The First Law of JET Dynamics: ESID
After being accepted to the JET Program, the first thing a lot of people do is head over to the "Incoming JETs 20xx" Facebook group and post excitedly about anything and everything that comes to mind, quickly inundating the page with questions. How much money should I bring? What kind of clothes am I supposed to wear? What can I expect to do every day? What about transportation? Housing? Can I have a pet? I hear Japan doesn't use toothpaste? What do I do about cell phone service???
Much to their dismay, however, instead of getting concrete answers, each thread is speckled with replies of "ESID." Every Situation Is Different.
It's literally the least helpful answer ever, but despite the fact that JET is such a long-running, well-established, overly-documented program, the saying holds bizarrely true. Though we are all hired through JET to be ALTs (assistant language teachers - about 90%) and CIRs (Coordinators for International Relations - about 10%), other than our titles, very little is standardized throughout the program. This is basically because JET is just a placement program, and our actual employers are individual boards of education all around the country. While you could live ten minutes away from someone else in your same position assigned to the next town over, everything from your dresscodes to your tax situation to your vacation days could be completely different.
As true as the adage is, though, I think a lot of current and past JETs are too quick to dismiss incoming participants' questions and worries. Instead of trying to be the first person to reply "ESID" at the top of every post (because, again, it is actually the least helpful answer), it wouldn't hurt to append an answer based on your own situation so that the asker might get a feel for a variety of possibilities. It's almost reminiscent of a high school dynamic where as soon as the new school year starts and the previous Freshmen become Sophomores, they quickly forget how difficult it was for them to adjust to this new environment and shit on all the new Freshmen for not knowing better immediately. Moving to a new country is hard. Be a little more understanding. (Except to all the boogers who don't know how to use the search function and keep asking about cell phones when fifty billion threads on the exact same topic already exist. They deserve the hate they get.)
Anyways, keep all of this in mind anytime I talk about my experience on JET. Not only will my situation be different from anyone else you talk to who's done it, but each experience comes from my personal perspective as well. So if I ever talk about JET "generally," please understand that I mean "drawing from my own experiences and those that I have heard about, which may or may not apply to you or your cousin who did JET four years ago or a JET participant in Akita who vlogged about something that would seem to directly contradict what I've just asserted." Because ESID.