All depends on the luck of the draw

Benefits: 4
Support: 5
Fun: 4
Facilities: 5
Safety: 5

One phrase you will hear countless times; and very quickly learn to hate, whilst applying for and working on the JET programme, is ESID (Every Situation Is Different). I didn't truly appreciate the appropriateness of this phrase until I started my work as an ALT here in Japan. This variety in what your JET experience might include makes a general review somewhat difficult, although I will do my best to give a balanced account of my experience so far! However, I hope that from this review you'll get an idea of why that phrase constantly rings true!

I work in Niigata prefecture in what I would call a small city on the coast, with a population of around 200,000. I am employed by the local BoE (Board of Education) to work at two local Junior High Schools as well as two Elementary Schools. This is a fairly standard set up for the ALTs working in my area, although some have as few as two schools and others as many as eight, so it really is ESID (told you). At my Junior High Schools I typically have three lessons in one day and will be expected to run the majority of those lessons, but at my Elementary Schools I will have a much busier day, sometimes a full six lessons, although on the flip side I am given complete lesson plans and materials and effectively just follow the script. This is something that is so dependent on your situation, as I live next to ALTs that have the exact opposite teaching experiences!

Housing situation is also varied in my area, but most ALTs live in accommodation owned by the BoE. This tends to be fairly far out from the city centre, and the houses are also on the old side, but we pay a lot less than others and get more space than those in the centre, so overall I'm happy with it. I got fairly lucky in that my longest commute is a mere fifteen minutes, but others have to content with upwards of an hour, which can easily become two once the winter sets in.

I came to Japan with almost no Japanese language ability and although I have definitely improved, I have been surprised by how easy it has been for me to get by with the little that I do know. A lot of this is down to the fact that the majority of my JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) have sufficient English that we can communicate without much trouble (WARNING - this is by no means always the case!) and that I am fortunate enough to live in a city with a very large number of other ALTs relatively close by. In total there are nineteen ALTs employed by the local BoE, and a further four (I believe) employed by the prefectural office (they work in the Senior High Schools) and even a handful of other private ALTs. Because we all have cars, that means nobody is further than forty five minutes from anyone else or the centre of town, and as a result, I spend the majority of my free time socialising with the other local ALTs. This has been a fantastic source of support for me during my time in Japan, and is something that I am incredibly grateful for. However, it has definitely given me a very different experience on the JET programme to what many might have that live more rurally or further away from other ALTs. I am sure that for me, had I not had this support I would not be staying a second year, but for others, this constant contact with other English speakers may well be a turn off, as plenty of people come to Japan wanting to meet Japanese people and get immersed in that culture, something which I am yet to truly achieve.

Overall, I am really enjoying my time on the JET programme and it is something that is full of possibilities to try new things, see some amazing places and of course meet some brilliant people. Although it is definitely a risky application to make, because you really won't know until last minute what exactly it is that you've signed up for, I would still very much recommend this to people who are interested. You get paid well, have a relatively easy job (shush, don't tell anyone) and get to enjoy some fantastic new experiences that you won't soon forget.

Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would