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Question : How long does it take to get my reply from the JET Program?
Answer : Ahh.. this question resembles the Zen riddle: "If a tree falls in the forest and lands on Captain Fugu, will SpicyGyoza.net make a sound?". Well my faithful students.. I will do my best to answer your question with another question: "does time really exist?" You'll be waiting for what seems like an eternity. People that are declined before the interview stage have it easy if you ask me.
What happens next?
The JET Program has many features built into it which are designed to promote anxiety and paranoia among its applicants and the general populace. When you sent in your application, you hopefully included the confirmation card with a self-addressed-stamped-envelope (SASE). This will be the first thing that you get back from JET, and it's a little piece of mail that lets you know that your application was recieved and was either complete or riddled with errors and inconsistencies (which will never happen if you followed my instructions exactly). You should recieve your SASE about 3-4weeks after you send in your application. The next thing you will recieve will be a letter detailing your denial, acceptance, or decent into JET limbo (also known as being accepted as an "Alternate"). This letter is the result of microscopic scrutiny of your application, your reference letters, and your medical evaluation. They probably do some wiretapping, DNA testing from miniscule skin flakes left in the envelope, High Performance Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectroscopy analysis of body oils left on the paper, and an FBI/NSA/CIA background check. In another 3-4 weeks after you get your SASE, you will receive a letter from your consulate informing you of the initial results of your application. This is when you find out if you have been offered an interview. If you have been denied at this stage, then it's probably an indication that you either didn't properly convey your desire to go to Japan and teach, or there was a certain flavor missing from your application. See the section below for hints on how to deal with a denial. However, if you are offered an interview, you're in for another 2 weeks of waiting. Then after your interview, it will most likely be a long 6-8 weeks until you hear back from JET again. Try not to go insane okay?
So you've been offered an interview. It won't take long for your initial feelings of joy to be replaced by more paranoia and insecurity. I'm sure you're wondering what the interview is all about.. perhaps you even want to know what kinds of questions you will be asked. Alas, I cannot divulge that information because the Japanese JET Program Secret Police would remove me from the country and force me to work in the Underwater BB-Stacking Factory again. This is something I'd like to avoid at all costs. However, I will tell you all I can within the limits of my operating parameters.
1. Don't lie in your application. Anything you say in your application can and will be used against you in the interview.
2. Be prepared to speak some Japanese if you indicated that you have experience with the language.
3. Have an open mind.
4. Look nice. Take a shower, shave (if you need to), and look sharp. If you have piercings and are prepared to deal with the fact that it may affect your interview, then leave them in. So far, there are quite a few JET's with piercings in random places, just don't look like you were attacked with a nailgun. Captain Fugu took the chicken way out and and left his labret piercing at home. Also, don't worry too much about hair dye either. However, if you look like a clown you're probably not going to get very far. If I were you, I'd keep it a little on the conservative side if you really really want to get in.
5. Think "Internationalization". What do you think you could do to help Japanese students understand your culture?
6. Be prepared for psychological games. There are numerous horror stories running around the internet about "Good Cop, Bad Cop" style games. This is where one interviewer will be your friend while the other interviewer won't believe a single thing you say. Part of the point of the interview is to see if you can deal with stressful situations. They WILL try to make you feel stressed and put you on the spot.
7. Be prepared to: sing, dance, give a short speech, answer really wierd or personal questions, hop on one leg and squawk like a chicken, give a short english lesson, defend your existence, and just about anything you can think of. The interviewers are chosen specifically for their ability to send your head into a spin. I actually hope to interview applicants someday.... Muhuahahahah!!!
8. Don't go out drinking the night before. Get some sleep and eat breakfast. Your mind will need to be in tip-top shape.
9. Be calm. Although I'm specifically trying to make you paranoid, don't worry... seriously.
So that's it really. All I can say is if you made it as far as the interview, you're half way to Japan. I honestly think that the only way that you can get disqualified at this stage is if you either stumble through your questions about your own application or if you show up hung over. Just remember that even people who said that their interview was similar to a train wreck in a petrochemical plant still managed to pass their interview and come to Japan.
After the interview you have an even longer wait. If you ask me, this is the time that is filled with the most paranoia. Filled with doubt and bewilderment, it is likely that you will have moments of catatonic despair. Personally, I had no idea how I did during the interview. I thought that I had answered the questions to the best of my ability and I knew that I jumped through the hoops that were put in front of me- including the one that was on fire. However, I couldn't help dwelling on what I could have said, what I shouldn't have said, and what I did say. I'm sure that my friends were tired of hearing the same story over and over: "He asked me this.. and I said this.. do you think that was okay???" No matter how much you think about what happened during the interview, you have to understand that it is out of your control and there is nothing you can do. All you can do is keep checking the mail day after day, week after week. JET Message boards will fill up about a two months later as people start to get either the big or the small envelope. You can only hope for the big one. The next section will detail your options for each of the three letters that you might recieve from your application.
It is not the end of your life. It doesn't mean you're a bad person either. It is probable that too many JET's had already been offered interviews or hurled into limbo (alternate). Count your blessings that you don't have to endure the hell of putting your life on hold until you are actually allowed to enter Japan as an AET, CIR, or SEA. My only word of advice at this point is to do whatever you can think of to make you seem more attractive to the JET Program on paper and apply next year. Ideas for things to do include: get some experience dealing with children or other cultures, involve yourself in Japanese culture (find an Ikebana class, learn Taiko, study a Japanese martial art, join a cooking class, take an informal Japanese language course, etc.), volunteer at an ESL school or tutor an ESL student, host a Japan/Your Home Country Ping-Pong tournament, and more. Use your imagination! You could also apply with some of the other English language instruction companies in Japan (NOVA, GEOS, LargeMarge's Root'n Toot'n Texas Style English Bonanza) but from what I've heard, these companies are a pain to work for, not to mention they all hate the JET Program and it's participants. Besides, you never know what could happen in a year. You could win the SpicyGyoza Intergalactic lottery and never have to leave the planet again! (Tickets go on sale July 21, 2012)
"Congratulations! You have been selected from a select group of selections for the chance to win a chance at winning a chance to enter the "Chance to Win" sweepstakes!" YAY! Seriously though, I have heard that being an alternate is hell. Sure, you have a chance at getting accepted to the JET Program.. but only if someone denies an acceptance. Stories are being circulated about alternates that have been accepted within weeks of receiving their letters. Other alternates are not told that they have been accepted until THREE DAYS before the departure date. In any eventuality, if you get a letter saying you have been selected as an alternate you have two options: either wait it out until the day of departure or deny the alternate status and reapply next year. You are allowed to do this only in the case of being an alternate. Whatever your choice is, you should at least make other plans just in case. The money you will need to save up for Japan could be used for rent in the case that you are not offered a position with the JET Program (more on money is in the Prepare! section).
Well, you made it. Now it's time for the back breaking task of getting your life in order before you go to Japan. You have a lot of work to do, and it's not going to be easy. If you are currently in college, then it's going to be even harder for you to concentrate on school. Just remember to finish school, because if you don't some lucky alternate gets to take your place. Be sure to read the Prepare! section and every bit of information that you can find about living in Japan. Life in Japan is like nothing you have ever known (unless you've lived there before) and there are bound to be surprises everyday. Do your best to prepare for them... RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH!!!