As you may or may not know, this is the blog of an English teacher in Japan. I’m not with the JET Program, but with Interac instead. To give this post more credibility, I was accepted by JET in both 2014 and 2015, but chose
to go with Interac. (The blog post #1 on my to-do list is one that will explain my reasoning for doing so… I’ll post it eventually, I swear!)
The number one question I get about the JET Program is: what was your personal statement?
I tried to find my most recent personal statement for JET, but I think it’s gone forever… If I can find it, I’ll post that one up as well. Luckily, I found the one I submitted my first year applying, and I want to share it with you all in hopes that it’ll help someone applying. (My essays were generally the same for both years, with just a bit of wording or ideas changing.)
Before anything else, I would like to stress that this is my personal statement, and therefore tailored by me to fit my life experiences and personality. Please don’t just copy this, but instead use it as an opportunity to see an essay that can get you past the first round of the interview process.
Before starting, though, you should take a good look at the required criteria provided by JET each year and write to answer those questions. I’m not sure if the requirements change each year, but the requirements they gave were as followed:
- Relevant Experience: Describe applicable experiences, professional skills, relevant interests and personal qualities, and how you feel these will be useful to you as an ALT or CIR.
- Motivation for Participation: State why you wish to go to Japan and participate in the JET Program and why you are interested in the position for which you are applying. Also address what you hope to gain, both personally and professionally, and what effect you hope to have on the Japanese community and internationally as a result of your participation in the JET Program.
Growing up in Hawaii as half Japanese, half Caucasian certainly has provided me with an interesting outlook on both cultures. I grew up in a place saturated with Japanese influence: the food, local slang words, and even local customs. Even within my own household, my family retained and practiced many of the same customs my great-grandparents had brought over when they emigrated from Japan. But at the same time, I was an American who spoke English and primarily acted like an American.
My interest in Japan started before I was even aware of it, and by the time I was in elementary school, I started to delve into Japanese pop culture. I was still fascinated with my family’s origins, but also became fascinated in the contemporary Japanese culture. In high school, I took Japanese language courses in hopes that I could use them in Japan.
It was in college that I first learned about the JET Program. It was interesting, but not something that I could see myself doing. Instead, I focused on studying abroad in Japan in order to learn more about my roots. Eventually, I got enrolled for my junior year at Akita International University in Akita, Japan, and I went to Japan for the first time. It was like a dream come true for me, because it was something that I had wanted since elementary school.
But Akita wasn’t what I had expected. Always seeing Tokyo’s bright lights, tall buildings, and busy streets, I assumed most of Japan would be like that. Instead, I was greeted with rice fields. I am naturally open to new experiences, I can act independently, and I pick things up very quickly. Being in Akita was a testament to that: I adjusted with ease, and found that I enjoyed the rural lifestyle. I believe that my familiarity with Japan and its rural and urban cultures, as well as my ability to adapt easily would be great assets as an ALT. Moreover, I also have experience working with ALTs teaching English to students.
My interest in teaching started by accident while I was in Akita. Through the school’s Community Outreach Service program, I got the opportunity to interact with the local residents. I began participating in a lot of one-day teaching excursions to the local schools in the prefecture. On most occasions, we would be paired with an ALT and would assist in their English lessons. It was then that I began to see how important and rewarding it was to teach a foreign language. To watch students shake off the initial timid feelings and begin to speak with confidence and help deepen their understanding of foreign language and culture was such a worthwhile experience. It was then that I knew I wanted to teach English. I ended up participating in over twenty teaching assistant jobs; working with the students was something I really looked forward to.
My lessons with the children varied greatly. Sometimes it would be very learning-based and I would help them with grammar or vocabulary. Other times, it was very relaxed, and we would play games together or sing English songs. And sometimes it would be more of a cultural exchange, where I shared about American life and they would show me traditional Japanese activities like sado and shodo.
Being in a rural area like Akita, I noticed that there weren’t a lot of tutoring centers or chances to practice speaking with foreigners. I believe working with the JET Program will enable students to speak fluently, and help foster a lifelong interest in English and international affairs. While learning to speak while young is important, they need someone who is really passionate, and I feel that someone is me.
After my year abroad, I left Japan with a sense of purpose. I wanted to return and give back to the people and country that treated me with such hospitality. Today, speaking English is an important skill, and something I can freely offer the youth of Japan. When I was there, I was inspired when teaching and helping others, and I feel that the JET Program would be a perfect platform to actualize this.
I honestly hope this will be helpful for you. If you’re looking at this and getting ready to apply to JET, good luck! Just be confident in yourself and remember, it’s about selling yourself and proving you’ll be a good fit for their company requirements!