Monday, 20 February 2012

Diary of a JET #4: To Re-Contract? Or not to Re-Contract? That is the Question.

It’s a more difficult question than you think. Maybe you have seen some other ALTs ruminating about this very conundrum on other blogs recently. On the verge of spring time, just when Shizuoka is starting to warm up and look pretty, you begin to think, “Well, yeah. I could do another year of this!” Or is that just the springtime talking? The deadline looms. You start considering your options. To stay or go?

Well, the deadline has passed now, but have you made the right decision? This post contains some important tips when making a big decision such as this. Much of this information is specific to my situation and is designed to function merely as advice. Please consider your options thoroughly before making your own decision.

For me the decision was not too difficult. I had originally told my family that I would only join the JET Programme for one year but that was mostly to appease my mother who was slightly panicked at the thought of us being apart any longer. Secretly, I think I knew I would need to stay longer.

I didn’t travel much in my first year of the JET Programme. Mostly, I was saving my paid leave for two lengthy trips back to Australia; Christmas time and my sister’s wedding. So taking time off for traveling around Japan during the summer of 2011 was just not possible. But this year, I want things to be different and I want to see much more of Japan. This necessitates that I stay in Japan in order to see more of it, so this was a winning argument for re-contracting.

Many ALTs are considering their re-contracting options during a time when culture shock is most likely to hit: wintertime, six months into their existing contract. This is important to remember when making the re-contracting decision. Do you really want to leave Japan next summer? Or are you just homesick right now? Would giving life in Japan one more year make things better? I can tell you now, the answer will undoubtedly be ‘Yes’ for 99% of you. I will explain more in an upcoming post, but suffice it to say: I have been there. I have felt like leaving Japan was my only option and that these feelings were rooted in something that went deeper than mere culture shock or homesickness. But the truth is, deciding to stick it out really was for the best. After giving it more time, I was able to make real friends, travel more, and start to enjoy my time in Japan.

Ultimately, you really have to ask yourself this question (and this is the question I asked myself when making my own re-contracting decision. I really feel this is the most important question to consider): Have you accomplished everything you want to achieve while in Japan? To help you answer this question, I really encourage you to make a list of short-term goals and really think about their importance and see if this helps sway your decision. I know some ALTs who have made pros-and-cons lists to help make this decision but remember that just because your list may weigh quantitatively heavier on one side, does not mean one side outweighs the other in terms of importance. For me, the answer to this all-important question was ‘No.’ I wanted to become a better teacher, learn more, experience more. So I will need to stay here for longer in order to achieve my short-term goals.

And so, it was without hesitation that I handed in my completed re-contracting form on February 10th. I can only hope that my mother finds a way to make peace with my plans!


Just a quick note: the title of this post is “Diary of a JET 4.” Before this blog, there was another blog which I have recently shut down but on that blog were 3 pre-existing blog posts about being a JET. Thus, this is blog post number 4 along the JET vein. I have kept these old posts. Do you think I should post them?

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