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therealwindycity
February 26th, 2014, 08:44
I'm interested to hear how people responded to this question in their interviews. How many people had studied abroad before?

Ini
February 26th, 2014, 08:46
green tea and onsens

spman2099
February 26th, 2014, 09:02
I basically stated that there were a number of loose connections and curiosities. This ranged from martial arts I practiced in the past, to directors I enjoy the movies of, to boxers I like to watch. I didn't have a particularly interesting narrative to attach my interest in Japan to, which most SOPs that I read seemed to have, so I came right out and stated that.

What I didn't say is that it has the right kind of climate for me (it has a legitimate winter), and it has the sort of geography that I would like to be around (mountains and forests). Lastly, I am genuinely interested in living in a foreign country, it didn't necessarily have to be Japan. I mean, I don't want to sound like I am indifferent to Japan, I think it sounds like an interesting place, I just think that the world is filled with interesting places. Hell, I was born in an interesting place.

Also, to answer your question, I have not studied abroad. Unless you count Katharine, I studied her plenty.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obKLdou0LH0

HorseFeathers
February 26th, 2014, 09:04
Nevermind.

Ini
February 26th, 2014, 09:07
Ah yes, like all the medical care professionals always say "feeling depressed? why not move thousands of miles away from your support systems and isolate yourself in a foreign culture?"

therealwindycity
February 26th, 2014, 09:14
Ah yes, like all the medical care professionals always say "feeling depressed? why not move thousands of miles away from your support systems and isolate yourself in a foreign culture?"

I dunno; I don't think it's so easy to predict who will have issues in Japan. Plenty of people who were perfectly fine in their home countries get the worst of it.

Jamie Solo
February 26th, 2014, 09:20
I'd never studied abroad before, although I was going to do that at uni - until I was told that people doing my course weren't allowed to do it.

As far as why Japan, it was pretty much just wanting to go somewhere in Asia when I was younger. Since I've been on holiday to America, around Europe etc. I knew what those places where like but not Asia, and Japan was the most easily accessible in terms of info for me and I just grew to like it. Especially its history, cause I'm really nerdy when it comes to certain periods of history in different parts of the world.

LaVie
February 26th, 2014, 09:24
When I was in elementary school, my mother's best friend was Japanese; her parents had immigrated to California when they were younger. She was trying to re-introduce herself to her parents' culture, as well as introduce the culture to her children, who were the same age as my brother and I. So, most of what they were learning, we were learning too (because we stayed at their house after school). Since then, I've always been really interested in Japanese culture and have wanted to learn more about it, and going to Japan seems like the most logical way to do so.

HorseFeathers
February 26th, 2014, 09:57
I dunno; I don't think it's so easy to predict who will have issues in Japan. Plenty of people who were perfectly fine in their home countries get the worst of it.

Thank you, Windy. I honestly doubt I would have been happy in Japan if I had gone in 09 like I originally planned because I was still very young. I was perfectly happy living at home and had no idea what job market faced me. 2014 me is very different and much more willing to let go of things here for a new adventure.

miamicoordinator
February 26th, 2014, 10:47
This is one of the most important questions for me personally. There are tons of "potential jet interview questions" out there (not that I agree with them), and I know this question is listed so frequently. Yet, you would be surprised how many applicants did not have an answer to this. "Why Japan" may sound like a foolish simple question, but it gives us a little bit of insight on your reasons and motivations. Your SOP is only 2 pages long, and it is impossible to write everything you want to in there. Many people do not adequately explain their reasoning for wanting to teach in Japan. So many people came unprepared for this question, unfortunately.

Kdes23
February 26th, 2014, 11:34
This is one of the most important questions for me personally. There are tons of "potential jet interview questions" out there (not that I agree with them), and I know this question is listed so frequently. Yet, you would be surprised how many applicants did not have an answer to this. "Why Japan" may sound like a foolish simple question, but it gives us a little bit of insight on your reasons and motivations. Your SOP is only 2 pages long, and it is impossible to write everything you want to in there. Many people do not adequately explain their reasoning for wanting to teach in Japan. So many people came unprepared for this question, unfortunately.

That's very shocking. Do you mean that this years aspiring JET's weren't good at answering this question, or that all aspiring ALT's, past and present, have struggled to answer this question?

No doubt though, I think that the question should be weighed heavily. Moving to Japan is a big deal. You should have at least one good reason, or a few reasons that together act as good grounds to go.

