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Thread: [Re]Applying for 2007 through Atlanta - Advice?

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    Default (Re)Applying for 2007 through Atlanta - Advice?

    Hello again, folks! I'm this idiot from last season, back again trying to leech advice.

    This post will be long, be warned.

    It's now early June, and I have a few months to get things in order should I decide to apply for JET again. But should I stick with it?

    To update, I graduated college in December and started a totally-awesome job at the Dept. of Education developing educational software. It beats the hell out of maintaining legacy database apps at an insurance company like the great majority of my CompSci peers here, and I'd imagine any experience in education beats none at all when it comes to a JET application. (As a bonus, I've recreated some of my activities for personal use while learning Japanese!) Additionally, I'm still at my pre-grad job waiting tables on the weekends. Aside from extra pocket money to play with, this town gets quite a bit of tourism during the summer, very often families with JHS-aged kids - my logic is that if I secretly can't stand kids, it'll break me between now and the application deadline. I'm trying my best to learn Japanese and lurk on forums like this one during my free time to pick up bits of information. I'm through the kana and am now hitting basic grammar. It doesn't seem too bad aside from picking up vocabulary and more complex structures, though the sheer number of kanji is intimidating.

    I'm interested in whatever wisdom is out there. I'm nearly sure that I will give JET another go this Fall, but how should I best spend my time between now and then to prepare for the application and interview? Further still, how should I prepare over the next year should I get accepted?
    Focus on the language? Learn more about the culture? How about history? Prepare lesson plans for an interview? Get several tattoos? Eat my weight in steak?

    In addition, folks who made it through the 2006 JET treadmill alive (Especially those who interviewed through Atlanta, GA): What was the best/worst part of your interview and what would you do differently to prepare? If you were shortlisted, why? If you were originally an alternate, what did you do to not get rejected, and what kept you from being at the top of the shortlist? Did anyone else but me not get an interview and plan to go again? (And speaking of those applying again, what is your prediction regarding the university strikes in the UK, if they really get bounced, will most apply again or will more get "big boy" jobs and not look back?) How bad will it look if someone is applying a second time after being rejected the previous year?

    I'm sure that I have a million more questions, but that's a fine start. I'll check this thread frequently and contribue as best I can; perhaps everyone who's thinking about applying for this season will benefit from it.

    -Galen

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    Default Re: (Re)Applying for 2007 through Atlanta - Advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Galen
    It's now early June, and I have a few months to get things in order should I decide to apply for JET again. But should I stick with it?
    Yes: I'm going back for a second time on JET after 10 years teaching and can't wait.
    Quote Originally Posted by Galen
    I'd imagine any experience in education beats none at all when it comes to a JET application.
    Not necessarily, since the focus of the programme is as much about cultural exchange and there are plenty of great ALTs who have not had teaching experience prior to JET. A demonstrated interest in education is important, so your software development will help there.
    Quote Originally Posted by Galen
    if I secretly can't stand kids, it'll break me between now and the application deadline.
    maybe. i found i had to alter a lot of my teaching methods. what worked in australia didn't necessarily work in japan. but the kids are great. just remember what it was like for you in school and try to make it more interesting for them!
    Quote Originally Posted by Galen
    I'm trying my best to learn Japanese
    Fantastic. But again, people have been chosen who have no Japanese at all. You need to be able to explain why that will be useful for you as an ALT. Here's a tip - it's not for teaching, it's for communicating with non-English speaking colleagues and to make your daily life easier
    Quote Originally Posted by Galen
    how should I best spend my time? Focus on the language? Learn more about the culture? How about history? Prepare lesson plans for an interview? Get several tattoos? Eat my weight in steak?
    All of the above. Except maybe the tattoos. I only have one and I have to cover it in most onsen and sento, which can be a pain.
    Quote Originally Posted by Galen
    In addition, folks who made it through the 2006 JET treadmill alive What was the best/worst part of your interview and what would you do differently to prepare? If you were shortlisted, why?
    Can't help you with Atlanta, sorry. The best part of my interview was that I had anticipated some of their questions (Why do you want to to JET again? What will your partner do? Why did you choose those placement preferences? - I got my first choice). The worst part was sitting opposite three strangers - but it's like that for any job interview.
    Quote Originally Posted by Galen
    How bad will it look if someone is applying a second time after being rejected the previous year?
    It won't look bad at all. It will show that you are serious enough about wanting to do JET to go through the procedure twice. I know a few peole who didn't get interviews first time around who were shortlisted on their second try. Good luck, Galen - hope my garbled responses help a little.

