This isn't exactly an "origin story", but that's a pretty catchy title, right? So today I'm gonna post up the Statement of Purpose (SoP) I wrote for the JET application, and I'll talk a little about the application itself too. For those who are unfamiliar, the SoP is a 2-page max essay, double spaced, in which you do your damndest to sell yourself to the people at JET.
The three questions you have to answer are basically, "Why did you choose JET, what can you offer us, and what do you hope to get out of the program?". It's pretty much a perfect setup for your standard opening-body-closing style essay, and it's a pretty important part of the application so putting a little effort into it isn't a terrible idea. You'll find that most people spend quite a few hours on it, revising it over and over, letting others read it, revising it again, etc. For my part, I did one rough draft, let it sit for a week and a half, reread and rewrote it once, and that was it. I probably spent a total of 2-3 hours max on it, but not everyone can do that and still end up with something they're happy with.
Just for context, on my application I didn't fill in any teaching or international experience whatsoever, because I don't have any. I'm an English major with a minor in Japanese, I've been out of school for 3 years, I didn't get stellar grades in college, and my actual college isn't all that prestigious. And despite all that, I was still able to get an interview. I do work for a company chock full of Japanese folks, but I can't imagine that had a huge impact on my application. So if anyone reads this and they don't have a ton of pertinent experience, don't lose hope! If you can put together a good SoP and get some good references, you've still got a good chance of getting through to the next round.
Okay! For those of you still suffering through this post, here comes my SoP in full! This had a huge hand in getting me my interview, so I had to have done something right. Enjoy!
"My first conscious exposure to Japanese culture was during my first year of college, when I discovered the works of filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. I was mesmerized by his presentation of Japanese landscapes and people and his insights into the mentality of his country. This triggered my love for ancient and modern Japanese culture, and rather than acting as a substitute for my own culture, it has become a supplement and counterpoint to my experiences in the United States
. I find an earnest pleasure in studying language and helping others understand and love words the way that I do, and I believe the JET Program would provide me the opportunity to share my passion and knowledge with others, which will hopefully in turn help those around me cultivate that kind of interest and passion for another culture.
During college, I took naturally to material, especially in those classes focused on linguistics and language structure, and often found myself explaining difficult concepts to classmates when other explanations may have gone over their heads. In my Japanese program, I spent weekends interacting with exchange students, helping edit schoolwork, and simply trading cultural experiences. I especially enjoyed working with Japanese foreign speakers, watching the way their faces would light up when they finally grasped a difficult word or concept. This combined with my natural love of the Japanese culture is what drove my interest in JET.
And as much as I learned during college, my most valuable experiences have come since leaving school. Within a month of finishing my final class, a friend and I had moved from our small town of Hastings, Michigan (pop. 7,500) to Orange County, California (pop. 3 million). Neither of us had any relatives in the area, no business contacts, and no jobs lined up. But we were excited to try something new and threw ourselves into it head-first, just like I would if selected to participate in JET. I soon landed a job with a small Japanese video game localization company, where I spent every day editing translated text and interacting with native Japanese speakers. Not only am I well versed in taking written text from another language and transforming it to become culturally relevant to other Americans, but I also spend every day instructing and conversing with Japanese speakers on the ins and outs of the English language and culture, both in a formal and casual capacity. Beyond this, my extensive experience directing voice actors has given me an intimate understanding of the nature of spoken language, including intonation, speech patterns, regional differences, and so on.
I was also lucky enough to be asked to travel to Japan for a week and be part of a group representing my company to affiliates in Tokyo. Although my time there was short, it cemented my devotion to creating a bridge between the two varied cultures. It also showed me that even if you are not fluent in the native language (as I am not, since our office is officially English-speaking), you still have ample opportunity to communicate, to teach, and to learn from those around you, no matter where you find yourself.
My understanding of JET is that it is more than just another language tool for Japanese schools – rather, it gives students and teachers alike the chance to experience an entire culture, be it through language, literature, history, music, movies, or whatever else one might want to know about a foreign land. My goal is to bring that culture to students in as many ways as possible and in a way that encourages students to become involved and keep asking questions. And I hope that they will do the same for me, and give me a deeper look into their lives and way of thinking, which I can take with me and draw from no matter what I choose to do once I move on from JET.
Given my intense interest in teaching and in Japan as a contrasting culture, my past experience working daily with Japanese speakers and the English language, and my desire to inspire curiosity in and appreciation for foreign language and culture in my students, I believe I offer a unique and valuable skillset to the JET program."