P.S. Hi miamicoordinator. Nice to see you around here! :D

miamicoordinator
February 26th, 2014, 11:47
I can only speak for the applicants i interviewed this year at my location. After each interview the other panelists and i would always discuss their purpose and if we really understood why.

Most aspiring jets seem to think that taking a few classes of japanese and studying one semester abroad makes them the perfect candidate. Unfortunately when the majority of the applicants have the same base qualifications, there has to be something else that differentiates them from the rest.

P.s. and hello kdes23!!

Also im on my phone, forgive the bad spelling and grammar.

Gizmotech
February 26th, 2014, 13:57
Mine reasons were sorta simple.

Growing up I watched all the old PBS war documentaries with my father. Then I started watching random samurai movies. Later, in college (this just before 9/11), I was into anime. Throughout this, my best friend was deep into Karate, and would tell me about the cultural things he had to do.

Then in college they told me "take another language (other than French)" with my degree, I didn't particularly want to study Arabic or Russian at the time (german was on hiatus as was spanish), so I studied Japanese. When I was finished my ESL degree, JET was a logical conclusion. Might as well give it a go.

I think in the interview that I stated a long time interest in the country, but had never been. I had heard JET was one of the better places to cut your teeth on teaching ESL (as in you can screw up and it's not the end of the world), and that I was really keen to teach.

Not the best reasons obviously, but I guess they must've sounded strong enough. Maybe my passion for teaching swayed the panel over my mediocre answers to Why Japan?

johnny
February 26th, 2014, 20:41
I told my interview panel that I was eager for an adventure, and that Japan had many cultural aspects that I wanted to learn and experience. I think I talked about festivals and taiko drumming or something like that. I talked about loving Japanese history too and wanting to learn more about that as well.

nostos
February 26th, 2014, 22:03
I did go to Japan on a high school exchange program, so my main reason was to be able to experience Japan in a different way and be able to participate in things I didn't get a chance to do before. I also would be bringing along my family. As a kid I did a LOT of travelling, so I recognize the importance of experiencing other cultures and I want my child especially to be able to have that experience too. Although I forgot to mention that...derp haha.

dstin
February 27th, 2014, 04:15
Unfortunately when the majority of the applicants have the same base qualifications, there has to be something else that differentiates them from the rest.

So in your opinion, what would separate someone from the pack?

To answer the main question, I didn't exactly get it phrased to me this way. It was more of a "why JET instead of South Korea?" I answered by saying I would like my work in ESL to involve more intercultural exchange than I currently do with my job which consists of "Here is the curriculum, prepare them for the test that will determine their future in our hyper competitive society", and that I saw the JET program's views aligning with mine in this regard. Never studied abroad or been to Japan, but I do have a layover in Narita on my way back to SK.

miamicoordinator
February 27th, 2014, 04:27
So in your opinion, what would separate someone from the pack?

To answer the main question, I didn't exactly get it phrased to me this way. It was more of a "why JET instead of South Korea?" I answered by saying I would like my work in ESL to involve more intercultural exchange than I currently do with my job which consists of "Here is the curriculum, prepare them for the test that will determine their future in our hyper competitive society", and that I saw the JET program's views aligning with mine in this regard. Never studied abroad or been to Japan, but I do have a layover in Narita on my way back to SK.

Personally speaking, it really comes down to personality and our ability to see the person in front of us teaching a group of Japanese students. There are so many English teaching programs all over Asia right now (China is really big as of recently, and so is South Korea). So when applicants tell us that they want to teach in Asia, the other options come up, "Well, why not X country instead?." That is why knowing why you want to go to Japan specifically is so important. How you answer this, and your motivations for wanting to go specially on the JET Program are important.

I know nerves get the best of people in interviews, so we do try to give people some slack. However, no matter how good you look on paper, if you are unable to sell yourself to us as a panel, it is going to be hard to recommend you.

Personality is huge though. At least for me, this is what separates someone from the pack.

Jiggit
February 27th, 2014, 08:32
So when applicants tell us that they want to teach in Asia, the other options come up, "Well, why not X country instead?"


China... South Korea

Well that was easy, next question?

Kdes23
February 27th, 2014, 08:51
Already an ALT.

For me, the one thing that made me think to myself "Hey, I need to go to Japan" was my Japanese culture course that I took in my 2nd year of university.

Leading up to this course, I always had interest in Japan. That's quite obviously the reason I took the course- to better understand Japan and its culture.

