Teaching in Japan with JET vs. Interac: Why I Chose Interac
Originally posted in June 2017 on Blogger
Though my time in Japan has come to an end, I feel like a lot of the problems and questions I had are still ones that the newest crop of ALTs are facing. There are a lot of questions that I may never get around to answering (if you have a specific one, please let me know!) but I’ll hit on the most popular one first: Why did I choose Interac over JET?
I had three main reason for choosing Interac over JET: placement, applying with a partner, and timing. This isn't to say that Interac always outshines JET, because there are a lot of categories where this just isn't true. However, for my specific needs, Interac was best.
I studied abroad in Japan for a year in college in Akita. If your familiarity with Akita goes only as far as the Akita Inu, I'm not surprised. It's a cold, rural prefecture in Tohoku (you know, the place with the earthquake and tsunami) that's famous for its high quality rice (Akita Komachi) and fair skinned women (Akita Bijin) who are so light because there's hardly ever any sun. Oh, it also has the highest suicide rate per prefecture in Japan.
Don't get me wrong, I loved Akita. My time there was amazing. But I didn't want to go back to the inaka life. I wanted the city! As most of you are aware, JETs generally get placed in rural areas. It's a rare case that a JET is in a big city.
Interac, on the other hand, has a lot of contracts with cities and suburban areas outside of big cities. It's rare that you'll be placed in the countryside (though not unheard of, especially if you tell them you're fine with a driving position). I really didn't want to drive, either, so that was a huge influence.
What pretty much sealed the deal for me was when I got my JET placement and found out I'd be in Fukuoka (not even Fukuoka City, just within the prefecture). There was no way that I wanted to be off Honshu, so I begrudgingly declined. (Plus I had a bad experience at the Fukuoka Airport once, which is unreasonable but did contribute to my decision.)
From what I know, JET doesn't really take your placement requests into consideration. There's a space for it on the application, but I'm convinced that's just for show. Interac, from what I've experienced, actually takes your requests strongly into consideration. Which leads me to my second point as well...
APPLYING WITH SOMEONE:
Not only does Interac take your placement into consideration, they also take into account if you apply with someone. Now, I'm not totally sure about JET scenarios because I've heard of entire families moving with a JET ALT, but I've not really read much about JETs applying together.
On Interac's application, you can make a note of if you're doing that. And they'll confirm it again in your interviews. This is generally accompanied with their disclaimer saying they'll try to place you and your partner together, but they can't guarantee it. And while I was wary of them covering their butts like that originally, I now realize that they actually do try.
Both branches of Interac I've worked with have worked to place me and my partner within the same BoE, resulting in schools that are less than a mile apart. (My first junior high school was actually across the street from his junior high, and that really gave the students something to talk about!)
If you're just doin preliminary research and didn't know, JET only takes applications within a very short window of time. If you miss your opportunity, you have to try again next year and be more vigilant about the dates. Interac, on the other hand accepts applications all year.
There are two main acceptance periods, spring and fall, but they also bring people over at random times to fill in spots for teachers who have suddenly quit, etc. For college students who are looking to start a job right after graduation (like me) Interac fits the timeline better. With JET, you have to wait for the new school year to go over... But that can be good if you don't have enough money for the startup costs.
However, for me, the year around application schedule was much better for me. I had to stay at the job I was then working until July, else I owed $5,000 (long story). However, I really hated my job and wanted to quit as soon as July rolled around... But I also didn't want to be jobless for months on end. So I went with Interac, where I had a month-ish break from my previous job to get my affairs in order before going to Japan! Everything worked out perfectly!
So, if you're doing your research now and are comparing different companies to teach with, I hope this helped! Remember that this is my criteria and my reasoning, so it may not work for you. If you're struggling to decide, I recommend making a list similar to mine with your priorities when moving to Japan (making money, experiencing Japanese culture, language learning, etc.) and do research on which companies fulfills those needs best. Good luck!