Yesterday, I had my interview for the JET Program. The interview was held in the Allen Center in Houston, TX. Since my brother lives in Houston, I went down the night before and stayed with him. He also wanted to help me change the oil on my motorcycle, since he knows I’m horrible about maintaining my bike, so we could kill two birds with one stone.
My interview was in the morning at 10:40. They asked that, because of space constraints, we not arrive more than 25 minutes early. I didn’t know exactly where the Allen Center was, and I’m not that familar with downtown, so I left an hour ahead of my appointment. I figured, if I got there early, I could hang around downtown until my appointment. I had already printed out directions from Google Maps. So, I got on my best suit, and headed out about 9:30.
When I’m on my motorcycle, I tend to talk to myself, or sing. As I was going to the interview, I considered practicing the answers I intended to give, but I had already practiced those to death, and figured that would just make me more nervous. So instead, I decided to sing hymns to myself. This helped calm me a lot. Especially as I sang my favorite children’s hymn A Child’s Prayer. It also helped me from getting frustrated at the poor drivers on the road. (Seriously, do they teach in Houston Driver’s Ed that the turn signal is for initiating the car’s self-destruct sequence?) Anyway, I found the building and nearby parking really easily. As I expected, I was early. So I took the time to fix my hair (stupid helmet hair), make sure I looked dang good, and when it was 10:15, I headed up.
I had to wait a little while since I was early. They had a waiting room prepared for us. There were a couple other interviewees already there. They had a JET alumnus, who worked at the consulate, there as well to answer any questions we might have about the interview or the program. He was really helpful, and it was nice to have him there to explain exactly what was going to happen.
When it was my turn, another JET alumnus showed up to call me back. I was being interviewed by three people. The JET alum who brought me back, who was an American about my age, and two older Japanese gentlemen. One of them, who had a very thick accent and was a bit difficult to understand, looked about in his mid-40s, while the other looked to be in his mid- to late-50s.
They took turns asking questions. They would each ask a few, and then let someone else ask some more. The JET alum started, and he asked some of the basic questions I was expecting, like, why do I want to be an English teacher in Japan. For those questions I felt I was very prepared, but I ended up only saying a few of the many things I had prepared to say. I think part of the reason for that was that I had to adapt my answers to the specific way they were asking the questions, but part of it was just nerves making me forget some of the stuff I had practiced. Even so, I felt I answered most of those questions pretty well.
The oldest guy there had several questions that I wasn’t expecting at all. They knew that I’m Mormon, since I talked about serving a mission for the church in the application. I expected that they might ask some questions about my mission, but I wasn’t sure what. They didn’t ask any, but the older guy did ask a couple questions regarding religion. For example, he mentioned that, as I probably already knew (I did), Japan is not a Christian country, but is primarily Buddhist. He wanted to know how I, as a Christian, would cope with living in such an environment. I’m not entirely sure if the answer I gave was very good, but I talked about how a person’s religion doesn’t affect how I interact with them. I mentioned that I’ve had a Buddhist roommate in the past, and that never was a problem. After the interview was over, I realized I should have pointed out that while I am a Christian in a Christian nation, as a Mormon, I’m not unaccustomed to being in the minority, so that wouldn’t change that much.
He also mentioned that drinking is very common in Japan, and wondered how I would feel if I were expected to go out with my co-workers to have some drinks and go to karaoke. I think my answer was pretty good. I talked about having plenty of experience (in college) of going to partys where the primary activity was drinking, and that it was never a problem for anyone (myself or others) that while they were drinking beer, I was drinking soda, or water. I should have also mentioned that I love karaoke, so I would jump at the opportunity to go to karaoke with my co-workers. He also talked a bit about me being an ambassador of the United States, and how I felt about that.
All in all, I feel that I gave good answers, and that they were fairly satisfied with my responses. Of course, the decision isn’t up to those three. They send their impressions of me on to the foks in Tokyo, who make the final decision. Now I have to wait until April to find out if I got accepted. Keep watch here for updates when they come, and keep me in your prayers.
Edit, P.S.: I forgot to mention the most surprising part of the interview. On my application, I stated that I don’t know any Japanese. Even so, the older guy asked me to introduce myself in Japanese. Luckily, I was able to muster up a very short introduction (Hello. My name is Dan Jones. Nice to meet you). I definitely wasn’t ready for that!