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    I'm just guessing here, but I think the three most influential aspects of my application were (1) experience with international organizations, (2)teaching experience and (3) interest in Japan.

    (1) RE: Experience with international organizations. I knew I was going to apply for JET about 9 months before the applications came out. During that time, I was able to find 4 or 5 volunteer opportunities at different international organizations. I found two clubs at my university, two with the Japan American Society and one through my Japanese professor. And remember, they don’t necessarily have to relate to Japan. One event I volunteered for was a Korean festival and one was a Latin American Festival. Think international! One of my interviewers seemed very impressed with this in particular. Plus, it will earn you points on your application, so there's no reason not to do it.

    (2) RE: Teaching experience - If you don't have teaching experience, you could probably find some volunteer opportunities at your local elementary/junior or senior high school. It may seem kind of weird to call up one of your local schools and see if they need volunteers, but I guarantee they won’t bat an eye. Just call them up and tell them you’re thinking about teaching in the public school system, but you want to volunteer for a few hours a day over the course of one or two weeks (or whatever you have time for). Better yet, call one of the ESOL teachers directly. When I was doing my teaching practicum last year, there were two girls doing precisely this, so it's not like it's a strange or odd thing to do. In fact, my practicum required me to teach at three different schools, and all of them had volunteers up the yin yang. Volunteer experience in a public school will be a huge plus.

    (3) RE: Interest in Japan. Instead of trying to make myself look like some kind of expert on Japan, I tried to project just the opposite image. What I mean is that I tried to make myself look like a complete novice, someone who didn’t know much about Japan but (and this is the important part) someone who was extremely enthusiastic and excited about learning.

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    In effort to keep the thread alive: Bump.

    How well does the following job description apply to the "teaching experience" category? Or should I plan to take all my vacation days in August when schools start back up and find a volunteer gig?

    The program I work under is developing internet based high school courses as an alternative to summer school and eventually to pad schools that do not offer more obscure classes. We just got started and are obviously working on "core" classes first. I believe it is safe to say that we are one of few programs, if not the only program to do anything close what we are doing. Because of this, it's a bit difficult to describe.

    Specifically, I work with a few certified teachers, each developing a course. In essence, we're writing (something analogous to) an original textbook + assignments + review/practice material + exams. I personally help with cirriculum development at the individual-lesson level and, once a lesson is near final, design/push an appropriate practice activity. These range from basic presentation of the material to simple games to full-fledged simulation and are almost always done in Macromedia Flash.

    I plan on pushing this as experience in a team-teaching environment. Additionally, I think I'll be able to find some phrase to indicate that I am fairly creative and could offer some special insight to a classroom setting, and am willing to develop similar computer-based activities for use in a JHS English classroom.

    How common is such a skillset in the JET applicant pool (I saw a larger number of CompSci students on these forums than I expected - hooray for geeks), and is it even useful in the world of JET? Current ALTs, how would I sell such a thing to the guy who processes applications or an interview comittee? (Hell, I took this job with the intent that it would help out with JET when I reapply for 2007.)

    -Galen

    PS- Wicket, what subject(s) do you teach, and at what grade level?
    - Danimalcrackers, you interviewed through Atlanta, didn't you?

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    In addition, folks who made it through the 2006 JET treadmill alive (Especially those who interviewed through Atlanta, GA): What was the best/worst part of your interview and what would you do differently to prepare? If you were shortlisted, why? ... How bad will it look if someone is applying a second time after being rejected the previous year?
    I interviewed through Washington DC, but I'll share my experiences anyway:

    1) Best part of my interview
    -Throughout the entire interview and even in the waiting room beforehand I was outgoing, smiley, and friendly to everyone (including fellow applicants). Everyone else was really quiet and nervous, so I think this made me stand out. Also, in the interview I gave a few witty responses and the interviewers even gave me a "Good answer!" when I responded to how I would react if Jap-men always asked me to make their tea.