When I was young (7) my dad pushed me into trying out karate. I wasn't thrilled with the idea because my preconceived idea of karate was a place where you go to get beat up, and walk out of with bruises and cuts. Obviously I was wrong. The trust that I built in karate with my dad, the other students, and the sensei, gave me some form of appreciation for Japan. I didn't realize it when I was young, but as I got older and played other sports, I always thought to myself "Why can't this be like karate where everyone does the same exercise? Where everyone is equal? Where there are no all stars that get an extra 10 minutes of game time?". That sparked the fire.

I'm (going to be) 24 and anyone my age who tells you that they never watched pokemon or dragonball z as a kid are liars. At the age of 9, those TV shows were so different and so foreign from anything else that we (kids) were used to. Sure, we had all the DC and Marvel heroes, we had Disney, spongebob, and whatever else. But these shows, something about them was different. Looking back, I think that it's simply that they're Japanese, and so of course the art style, the stories, and everything else will have a certain Japanese quality to them. Anyways, I'd be telling a lie if I told you that this didn't get me interested in Japanese culture. I didn't come to Japan for it's cartoons, but as a kid, those are what got me interested in Japan.

In high school, we never had the chance to learn about Japanese culture or learn Japanese. Skip through to university, and there I was, selecting courses (having a few electives to spare), and thinking "What's something that I've always wanted to learn more about?". Of course that became the Japanese culture class that I took in my 2nd year. I wasn't sure what to expect of it, but from the first class I was hooked. Yeah, it's true that you learn about what YOU want at university. Although, that class was the first time where I felt like no matter how much work the professor gave us, it would've been my pleasure doing it. I was just so interested in the course and its content. Maybe it's because it was my first brush with learning about an Asian culture. I'm not sure, but it was definitely captivating. It was also the first time where I go an A+ without breaking a sweat, and that made me feel great.

That course ultimately lead me into taking up an intro Japanese course in my 3rd year. Before that, I had never imagined of learning Japanese. I had the ignorant and preconceived notion that Japanese was one of the most difficult languages to learn. It's true that once you get to the Kanji it starts to get hard. Despite that, I learned that if you're truly interested in a language and its culture, it's way easier to invest time in it and learn it. That professor would mention the JET programme and teaching in Japan from time-to-time. I loved learning Japanese and I had no chances to do so with being in my 3rd year- I didn't have any more electives to spare. I was always told that living in another country is the best way to learn another language. Naturally JET would allow for that.

One day I decided to do some research and look a bit further. I got very invested in the idea and I told my girlfriend at the time about it and she didn't like the idea, at all. "You don't have a teaching degree" I don't need one. "You don't know Japanese well enough" I don't need to. "You've never lived that far away from home", etc. All these little things to throw me off. For a few months it worked, I forgot about JET and teaching in Japan. My mind became invested in other things- school, gym, work. Then she broke up with me (it was a long-term relationship). That shattered my world for a while. I was lost for months because the breakup was so unexpected. I didn't date or anything, I started to focus on myself. Eventually I remembered that initial idea I had many months back- living in Japan. That one thing I wanted to do, but that relationship held me back from doing.

And here I am.

Sure that last part isn't necessary to mention. But I find it important to note that if not for that break up, I wouldn't be living and teaching in Japan. Needless to say, she did me a favor by breaking up with me. Ultimately, I don't think I'd be a happy person right now if it weren't for that. I would've also missed out on a ton of experiences and opportunities that the programme provides.

Gizmotech
February 27th, 2014, 09:48
[random stuff]
One day I decided to do some research and look a bit further. I got very invested in the idea and I told my girlfriend at the time about it and she didn't like the idea, at all. "You don't have a teaching degree" I don't need one. "You don't know Japanese well enough" I don't need to. "You've never lived that far away from home", etc. All these little things to throw me off. For a few months it worked, I forgot about JET and teaching in Japan. My mind became invested in other things- school, gym, work.
[random bad things + other stuff]


The rest of the questions are pretty pointless as you point out, but this bolded one is actually kinda important. It's probably the biggest thing people struggle with on the JET programme, the massive isolation that can occur when they're stuck in the middle of nowhere. It can be a pretty big shock, if you've never been properly separated from all your support systems before.

Though I hope you are Canadian because looking up information on the American JET website is like time travelling back to before people thought of web 2.0. God that is an ugly site.

Kdes23
February 27th, 2014, 10:31
The rest of the questions are pretty pointless as you point out, but this bolded one is actually kinda important. It's probably the biggest thing people struggle with on the JET programme, the massive isolation that can occur when they're stuck in the middle of nowhere. It can be a pretty big shock, if you've never been properly separated from all your support systems before.

