JET is a Japanese government program that places English speaking foreigners in public schools throughout Japan, primarily in rural and suburban areas. The purpose of the program encompasses cultural exchange along with language instruction. The department that sponsors JET wants to expose ordinary Japanese citizens to foreigners while also encouraging foreigners to learn first-hand about Japanese culture.
Since actual teaching is only part of the job description, you don’t need teaching experience or certification to qualify for JET. You don’t need to speak any Japanese either. Indeed, for recent college graduates who find themselves with dim job prospects, student loans and a semi-useless liberal arts degree, JET can be an absolute lifesaver.
How To Apply
You must apply for JET in your home country. The first step is a paper application. If you don’t screw that up, you’ll be scheduled for an interview at the nearest Japanese consulate.
Dress as well as you can for the interview. You should look and act like a young Republican. Come prepared to demonstrate three things: emotional stability, an interest in learning about Japan and basic teaching ability. Be sure to have a 5 minute lesson plan ready to deliver.
If all goes well, you’ll get a letter of acceptance followed by a specific assignment to a school system somewhere in Japan.
Payment and Responsibilities
JET pays well, especially when the yen is strong against the dollar. You’ll make the equivalent of about $35,000 per year. Rent is often free or subsidized, and since most JET placements are in the countryside, your overall cost of living will be quite low.
Job responsibilities vary, but are rarely more demanding than 25 hours of team-taught lessons per week. Your main job is to be a good guest – show up on time, be appreciative and stay out of trouble. For ambitious personalities JET can be boring, but if you just want to enjoy Japan with lots of free time and minimal responsibilities, it’s absolutely perfect. The Japanese are warm, welcoming and generous to foreigners.
JET requires a one-year contractual commitment, with the option to re-contract for one or two additional years. Many JET participants use the money to pay off student loans or travel in other parts of Asia; some fall in love with either Japan or a Japanese person and stay on. Some people can’t take the culture shock, waste the year drinking and then hightail it back home.
JET won’t be the best job you ever have, or a life-long career, but for young people who want to make some money and experience a foreign culture, it’s a great opportunity.
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