    2) Worst part
    -I was told that I talked too fast. And I completely and obviously BSed my way through 1 question just because they kept pressing me for an answer when I said that I didn't have one. Flubbed up on a couple others.

    3) Why was I shortlisted
    -I really have no idea. I'm assuming that my Jap professor and manager wrote really good references. My SOP was written really well, relevant to the JET Program, and reflected my sincere attitude toward and interest in the whole thing. I have absolutely no teaching experience (not even tutoring) and I didn't make any effort to acquire any last minute teaching experience, so don't think that it's a requirement for acceptance into the program. I had travelled to Japan last year by myself, and they asked about that a lot during the interview. Throughout the entire application process I projected nothing but my real personality.

    It certainly won't look bad if you apply again after having faced rejection the first time around. I've read in the archives here and at BD and people have been accepted after having been initially rejected. Just go over your SOP and application and find anywhere you can improve upon. But don't go overboard though... for some reason I have a feeling that if you're going to dedicate the next year of your life to making yourself the "perfect JET applicant," you're only gonna be met with disappointment. Still... good luck!
    the spiderman is having you for dinner tonight.

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    OP: You were rejected at the application stage, right? The apps are apparently marked on a point scale, but the graders are rumored to be very hard on folks who, say, make minor spelling errors or forget to put a period at the end of each sentence. So, my first bit if advice is to proof and reproof your application (including the Statement of Purpose, sure, but the rest of it, too) and have a friend or two do the same. I think my SOP was pretty good, but I wrote and rewrote everything else a couple of times (there are a few "short answer" type questions). I had to explain a medical condition, for example, and that short paragraph got almost as much attention as my SOP. . . .

    Second, international experience seems to be regarded very, very well by this program. If you haven't ever left your home country, take that vacation you were speaking of and do some country hopping. If you can find a volunteer organization to work with overseas for a couple of weeks, all the better, especially if you'll be helping kids. You're in the States, right? Go to Guatemala and volunteer with a charity, that type of thing. If you can't find a volunteer organization (and you need international experience), backpack Europe or Asia. Do volunteer with international organizations back home, as Danimalcrackers suggested, too. All this will make you seem more culturally rounded on the application.

    Plus it helps to have experience with kids. So, volunteer at the schools, like Danimalcrackers suggested, or help out at a local Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers, something where you'll get to work with kids.

    Finally, don't feel that JET is the be-all and end-all of overseas teaching jobs. You have many, many more options when it comes to Japan, and exponentially more if you're willing to teach elsewhere. Like curstilace said, trying to become the "perfect JET application" is recipe for disappointment. Look into the eikawas, opportunities in South Korea or China, Peace Corps, etc.

    Good luck!

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    Quote Originally Posted by SavageBob
    Second, international experience seems to be regarded very, very well by this program. If you haven't ever left your home country, take that vacation you were speaking of and do some country hopping.
    This turned out to be huge in my interview. Like I said, I projected myself as a Japan novice. So between the time I turned in my application and the time I interviewed, I took a month-long trip to Taiwan. When I was coming back, we had a stop-over in Tokyo. With a little maneuvering, we were able to prolong our stop-over by 7 days (only cost $35.00 US each), and we spent the next week getting lost in Tokyo.

    So I'm sitting in the interview, and one of the interviewers says, "So it looks like you don't have much experience and/or knowledge about Japan." I said, "Yes, that's true." She asked, "So, since you the time you sent in your application, what have you done to broaden your knowledge and/or experience?" I was able to say, "I went to Japan!" The interview was all down hill after that. (Down hill meaning "easy," not "bad.")

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    I got a similar question.

    I answered it by saying that I have a lot of international experience but I'm not a Japan geek who is going over there to teach them about their own country.


    They interestingly enough seemed to like that answer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SavageBob
    OP: You were rejected at the application stage, right? The apps are apparently marked on a point scale, but the graders are rumored to be very hard on folks who, say, make minor spelling errors or forget to put a period at the end of each sentence.
    Naw, I wasn't even that lucky to be dismissed on grammar. I was one of the idiots who skipped a signature blank on the application. (There's a link in the original post if you are really curious)

    One thing that I am worrying about is international experience. I've never had the means to travel. At all.

