JET Personal Statement Sample Plus Hints and Tips

JET Personal Statement Sample Plus Hints and Tips

Previously posed on my former Blogger, this was by far my most popular post. Because it’s helped so many people, I’ve reposted it here.

While I chose to go with Interac over JET, I still answer a lot of questions about the application process. The number one question I get about the JET Program is: what was your personal statement?

What’s the point of a personal statement?

Like it or not, your personal statement is the most important part of your application to the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. It’s your opportunity to showcase who you really are and express yourself and your passions.

Everyone is going to fill out an application and submit a personal statement. The strict format of the JET Program application doesn’t allow much room to express yourself or highlight your best qualities. But your personal statement does.

It’s a place to give you free reign to talk about anything you like. If you feel that your application isn’t very strong, the personal statement is a great place to beef it up. Take any weak spots in your application and emphasize what you can bring to the table instead.

What makes a good personal statement?

You can find a million guides out there on how to write a good personal statement. You probably had to submit one when you were applying to universities. You may have had to write one when applying for scholarships.

Should you reuse those? Probably not. Because the most important part of crafting a good personal statement is making sure it is relevant. Talking about what adversities you had to face growing up and how they made you a better person isn’t going to help you much here.

This is a program for teaching English and exchanging cultures in Japan. Focus on that! If you have teaching experience, highlight that. If you’ve gone to Japan or spent significant time abroad, mention it to show that you can handle living outside of your home country. Anything that shows you are in line with the JET Program’s credo should go in your personal statement!

Just don’t make it come across as a rambling list or that it reads like a resume. It’s a personal statement and it should show some of your personality. Do you remember in your high school English classes, when they emphasized finding your voice? Your voice should shine! (Easier said than done, though, isn’t it?)

Lastly, remember that you should be specific. Don’t generalize saying “how much you’ve always loved Japan.” Talk about concrete examples of how you loved Japan by “deciding to major in Japanese” or “achieved your dream of climbing Mt. Fuji and watching the sunrise.”

What should/shouldn’t you include?

Obviously, JET doesn’t post a list of what they’re looking for in a personal statement. These observations are my own based on personal experiences as well as what I’ve read online. Your common sense should trump this list; you make the final call.

Include!

  • Relevant Experience: Describe applicable experiences, professional skills, relevant interests and personal qualities, and how you feel these will be useful to you as an ALT or CIR.

  • Motivation for Participation: State why you wish to go to Japan and participate in the JET Program and why you are interested in the position for which you are applying.  Also address what you hope to gain, both personally and professionally, and what effect you hope to have on the Japanese community and internationally as a result of your participation in the JET Program.

  • Teaching experience

  • Cultural exchange programs (clubs, study aboard, hosting exchange students, etc.)

  • Abroad experience and what you learned

  • Why you’re interested in Japan

Iffy to include

  • Anime/manga (even if this is what got you interested in Japan, they don’t want weebs. They want to see how anime encouraged you to study Japanese, or get interested in Japanese culture, etc.)

Don’t include

  • Negative things like bad grades or how you’re afraid to fly

  • Criminal activities, even if you weren’t convicted or jailed


❗❗❗ I would like to stress that this is my personal statement, and therefore tailored by me to fit my life experiences and personality. Please don't just copy this, but instead use it as an opportunity to see an essay that can get you past the first round of the interview process.

My Essay

Growing up in Hawaii as half Japanese, half Caucasian certainly has provided me with an interesting outlook on both cultures. I grew up in a place saturated with Japanese influence: the food, local slang words, and even local customs. Even within my own household, my family retained and practiced many of the same customs my great-grandparents had brought over when they emigrated from Japan. But at the same time, I was an American who spoke English and primarily acted like an American.

My interest in Japan started before I was even aware of it, and by the time I was in elementary school, I started to delve into Japanese pop culture. I was still fascinated with my family’s origins, but also became fascinated in the contemporary Japanese culture. In high school, I took Japanese language courses in hopes that I could use them in Japan.

It was in college that I first learned about the JET Program. It was interesting, but not something that I could see myself doing. Instead, I focused on studying abroad in Japan in order to learn more about my roots. Eventually, I got enrolled for my junior year at Akita International University in Akita, Japan, and I went to Japan for the first time. It was like a dream come true for me, because it was something that I had wanted since elementary school.

            But Akita wasn’t what I had expected. Always seeing Tokyo’s bright lights, tall buildings, and busy streets, I assumed most of Japan would be like that. Instead, I was greeted with rice fields. I am naturally open to new experiences, I can act independently, and I pick things up very quickly. Being in Akita was a testament to that: I adjusted with ease, and found that I enjoyed the rural lifestyle. I believe that my familiarity with Japan and its rural and urban cultures, as well as my ability to adapt easily would be great assets as an ALT. Moreover, I also have experience working with ALTs teaching English to students.

            My interest in teaching started by accident while I was in Akita. Through the school’s Community Outreach Service program, I got the opportunity to interact with the local residents. I began participating in a lot of one-day teaching excursions to the local schools in the prefecture. On most occasions, we would be paired with an ALT and would assist in their English lessons. It was then that I began to see how important and rewarding it was to teach a foreign language. To watch students shake off the initial timid feelings and begin to speak with confidence and help deepen their understanding of foreign language and culture was such a worthwhile experience. It was then that I knew I wanted to teach English. I ended up participating in over twenty teaching assistant jobs; working with the students was something I really looked forward to.

            My lessons with the children varied greatly. Sometimes it would be very learning-based and I would help them with grammar or vocabulary. Other times, it was very relaxed, and we would play games together or sing English songs. And sometimes it would be more of a cultural exchange, where I shared about American life and they would show me traditional Japanese activities like sado and shodo.

            Being in a rural area like Akita, I noticed that there weren’t a lot of tutoring centers or chances to practice speaking with foreigners. I believe working with the JET Program will enable students to speak fluently, and help foster a lifelong interest in English and international affairs. While learning to speak while young is important, they need someone who is really passionate, and I feel that someone is me.

            After my year abroad, I left Japan with a sense of purpose. I wanted to return and give back to the people and country that treated me with such hospitality. Today, speaking English is an important skill, and something I can freely offer the youth of Japan. When I was there, I was inspired when teaching and helping others, and I feel that the JET Program would be a perfect platform to actualize this.
— JET Personal Statement 2014 / 2015
 

I hope this will be helpful for you. It’s a bit embarrassing to put up something that I’ve written almost five years ago. But I want to show you that you don’t need to be a wordsmith to get into JET. Just be open and honest and enthusiastic.

If you're looking at this and getting ready to apply to JET, good luck! Just be confident in yourself and remember, it's about selling yourself and proving you'll be a good fit for their company’s requirements!