Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) Testimonials
■ Job Type: ALT ■ Prefecture: Niigata ■ Years on Programme: 2021–Present
Sometime in the summer of 2014, I landed my first job. There, I had the chance to work with one funny old man who, at a rare moment when his traits only showed seriousness, told me he was certain I would become a teacher someday. I laughed. There was simply no way. Fast forward almost a decade…
Joke is on me now, is it?
I am still at a loss whether I want to become a certified teacher once I head back to Canada. Even so, briefly turning into the person (rightfully) staring towards the back of the class is infinitely edifying. Past the first year, you get to follow your students’ English journey from beginning to end. You see them grow (and sometimes, amusingly outgrow their uniforms) at lightning speed.
What is the most bizarre thing about all of this? You get to do the exact same thing (except, maybe, the uniform part), at the exact same time. Coming to Japan might make you an educator, but it most notably makes you a student.
Breathe in, breathe out, and come enjoy being both side of the medal! I certainly do not regret it.
■ Job Type: ALT ■ Prefecture: Kochi ■ Years on Programme: 2021–2023
Due to the coronavirus, the 2020 JET Programme faced multiple delays. My dream of becoming a JET was within reach, but I couldn’t grasp it. I put my life on hold for a year. Then there were even more delays. I was disheartened.
But one day I received an email from Kuroshio, my Japanese town. It said, “We’re sorry to hear about another delay, but we will wait for you, forever.” After reading that, I was filled with immense courage. I was inspired by their kindness. I had to keep pushing forward, because if Kuroshio would wait for me forever, I would wait for them too. Forever.
As it turns out, forever wasn’t necessary. I made my way to Japan in 2021. The people in Kochi prefecture, especially Kuroshio, proved to be impossibly welcoming, kind, and dedicated, and I’ve tried to instill those qualities in myself.
This is not to say life in Japan is easy. Moving and living in a new country is like learning to be an adult all over again. To start, even mundane things like cooking or washing clothes can be a challenge. But there is a powerful sense of accomplishment that comes with conquering these challenges, and I built confidence and trust in myself. On my first day in Japan, I struggled to cook breakfast. Half a year later I climbed Mt. Fuji.
There are still many things I fear in Japan, and many challenges I must overcome. But Japan has molded me into a man who can climb mountains, and I’m happy, because I’m not running out of mountains anytime soon.
■ Job Type: ALT ■ Prefecture: Akita ■ Years on Programme: 2018–2023
Making the decision to join the JET Program wasn’t an easy one. It involved taking a huge pay cut from my previous teaching job in Singapore and giving up many precious things back home, such as my family and friends. The JET program started out as a challenge I posed to myself to grow as much as I possibly could in 2 years. However, in the end it became a 5-year long journey that is hard to find suitable words to describe.
Personally, I think the best way to experience Japanese culture is to learn it from the locals. From my interactions with my students and teachers, to the local folks that I have gotten the chance to know personally, I have learned so much about Japan from its people in these 5 years. They taught me the meaning of “一期一会” (ichigo ichie), the belief that an encounter only happens once in a lifetime. I really love this Japanese proverb a lot. It reminds me that the meetings we have in life will never be repeated in the exact same manner, and that one should treasure each of these moments.
If I could express my whole experience here in Japan in one word, it would be “一期一会” (ichigo ichie). This has helped me to make the best out of each moment with the people here. The best part of my JET experience is that I was able to develop strong relationships with the local folks here, and they have become like my family. The many heart-warming moments and memories I have shared with the locals made Japan so special to me.
Leaving my comfort zone to embark on a journey of self-growth and discovery wasn’t easy, but I have absolutely no regrets in giving up on everything just to be on the JET Programme. It is through the JET Programme that I got the privilege to learn so much more about myself, and to have so many beautiful once-in-a-lifetime experiences. You may be surprised at how special your experience on the JET Programme can be if you find your own community, and make a deliberate effort to be out there amongst the locals. This will be a once in a lifetime experience.
■ Job Type: ALT ■ Prefecture: Shiga ■ Years on Programme: 2022–Present
While I haven’t been here for long, I can already confidently say that the JET Program has helped me to find a home in Japan that I never knew existed. Going from studying abroad in Tokyo to living in the countryside in Shiga was something I was extremely nervous for. I knew I was going to stand out, especially after finding out that I would be the only ALT at the largest Junior Highschool in my area. However, when I got to Japan, I found that those nervous feelings were for nothing.
