Friday, June 19, 2009

So It Begins...

So, since the crazy post below, a few things have happened. I received my initial placement in Japan, a further placement in Japan, and I decided to make this blog a real blog. Well, we shall se about that last point, anyway.

I suppose it would be appropriate to provide a bit of an introduction to exactly what is going on here. I may not know what's going on myself, but at least we can all be on the same page. There is a program I discovered while I was in grad school that sends people to Japan to help teach English in the public schools - the JET Programme. It sounded like a good program, so I kept it in the back of my mind. Well, as I neared the end of grad school, it became time to start thinking about where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do after graduation. I knew I wanted to go overseas for a while, but I wasn't sure exactly where. JET's application season is very early, so I decided to go ahead and initiate the application process. I wasn't sure exactly how good my chances were, as many people apply for this program every year. Since I wouldn't know unless I tried, I decided to go for it. So, last November, I sent off a pound of application materials to the Japanese Embassy in Washington, DC. Then, I waited. We were informed that we wouldn't hear whether or not we were accepted for an interview (the next stage in the process) until late January at the earliest. So, life went on for a while, as it tends to do. Thanksgiving came (and with it a visit from my sister and very handsome nephew), I graduated in December, Christmas came and went, the new year began, I started teaching a college class, things were busy as they always are at my full-time job, and I continued to wait. Finally, it was late January. After what seemed like an eternity, interview results were posted in a big PDF file on the embassy website. I opened the file, and there were pages and pages of ID numbers. I began scrolling to try to locate my ID number. The closer and closer I got, the more nervous I felt. What if it's not there? I found my page and row. There was my number! But was it really my number? I checked my paper with my number, and sure enough, it was! Bliss!!

Having passed the first stage of the application process, it was now time to prepare for The Interview. I had less than a month to get ready for the interview, as my interview was scheduled for February 26 in Nashville. Around this time, I began to discover the huge online JET community. People from all over the world were talking online about the program, the application process, and - most importantly - what they were wearing to the interviews.

Finally, it was time for the interview. I headed to Nashville with my roommate, who was going for moral support. It took us 4 hours longer to drive to Nashville than it took us to drive back, but that is a story for another day. We finally arrived in Nashville quite late the night before the interview. I promptly drove the wrong direction and got lost. Eventually, we found the hotel, parked in the unloading zone, and went in to check in. I was so happy to finally be at the hotel. We went out to take the car to the parking garage, which was about 10 feet behind where we parked to unload. We circled the block, but when we got back to where the hotel should have been, it had disappeared! We were lost for probably another 20 minutes! This is exactly why I wanted to arrive the night before the interview. The next day, I put on my brand new black suit (my first official black suit), twisted my hair up in a bun, put on my tastefully minimalistic earrings (no big hoops that day), and my subdued makeup. I was ready. Now, to wait. I had no idea what questions I would be asked in the interview, so I tried to review some questions that I thought would be most likely. I walked across the street to the consulate, trying to at least look poised. I checked in, and it was time to wait again. I chatted with some of the other interviewees and was quite happy to see that I pretty much looked like everybody else. The interview itself seemed to be pretty short. I felt like it was decent - I am pretty sure that I gave only one really stupid answer (which will not be disclosed here). After the interview, my roommate and I walked to what we thought was a nearby restaraunt, had a great meal, and then it was time to leave Nashville.

Well, now it was time to wait again. U.S. results were supposed to be released in early April - which seemed like an eternity to wait. March marched on, bringing a visit from my mom's sister, brother, and brother's wife, which was a great time. I kept hoping for a miracle of early results, but alas, it was not to be. The online community was a great support during this time - it was so nice to know others were waiting, too. Finally, it was early April, and I was READY! Each day, we would all wait for results, and each day we were disappointed. Well, eventually, people started reporting that they were receiving their results! FINALLY!! There were three possible outcomes - people could be shortlisted (basically, accepted), alternates (you could get chosen if enough people dropped out), or rejected (sorry, please play again). I eagerly anticipated the arrival of an email - but there wasn't one. HEY! No one from Nashville had received anything. I waited for what seemed like a month (but was in reality about 2-3 days). from the online community, I had learned about creating an email filter that would text you when you received an email with your results. The day before Good Friday, I was working and heard the sound I'd been waiting days for - the sound of a text message. I peeked at my phone and saw it was my email from JET. By this point, I wasn't sure if I wanted to know my result or not! Tons of people had reported online that they were alternates, and if that was my fate, I wasn't sure that I wanted to know. I continued working and decided to look on my lunch break. I had to run an errand on my break, so I decided to check after the errand. The walk back into the building where I work seemed to take forever that day. Each step felt like it was taking me closer to bad news. I opened my email, and there was a huge, delightful, surprise! I was shortlisted! I was ecstatic! I wasn't ready to start telling people, because I wanted to tell my family first, so I went into the bathroom because I couldn't contain my smile. No one was in any of the stalls, so I broke out in a happy dance. My family members were so excited when they found out the results, as they had been waiting on pins and needles with me. It was then time to complete reams more paperwork and wait for placement somewhere in Japan. It would be the end of May at the earliest before we would know, which meant more waiting. It was so awesome to know that I was in the program, though!

I'm going to stop here, because this post is much longer than I intended for it to be. Imagine that you are waiting for assignment to a new land, not knowing where you will be going. I will try to post again soon so you don't have to wait too long!