JET: The Interview

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.

me
I miss my pink hair

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….

 

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JET: The Application

I’m going to start this blog in the past. The JET Programme starts with an application, and what a beast of an application it is. It’s quite complicated to get together and I am sure it acts as a preliminary sorting tool for applicants. After all, if you can’t follow the bureaucracy of this mammoth application, how will you survive in a foreign country by yourself!

The UK JET Programme website provides a really handy timeline of the application which I made sure to study religiously before applying. You can find it here. I had decided that I wanted to apply all the way back in April 2016, so I had plenty of time to make myself a timeline and work out when certain things needed to happen by. My advice for applying to JET is to start as early as possible. Not only do you reduce stress by getting things sorted, but if anything unexpected happens, you’ll be really prepared.

Onto the application itself. Within your application you actually have four applications – so be prepared to do an unholy amount of photocopying.

Application Form: Bureaucratic but do-able. You can’t do this before they open the application period but it’s fairly straightforward once they do. Just be prepared to sit down and get it done. Triple check your answers. Then check again.

Self-Assessed Medical Form: Easy enough provided you have no medical issues. I had a recent op which meant I had to get a statement of physician as well. From what I can tell, physical ailments are not normally a barrier to success so I wouldn’t worry about disclosing them. If you get to an interview and it’s an obvious issue they’ll find out then anyway.

Statement of Physician: Only needed if you’ve disclosed something on the self-assessment. Bye bye £120 for a doctor to take one look at me and say my knee still works. Seeing as how I’ve played rugby and run a 17 mile obstacle race since my op, I think I could have told him that. But it’s belt and braces to make sure it doesn’t look like you’re hiding anything.

Authorisation and Release Form: I honestly don’t even remember this. I think it was just a case of signing it?

Personal Statement: Probably the most important thing after getting the application form right. This is where you can show that you’re a person and not just someone who can tick boxes on a form. I started writing this months before the applications opened and had it printed and ready to go before the applications opened. Try to read the Key Points section on their website and answer these as concisely as you can while still coming across as someone with a personality. And for heaven’s sake remember to check the requirements for printing.

Academic Transcript: Easy. I ordered a new copy from my University for the grand total of £10. I then found another one lying around but oh well.. now I have a spare!

Proof of Degree: Easy (once I’d dug out my degree certificate). Might be harder if you’re a current student, but I imagine you could get this before October.

Passport Photo: Why do I always look like a psychopath in these? As per usual I lost any I might have had before, took new ones, then found the old ones…

Proof of Nationality: Easy if you have a passport. If you don’t…why on earth don’t you have a passport already when you want to move abroad? Get a passport now, then all you have to do is photocopy it.

References: You can get these way before. I happen to have a very nice and flexible work place so I actually got my manager and a director to write me my references. Both of them actually asked me to proof read them too which was reassuring as there is a very specific list of requirements they have to meet. Not everywhere will be so accommodating but if you can get them early, get them early. Particularly because they have to be copied in triplicate and signed over which is just mean to the referee if you ask me.

Extras: I had a TEFL cert so I had copies of that in there too.

 

Then once you’ve got it all together, everything gets photocopied a million times (4) then put into different bull dog clips, then into one MASSIVE envelope, then posted. For peace of mind I used recorded delivery and included a self-addressed envelope because I was paranoid about the postman losing it or dropping it in a puddle.

Then you can sit back, heave a sigh of relief and wait until late December/January to hear whether you’ve managed to get an interview!