Never in my life would I have expected to be so welcomed by this wonderful, tight-knit community in Shiga. From the moment I got here I have been welcomed by my fellow teachers and students. They go out of their way to take me out to events, show me around the area, and make me feel welcomed. What I thought would only last for the first few weeks has continued in my past four months here, my co-workers always inviting me out and excited to show me more of the place they call home. I can already truly say I’ve found a second home with these people in the countryside of Shiga Prefecture, a family I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon!
■ Job Type: ALT & CIR ■ Prefecture: Yamaguchi ■ Years on Programme: 2019–Present
I first heard of the JET Programme when I was in high school, and I knew it was something I wanted to do. Then while I was interning for the Japan America Society of Minnesota in college, the program was recommended to me, and I started to look into the requirements. I majored in Japanese, but because I wanted to work with children, I decided to become an ALT.
I was placed in Yamaguchi Prefecture and I worked as an Elementary School ALT for three years. It was so rewarding to be some students’ first exposure to a foreign culture, and to teach them about my native language. But our interactions didn’t stop in the classroom. I played with them during recess, ate with them during lunch, and even joined in the brass band as a special guest at the end-of-the year concert. It was an incredible experience; I learned so much, not just about Japan, but about America, and about myself.
After a couple years, I started to think about my life after JET. I wanted experience in translation and interpretation, but didn’t want to leave the JET Programme or the prefecture that I’d come to know and love. I decided to request a transfer to the CIR position at the Yamaguchi Prefectural Office, which was accepted. Now I’m taking on new challenges, such as interpreting for the governor, translating tourism documents, and teaching people all around the prefecture about myself and my country.
The JET Programme has been an influential part of my life, and I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to participate in it.
■ Job Type: ALT ■ Prefecture: Chiba ■ Years on Programme: 2018–2023
Being a teacher on the JET Program has taught me to appreciate the simple pleasures in life. After arriving in Japan, I noticed that each town has something special their communities take great pride in. Children I taught in my town were fortunate to have a garden right outside their school. For every season, there would be something new growing! I was contracted in a town who’s community was particularly well-known for their pears. Some of the children participated in agricultural activities at school — giving them the chance to harvest their very own batch!
■ Job Type: ALT ■ Prefecture: Gunma ■ Years on Programme: 2017–2022
I applied for JET with the intent to stay in Japan after the program ended, so I already had some language study and travel goals in mind when I arrived at my placement. That same year the Principal gave a speech during the annual winter assembly where he chose a theme for the upcoming new year. That became the year of chōsen (挑戦), or challenge. He encouraged us to find new ways to challenge ourselves, and to keep an open mind to new experiences as opportunities arose.
His speech ignited a spark that I hadn’t even realized I had, one that would lead me onto some of the best adventures of my adult life. I picked up new hobbies, I said yes to just about every event I could, and the connections I made directly contributed to my successful job hunt post-JET. Throughout it all I feel like I really came out of my shell, and will always treasure the memories I made while on the program.
■ Job Type: ALT ■ Prefecture: Chiba ■ Years on Programme: 2008–2010
When I joined the JET Programme, I was obviously scared of pretty much everything. Going to an unknown country, changing lives, deciding to quit everything in my home country, and starting a brand new job were quite overwhelming.
This is why I was extremely relieved when I first met my supervisor, the vice-principal of the high school I was appointed to, and of course the students. They were all so nice, kind and understanding to me.
In a nutshell, I can say that the JET Programme allowed me to have what was probably the best experience in my whole life. I would have never thought that going somewhere unknown could be so fulfilling and satisfying.
Professionally speaking, my experience on the JET Programme as a French ALT teaching both French and English was the best way for me to find something that was best suited for me: teaching in Japan. Even if it was my first real work experience, everything went right from the very first day until the end of my tenure. Even now, I cannot even think of one thing that went wrong during those years. Not to mention that my colleagues at that time trusted me and gave me many responsibilities in the classroom. I loved it.
