The JET Program: Getting Paid to Live, Study and Travel in Japan
By Richard Strager, department of foreign languages
Are you willing to relocate? About ten years ago, I was given a plane ticket to Japan, set up in a roomy $80-a-month apartment, and paid the equivalent of $3,000 a month (tax free) to be an assistant English teacher in a Japanese junior high school. Imagine my luck in getting paid all that money to learn how to teach English, to study the Japanese language, and to have an amazing intercultural experience. Well, it wasn’t luck at all! I merely applied and was accepted into the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (or JET Program, for short).
For the past 25 years, the Japanese government has been hiring thousands of American college graduates annually to be assistant English teachers in their public schools. No prior teaching experience is required. The only prerequisites for applying are a bachelor’s degree and a demonstrable interest in Japan. There is no requirement to know the Japanese language in advance, but you should be willing to take a stab at learning it while you are there.
You need to be willing to make a minimum one- year commitment, and your contract may be renewed on a year-to-year basis for up to a total of 5 years. I stayed three years, but I have a friend who is still living there all these years later, having developed enough facility with the language to have a successful broadcasting career over there. My Japanese never got past the casual conversation level, but that was enough to satisfy most of my basic daily needs.
The JET Program annual application deadline is in the beginning of December, while the teaching contract begins in July or August. There are similar programs in other Asian countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, and China. Some European countries offer interesting opportunities to teach English abroad as well.
You may end up teaching in high school, junior high school or elementary school. You may be placed in a very urban or very rural area. You may end up staying one year, three years or longer. But, you are guaranteed to have an invaluable, fun, and unforgettable experience with a chance to make life-long friends and perhaps learn some skills that will translate into a future job abroad or back here in the US. That is certainly what happened for me.
For further information about the JET program, visit their website: www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/JET/ .
Professor Richard Strager has been a lecturer in Italian, Spanish and English as a Second Language at Salem State University since 2007.