Don't try to change your environment too much.
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.
Make a lot of Japanese friends.
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.
Travel inside Japan AND somewhere in Asia.
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.
Learn the language.
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.
Attend cultural events.
in Japan, you'll have the opportunity to see
cultural festivals or rituals. In most countries that
JETs come from, there is nothing remotely like these events.
Buy a digital camera.
a digital camera and keep it with you all the time. You
never know when a photo op will present itself.
Start a webpage.
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.
Buy a desktop PC in Japan.
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.
Pick up a new sport or activity.
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.
Start a club.
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.
Keep a daily class journal.
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.
Network and share.
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.
Subscribe to JET-L.
largest and most helpful JET email list. Every JET should
be on it.
Don't lose touch with your old friends or yourself.
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.
Just be yourself.
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.