Thursday, April 29, 2004

Response from JET

I was, of course, not allowed to read any of my recommendation letters, I am sure that they must have all been wonderful, for I was granted an interview in February. They only grant interviews to about 65% of the applicants, so already I had beaten out a third of the competition.

For the final selection to A.L.T. positions, they choose about half of those that were interviewed, or about a third of the total number of applicants. All I had to do was make sure I made it into the top half of those interviewed.

I actually own a suit now. A real suit, my first one. Since it was a real job interview, I decided I needed a real suit. So, even if I didn't get the job, at least I would have the suit.

Candidates are not allowed to discuss what happens during the interview with other candidates, so I had no idea what to expect, and was not sure how to prepare. I was extremely nervous. This was the JET program! My chance to go to Japan! I had been wanting to apply since I first heard about it my freshman year.

I was so nervous that I could hardly sleep the night before the interview. I was so nervous, I could hardly take part in a normal conversation the day of the interview.

I was the last one scheduled for an interview in Spokane.

While waiting, assistants to the interviewers tried to help the interviewees relax. It helped a little, but not much.

When the interview finally started (it seemed to me like hours of waiting, but in reality they were only a few minutes behind), my three interviewers asked the standard questions. One of the questions was "Do you have a criminal record?"

Of course, the correct answer to this question is "no," which is true in my case. I don't have a criminal record. Did I mention I was nervous?

I said "Well...actually..." Actually, I had been arrested once. When I was 18, I got into a fight with my step-brother, who was 16. My step-father called the cops. I even had to go to court over it (even though my step-brother wrote them a letter explaining that we were brothers, and brothers sometimes fight, and he wasn't interested in pressing charges, etc). Long story short, I went to court, and now the whole incident has been removed from my records. But...actually...

After explaining the story, three blank faces stared back at me. Perhaps this was too much honesty too soon. However, at that moment, I realized how ridiculous I was behaving because of my nervousness, and as a result I was able to calm down a little bit.

The rest of the interview went fairly well. My interviewers had a good sense of humor, and the more we talked, the more I relaxed and was able to act like myself (although, to be honest, I never did truly act like myself, even when I had started to calm down).

Then came the final question. It was something like "Choose two symbols of American culture, and give a two minute speech on them, pretending we are middle school students with about a 100 word vocabulary. You have 30 seconds to prepare."

I started this final question full of confidence. I chose two symbols at random, the American Flag, and a Thanksgiving Turkey. I drew pictures of both on a piece of paper, and began my speech. It went great. For one minute and thirty seconds. And then I froze up.

I stood there, jaw moving, no speech coming out. How could I have run out of things to say so quickly? Didn't I grow up in America? Shouldn't I be able to speak for two minutes about EITHER of these, let alone both?

My judges, er, interviewers were silent.

Eventually, my two minutes were up, and so was the interview. I left in a daze. I had blown it, at the last possible instant, in the last thirty seconds. YEARS of thinking about the JET program, months of paperwork and applications and impatient waiting.

In the elevator ride down, my brain started working again; I thought of more things I could have said. On the way to the car, still more. By the time I had made it all the way back home, I could have spoken on those two symbolic images of American culture for at least 15 minutes with no interruptions, and to repetition, and this is not an exaggeration.


Anyway, at least I tried. I knew they only took the top third of the applicants. I knew I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up.

Actually, that's not true at all. I knew from the outset that I would be chosen, knew it as truly as I know that the sky is blue, and water is wet. I'm not a top 30% guy, I'm a top 2% guy! Of course they're going to choose me!

So, long story short, it was no surprise at all when I found a rather large envelope in my mailbox, labeled with "Jet Program open immediately Reply needed ASAP!" I got in!

At the end of next month, I should know where in Japan I have been placed....

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