting room took the opportunity to ask us various questions about our reasons for trying out the JET Programme. He asked me where I was studying and in what subject, and tried really hard to stump me in my own field. I guess that this pre-interview inquisition was actually part of the process and was being taken into account. I stood my ground and replied all his questions confidently (I do know a thing or two about my field, I haven’t been studying for the past 3 years for nothing!).
After this, they sent me into the interview room where I was faced with 3 interviewers (1 man, 2 women) who played their “good cop”/”bad cop” routines perfectly. After a gruelling 30 minutes of difficult questions and mock classroom exercises, it all came to an end quite rapidly. I walked out of the interview room feeling utterly defeated and thinking I had just failed miserably at my one and only chance to get into the programme. Crestfallen, I returned home with a heavy heart.
Some days later I talked with my Japanese teacher about the interview and realized that maybe I hadn’t done as bad as I originally thought. Of course, there was no use worrying about it, what was done was done. Now I had to wait until April for the final results to come out.
April 5th, I received the notice by email that I had passed the interview stage and had been shortlisted (I got the job? No way!). My best friend called me from Japan to celebrate with me but I didn’t feel anything in particular, it hadn’t sunken in yet. So I went to bed that night without thinking about it anymore.
And here I am, 10 days later and I still don’t feel anything in particular. I don’t know if I’m happy about getting the job or sad about leaving my family, it all feels like a faraway dream. I don’t have the impression that the departure is so eminent (it’s not until Aug 3rd) and I feel as though I still have years of work to do before going.
My mother doesn’t agree with me leaving for Japan, especially since the nuclear disaster in 2011 and the eminent war threats from North Korea. I don’t know if this is the right decision or not, and I have no way of knowing if I’m making the right decision by going to Japan this year to work. For this opportunity, I had to put on hold my education (much to my family’s dismay) and I risked everything on this application. I want to go with the idea that I’ll be staying only 1 year and then come back home to finish my studies however, I can’t guarantee that that’s going to happen. I don’t want to wake up one morning and realize that my life has passed me by however, on the other hand, I don’t want to regret anything either. If I refuse this job, I will most definitely regret it for the rest of my life.
For now, I’ll keep on going even though it’s hard, and even though there are serious oppositions to my departure. I want to live the way I want to, and that involves going to Japan for at least a year to gain invaluable experience and insight. I haven’t spent the last year preparing for this only to decide at the last minute that I won’t do it. I think that being scared of the unknown is perfectly normal, and that I’m not the only one going through this right now (nor will I be the last either!) therefore I know that I’ll be fine.