Though I hope you are Canadian because looking up information on the American JET website is like time travelling back to before people thought of web 2.0. God that is an ugly site.

Agreed. Even living in Japan, it's hard for me to answer that question.

I've always wondered that. I'm glad I'm not the only one wondering why that site is so... boring/ugly lol. It needs to be renovated asap.

Kaizen
February 27th, 2014, 15:24
I chose Japan because I have family relatives in Japan. I could have chosen to teach English in South Korea but since I already know more about Japan I'm probably more adaptable to live in Japan than in Korea.

Wasabi
March 3rd, 2014, 01:55
Funny enough, this didn't come up directly in my interview this year. It was kind of covered and skirted around with a few different questions here and there. I can't confirm this for sure but I had a feeling that my panel didn't go for many "typical" questions because they saw that I had made it to alternate last time around. Perhaps they thought I had answered this questions sufficiently before, or maybe they felt like my application gave them a good enough answer to the "Why Japan?" question. Who knows, it's all conjecture at this point.

HorseFeathers
March 3rd, 2014, 10:04
Can I just say that I adore your avatar, Wasabi? It's precious!

Jiggit
March 3rd, 2014, 10:39
Funny enough, this didn't come up directly in my interview this year. It was kind of covered and skirted around with a few different questions here and there. I can't confirm this for sure but I had a feeling that my panel didn't go for many "typical" questions because they saw that I had made it to alternate last time around. Perhaps they thought I had answered this questions sufficiently before, or maybe they felt like my application gave them a good enough answer to the "Why Japan?" question. Who knows, it's all conjecture at this point.

I never got it in my interview and I certainly didn't explain it well in my personal statement. I feel like we need to separate interview advice discussion by country. It seems like different embassies give completely different styles of interview. I don't think UK applicants ever have to do a lesson demo, for example.

BTW it's worth thinking of a (simple) answer to this question anyway, since Japanese people are going to constantly ask you it if you do get in.

kenkennif
March 10th, 2014, 16:34
I studied abroad in America for a year in Indiana - Arriving for international student orientation in the US was where my first connections to Japan were born. The first two weeks it was basically me the Brit, a French guy who liked rollerblading, a girl from Argentina who made good cake, two blokes from Canada who were like 'Why the feck do we have to be here?' and 45 students from Hiroshima and Shizouka who were all like 'konnichiwa' and stuff.

Turns out a great bunch of the Shizuoka lot became my closest friends for the year that we were together in America and I even went to visit their families before I started University for a bit... and that is pretty much exactly how I explained it in my interview...

Wasabi
March 11th, 2014, 08:12
Can I just say that I adore your avatar, Wasabi? It's precious!

Thanks - it's from the comic Cat vs Human. I had to change it up from my usual Hello Kitty :)

Jiggit - funny how interviews can vary country to country so much. It actually really surprises me that in the UK applicant's take a grammar test. As far as a real reason why I chose Japan, it's nothing too interesting. For one, I really love the way the Japanese language sounds. Beyond that, I've enjoyed Japanese philosophy, culture, and arts. It's hard to really articulate exactly what attracts me to Japan besides that I've just really enjoyed learning about the country and speaking with those who have been or are from there.

kenkennif
March 11th, 2014, 11:21
It actually really surprises me that in the UK applicant's take a grammar test.

Yeah, I definitely failed this part of the interview too... I have no idea how I got here!

Gizmotech
March 11th, 2014, 12:30
Based on a friend of mine, I wouldn't worry about it. I was teaching her basic English structure stuff in her third year because she had no idea about English at all.

Jiggit
March 11th, 2014, 12:39
Jiggit - funny how interviews can vary country to country so much. It actually really surprises me that in the UK applicant's take a grammar test. As far as a real reason why I chose Japan, it's nothing too interesting. For one, I really love the way the Japanese language sounds. Beyond that, I've enjoyed Japanese philosophy, culture, and arts. It's hard to really articulate exactly what attracts me to Japan besides that I've just really enjoyed learning about the country and speaking with those who have been or are from there.

Right? It's almost meaningless for UK applicants to take advice from US ALTs and vice versa. I feel like it should be a sticky or forum policy or whatever to point that out when people ask for advice.

And yeah. If I were to fully articulate why I want to go to Japan it would have been like a 10 minute presentation or longer... Otherwise I'd just say generic stuff like "the culture and arts are interesting" and you feel like a dipstick.