So word on the web is that JET Placement Results have been unleashed to the world. It`s all so exciting! Last year, my impending move to Japan finally sank in when I received the email saying that I was headed to Kagoshima-ken. I was excited to be headed south to a place with friendly people, a subtropical climate, and a notorious active volcano, but at the same time I agonized over learning my exact placement. As a prefectural ALT, I had to be patient for another month before I learned exactly where I was being sent. Kagoshima is huge and I could have ended up anywhere…even on an island, har har.
If the email from your consulate only mentions the name of the prefecture (ken), then you are like me, a Prefectural ALT. And you will likely be working primarily at a senior high school. I love being prefectural, because I was placed at only one school so I get to go to the same place every day and bond with the same students and teachers. But the grass is always greener as they say. Sometimes I envy my other prefectural friends who visit another island every month, and also my municipal ALT friends because they get to hop around from school to school and hang out with little Japanese munchkins. But I wouldn’t trade my placement for anything.
So! If you are eagerly awaiting to hear from your specific Board of Education (BoE) and/or predecessor (the ALT you will be replacing), here are a few things you can do in the meantime: (This information can apply to city/municipal ALTs who have already been contacted by their BoEs though too!)
- Join your prefecture and your block`s Facebook group and introduce yourself! You can easily find your block and prefectural-specific Facebook group on the AJET Blocks page here. On that note, I am very pleased to see how welcoming my fellow Kagoshima senpais have been to the new crop of ALTs who have already posted in our Facebook group. Because when I joined last year, the first post I saw was a joke about welcoming newbies to Kagoshima by sacrificing us to the volcano.
- If you are coming from America and haven`t done so already, submit the paperwork for your IRS Form 8802 so you don`t have to pay U.S. taxes on the money you make in Japan for the first two years you are on JET (Yay, tax treaties!) I didn`t get my copies in the mail until a couple weeks before my departure even though I requested them in the beginning of May! (Yes, I bombarded the IRS with phone calls by the time it was July.) But I promise you it`s not the end of the world if they don`t arrive on time. A relative or friend from back home can send your copies to you in Japan.
- Apply for your criminal background check. I had to resubmit my form about a month before I left for Japan because my credit card had been compromised and I received a replacement from Bank of America, so my payment was rejected and they sent my request to the bottom of the pile again. Harumph. But the Boston consulate allowed me to supplement a state background check as a place holder until my federal one was cleared. So again, it`s not the end of the world if it doesn`t go through before your departure date.
- Get your International Driver`s Permit. I did mine at AAA the week I was leaving actually. It cost only $15 and I didn`t have to do anything for it other than smile for a picture. I was even able to choose the date I wanted my IDP to take effect. (It is only good for one year.) You may not be required to drive for work, but it is still nice to have if you ever want to rent a car for a road trip! (As for me, I am so happy I got my IDP so I can have a car and drive it to every hidden corner of my island.)
- You don`t have to do this yet, but it might be helpful for you to start thinking about what you want to put in your introductory presentation to your students to teach them about you, your home country, and your culture. The month of September you will be introducing yourself to all of your classes. I wish I didn`t procrastinate this because at the last minute I was texting my mom and sister and asking them to take a few more pictures of downtown New Milford for me so I could show my students where I grew up. You don’t have to put too much thought into this now, it’s just something to think about.
- If you`re like me and don’t speak a lick of Japanese before moving to Japan, I recommend you get a running start and learn your Hiragana and Katakana characters. It will help you immensely and probably impress some of your JTEs. There are plenty of great apps out there that make it really easy for beginners. I used the free app for Human Japanese on my iPhone.
- Enjoy your last couple of months in your home country. Spend time with family and friends, eat your favorite foods, pet your dog or cat a bunch, and go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go back home but never got around to it before. (For me, I finally went to Montauk out on Long Island.) The time you have left at home will go by so quickly and before you know it, you’ll be on a plane to Tokyo!
And lastly…this is the one thing I wish I did before moving to Japan.
- If it`s your first time moving to a foreign country like it was mine, try not to stress out too much. Everything I could possibly worry about, I worried about to the tenth degree (forms, banking, clothes, shoes, omiyage, speaking Japanese, driving, making friends…the list goes on.) But I still made it to Tokyo for orientation and made friends immediately and then everything fell into place from there. So I can share with you from experience that there is very little you can control at this point, so just go with the flow. So many people are in the same New JET Boat with you. Everything will work out the way its supposed to. CLAIR takes great care of their people, and I truly believe the JET Program is one of the best stepping stones into a Life Abroad.
Feel free to leave any questions in a comment!