Psychologically speaking, it was a fantastic opportunity to be able to discover a new country, meet new people, taste a myriad of new dishes, listen to music bands that I had never heard of, go to places I had never imagined, and live a life I would have never lived otherwise.
I have a different job today, but I still live in Japan. This is definitely thanks to the JET Programme. Indeed, I still see some of my former students (who are in university now), and I cherish all the memories that I have made with them. I truly recommend the JET Programme to those who want to have a wonderful experience teaching in Japan.
■ Job Type: ALT ■ Prefecture: Mie ■ Years on Programme: 2006–2008
The decision to come onto the JET Programme was not an easy one, being just one and a half years into marriage. But I am grateful to my husband for his support of me adding a new chapter in my life.
Coming from a big cosmopolitan city, adjusting to the countryside was a challenge for me. The support from my teachers and the warmth of the kids has made my stay memorable. I am the first non-“Westerner” JET participant in my area, and am often asked how long I have stayed in America, for I can speak ‘good’ English.
It took me a while to explain that India is, officially, an English speaking country. Since I am placed in countryside, not many kids in my area are exposed to the outside world. I was told by one of my teachers that there are kids who have never stepped outside their hometown, let alone visited a foreign country.
Therefore, I am seen as a link between the kids and the outside world. That is where I can fulfil the internationalisation part of my job. The teachers and kids are very eager to learn about Indian culture and cooking. And as for me, speaking Japanese came in very handy. I have a huge opportunity to learn about the Japanese culture and life as only a few of my colleagues / teachers speak English. Moreover, I can motivate the teachers and my students to speak English giving my example as a fellow Asian.
■ Job Type: ALT ■ Prefecture: Yamagata ■ Years on Programme: 2004–2007
When I came to my rural town in Yamagata Prefecture through the JET Programme in July 2004, I thought that the only hat I would ever wear in Japan would be that of an English teacher. I never imagined that I would also become a pastry chef, Santa, an elderly care provider, a magician, a musician, a rice farmer, or a samurai.
Through the kindness of the people of Yamagata, I have got to experience more in my two years of living in Japan than many Japanese people get to experience in a life time. This would have never been possible without the JET Programme.
Living in the Japanese countryside has indeed been challenging at times, but the rewards and friendships I have made here will stay with me forever. If you are ready for something different, I highly suggest the JET Programme.
■ Job Type: ALT ■ Prefecture: Toyama ■ Years on Programme: 2004–2007
The key to the JET Programme’s success is a ‘cycle of motivation’ that exists between ALTs, JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) and the students. When the teachers bring sincere energy, enthusiasm and amusement into the classroom, the students respond with a happy curiosity and interest (thus further motivating the teachers!). Because of this type of great relationship at my high school, I have discovered that the JET Programme is not ‘the work’ in my daily life, but is rather an experience that is so enjoyable that I wish it need not end every afternoon. If ever I forget this when life in a foreign country inevitably becomes challenging, I am soon reminded of how incredibly lucky I am to be here the moment I step into the classroom for the next team-teaching adventure.
■ Job Type: ALT ■ Prefecture: Nara ■ Years on Programme: 2002–2005
Like most people in their final year of university, I was thinking about the next step and wrestled with my prospects of life after graduation! Definitely a scary proposition, but I knew I wanted to go abroad. The problem was where, and more importantly in what capacity. That is when a friend of mine recommended the JET Programme.
With no previous Japanese ability and little to no practical knowledge, I braved the journey to Japan and the United Nationsesque Tokyo Orientation. After the Orientation I found myself mesmerized by the number of different countries involved in the JET Programme and stricken with a feeling to in some way help to “Internationalise” Japan. This all started in Nara Prefecture where I spent three fruitful years. I have some amazing memories and, am also proud to say, friends consisting of both teachers and students.
The JET Programme, of course, imparted onto me the cultural side of Japan, but more importantly showed me that no matter where the cultural setting is, be it Japan or anywhere else, no system is flawless. The responsibility lies on people within the system to make that system fit the people, rather than the other way around.
I initially sought travel, adventure, and a way to gain a clearer idea of who I was. If I have to boil my JET experience down, it provided me the opportunity to test my mettle and gain a better sense of who I am and how I fit into this increasingly globalised world. The JET Programme has been a good springboard!