    However, the area where I grew up was extremely integrated (caucasians were a minority) and I had friends in high school from over 50 different countries. My girlfriend of 2+ years is an exchange student from Bosnia, and I've been to/volunteered at a few picnics organized by the International Student Organization at my school. My most recent dorm-mate had just moved to the US from Turkey.

    I have a ton of international exposure, but no travel experience. It is going to be a challenge to dress that up for the applicaiton.

    And, there's no danger of trying to be a perfect applicant. I work 60 hours/week between two jobs and there are not enough hours in the day to put in that sort of effort. :P

    -Galen

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    my advice for those applying for the 2007 JET year? go away and come back in september, enjoy the summer and remember JET isn' t the only way to get to Japan and it isn't the be all and end all of life!
    "could you use a slave, you hairy bunch of Ishmolites?"
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    Default Re: (Re)Applying for 2007 through Atlanta - Advice?

    I had a similar situation as you actually. I applied for JET initially in 2003 (for 2004) before I graduated, and didn't even get an interview. So, I graduated, but there are/were ZERO CompSci (w00t) jobs where I live so I was really screwed! lol I didn't even apply the next year, and *eventually* found a decent job at NASA. It doesn't pay what I should be making, but nothing does here. Well, I applied for this year, got an interview, and was shortlisted. Just like that.. totally blew me away! Even got where I requested for placement!

    As for what you should do.. I think that being able to prove an ongoing interest in Japan helps a lot. There weren't any Japanese classes at my Uni by the time I could have attended, so I had to do everything solo. Talked to anyone I could, joined the Japan-America society for my state, self-studied, read books (Tale of Genji.. bleh!) etc. I think language prep might help you personally, but not necessarily your chances for JET.

    I interviewed in New Orleans, so not Atlanta but I hear they're similar. I overprepared SO much it wasn't even funny. It was just like a relaxed conversation asking me "why Japan" basically. Really great. My only teaching experience was tutoring, both school aged kids and peer.

    I also improved my application a LOT with the help from teh intarweb, and my coordinator. I figured out what I did wrong and fixed it. I'm sure that helped.

    So, if you really wanna go I think it's completely possible! I had an even harder time because I'm bringing my non-JET wife. But they found a place that wanted us, lol. I'm ditching NASA and moving to Hokkaido years after I thought it was no longer possible.

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    If you could somehow take a 2-3 week vacation by yourself to Japan that would be great. I've heard that people who talk about that in their SOP often have their interview questions geared toward their trip, which will naturally be better than the following questions, which I actually got:

    -(from the Japanese guy) What do you think of Japanese people
    -Do you know if any Japanese have won the nobel prize in literature (he didn't know himself)
    -Do you know who (blah blah Japanese Name said quickly) is?


    These questions killed me, perhaps that's why I was originally an alternative. I think I also tried too hard to sound knowledgeable when I should have been enthusiastic.

    Anyway, back to my point about taking the vacation, it will kill several birds with one stone. It will show your ability to survive in Japan without language skills, your interest in Japan, and your experience traveling to other countries. If you could do that, and then, I dunno, maybe tutor a kid once a week (maybe in English) and take language lessons on the side (maybe adult classes once a week?), you will rack up some of the points necessary to get past the physical application. Aside from that, cram your meticulously edited SOP with an enthusiastic account of your trip to Japan if you've taken it, or why you'll be a great ambassador to Japan if you haven't, and you should get an interview. From then on its up to you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Galen
    PS- Wicket, what subject(s) do you teach, and at what grade level?
    I teach Year 9 English, Year 10 Japanese, Year 11 English and Year 12 Philosophy. That's this year, but I've taught Years 7-12 English, Years 11 and 12 Literature, Year 9 Drama, Year 7 Racquet Sports, Years 7-10 Japanese, Years 7-10 Social Studies and Years 11-12 Philosophy. I originally qualified to teach English, Philosophy, Junior Social Studies and Politics, but over the years I've added a few other subjects. The racquet sport thing was because they were desperate!
    P.S. Year 7 is what would be junior high ichi-nen-sei in Japan; Year 12 would be senior high san-nen-sei.
    Why did you want to know?

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