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Final Recommendations

You have a great number of opportunities open to you as a JET. You are living in a foreign country that is oozing with cultural traditions that go back more than a thousand years. Living and working in this country, you see many cultural nuances that the common tourist cannot possibly see.

And while you have a lot of opportunities available to you, there are some mistakes you can easily make. Below are some very strong recommendations for anyone going into the JET Program.

1. Don't try to change your environment too much.

Japan is a bizarre place. Many things they do just won’t make sense and while it’s true that a lot of the things we do (especially in education matters) are more efficient, you will not enjoy your stay if you make it your personal crusade to change Japan. Be free, but tactful, with your opinions. Don’t push. You won’t cause widespread educational or social reform. Be compliant and forgiving of odd Japanese eccentricities. There's a lot we can learn from Japan.

2. Make a lot of Japanese friends.

In the larger cities there will be a number of other JETs and other foreigners at local language schools. In a foreign and exclusive country like Japan it is only natural to seek out their company, and while that is good and can relieve stress, be careful not to close yourself off to opening up new friendships with your Japanese peers.

3. Travel inside Japan AND somewhere in Asia.

This is important. Use some of the money you were planning on hoarding or paying off your student debts with and take it traveling. There's a lot to see inside Japan and even more in the countries nearby. If you don't travel while you are there, you will always regret it.

4. Learn the language.

Take private courses or study independently just make sure you learn a good amount. Not only will it help you in adapting, but you'll feel more fulfilled coming off of the program knowing that you speak some of the language.

5. Attend cultural events.

Living in Japan, you'll have the opportunity to see or participate in Japanese cultural festivals or rituals. In most countries that JETs come from, there is nothing remotely like these events.

6. Buy a digital camera.

Buy a digital camera and keep it with you all the time. You never know when a photo op will present itself.

7. Start a webpage.

Online journals, blogs, or online galleries of photos can keep all your relatives and friends back home in the loop. Doing a webpage is not a difficult thing these days with so many tools to help novices. If you decide against a webpage, keep a paper journal. Years later you will treasure it.

8. Buy a desktop PC in Japan.

These days, the thought of having to buy a computer for Japan has JETs in a tissy. Just relax. Get a PC with a English operating system in Japan. It's about the same price as you would pay for a computer here and you'll have tech support for it. Shop or go online for a Gateway or a Dell.

9. Pick up a new sport or activity.

Japanese swordfighting (kendo), jujitsu, judo, aikido, calligraphy (shodo), Japanese flower arranging (ikebana), whatever! The sky's the limit. Having a new activity will add a new dimension to your visit and it's something you'll always carry with you.

10. Start a club.

At each of my four schools I started an English Club and at two of them, penpal clubs. It was not the easiest thing in the world to do, not having a Japanese teacher with me at all the meetings. But starting these clubs was one of the most rewarding and exciting things I did at school. During our weekly meetings we would have involved discussions, listened to and analyzed English songs, have scavenger hunts, play good ol’ fashioned American games… we had a lot of fun and I got to know the students much better.

11. Keep a daily class journal.

If you have a lot of classes, scribbling down a few notes after each class can keep your memory fresh about each class and prep you to what you can expect before you see them again.

12. Network and share.

It's a terrific stress reliever to get together with the other JETs and complain about work, but at the same time you should be sharing your "wins" and school lessons. Exchange worksheets, lesson plans, games, and solutions to problems. Schedule a time once a month with the JETs in your area to do this. Make "the JET Pow-wow" a regular thing.

13. Subscribe to JET-L.

The largest and most helpful JET email list. Every JET should be on it.

14. Don't lose touch with your old friends or yourself.

Keep in close contact with friends and relatives back home. It's true that you have a new life in Japan, but don't forget that you will someday return to wherever you came from.

15. Just be yourself.

Adapt, but don't assimilate. Offer opinions, but don't be arrogant. Be forgiving of Japanese idiosyncrasies, but don't be afraid to assert yourself. Don't ever be too afraid to make mistakes that you lose touch with or stop enjoying what you are doing.

Always remember that how you act wil reflect on your home country and to a certain extent all foreigners.

Being a JET should be a terrific experience. It's possible to have roadblocks with your supervisor, your JTEs, even other foreign English teachers, but if you’re not having fun as a JET, you’re doing something wrong.


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