14/12/2016. A normal day like any other. I had a day off work for a little pre-Christmas holiday and I was in Leeds to meet some friends for lunch. After getting totally lost, we managed to find each other in a Pret, and had sat down with our sandwiches. After a while I checked my phone and noticed an email notification had come in. I quickly checked it expecting my normal spam from Booking.com or Fat Face, but instead I read:
“Dear Ms Jenifer Vosper
It is our pleasure to invite you to interview for the position of Assistant Language Teacher on the 2017 Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme.”
I think I froze, then shrieked a bit. Luckily I had some friends to tell immediately as I felt like I was going to burst with the news. I read the email about ten times, made sure I replied and started thinking about how I was going to get to London for the interview.
11/01/2016. The Day of the Interview
I’d got the train down to London the night before because I don’t trust the transport system in the country not to go to shit when I need it most! I stayed in a little hotel near Paddington station because it was the closest and cheapest I could find to the Embassy. My interview wasn’t until the afternoon so I had most of the day to entertain myself in London.
I decided that since I was training for a marathon, the first thing I would do that morning was run 14 miles around Hyde Park. This was kind of a good idea in that it stopped my brain from churning over potential interview questions and it gave me an outlet for my nervous energy. On the flip side, running 14 miles is quite a lot. I got back in good time to shower and check out the hotel, but I was already pretty tired by the time I left the hotel and I still had a few hours to kill. Luckily it wasn’t raining, so I went back to Hyde Park and explored a bit. I had a meal in the Italian Gardens Cafe on the north side of the park which was really nice, and people watched (dog watched!) a bit.
I then walked down to Buckingham Palace (finding the Embassy on the way) and then sat in a little cafe until about half an hour before my interview. I made sure I was still looking presentable in the cafe bathroom, then headed over to the Embassy.
At the Embassy I handed over my print out of the interview email and my passport and had my overnight bag scanned by the security team who were really nice.
I then checked in at reception and was ushered to the left through some glass doors into a large room which looked very odd with only two sofas and a table in it. I imagine they normally use this room for receptions and things which is why it didn’t have any furniture in it other than the sofas and the huge chandeliers!
I was still early so I expected to wait, but it wasn’t long before I was joined by another girl who had an interview and we were then gathered up and escorted upstairs. Our escorts were JET alumni who did their best to make us feel at ease but I definitely felt too on edge to do anything other than make polite conversation. We were led into a side room and given a short test of our English skills. It..wasn’t hard. Easy spelling mistakes and the odd bit of grammar to correct. We then had the opportunity to chat with our escorts before we were led to our interview rooms to wait.
The interviewee before me came out and the escorts asked her how she thought she’d done. She sort of had a look of shell shock so I wasn’t feeling too great about the process by the time I was called in.
My interviewers were two ladies, an English lady and a Japanese lady. They were very friendly and tried really hard to put me at ease which I appreciated. I didn’t get any unexpected questions really, things like “What do you like most about Japan?” and “Why do you want to do JET?” were questions I already had answers too. I got myself in a bit of a knot when asked what my favourite British value was.. I came back with “Integrity” but then I decided that was probably a global value and cue a waffling speech about integrity… if anything I guess it showed I have a large vocabulary!
There was one question which they apologised for before they said it, saying that it was quite personal. I braced myself for something horrific, but really they were just commenting on my hair. At the time I had half brown, half pink dip dye and I knew they were probably going to say something about it. They asked how I would feel if a headteacher at a school told me it was inappropriate to have. I told them I was intending to get it cut off before going anyway and that seemed to satisfy them. I miss my pink hair but it’s not worth the stress of being judged or even just thinking you’re being judged when you start a new job in a different country.
My favourite question was probably “How will you find getting up in the morning for work everyday? Will you struggle?”. I pointed out I’ve managed it for 6 years in this country and they sort of laughed.
We finished with a short Japanese conversation. I put that I’d been studying it and at this point I do confess that I sort of panicked. I think my day wandering (and running) around London had caught up to me and my brain was exhausted. We got through a few phrases about food before I bailed out with a “Sumimasen, wakarimasen…” At least I apologised in Japanese!
I left the room and tried not to burst into tears in front of the escorts from relief that it was over! I thought I’d done the best I could but I wasn’t confident in the result. At the very least, I told myself it was good interview practice. I made my way back to Kings Cross (I WALKED THE ENTIRE WAY WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME). I had a huge meal at the Italian place in Kings Cross along with a large G&T before getting the train back to the North.
All that was left to do was wait for the results….