To recontract, or not to recontract: that is the question.
JET is a weird program. After a grueling 10 month application period, you’ve finally made it to Japan – congratulations! You get August to settle in to your new life and you finally get to start teaching in September. Then, in October, the dreaded paperwork shows up on your desk:
We hope you had a great two months in Japan so far! Do you want to stay for another year? Please let us know ASAP. But no pressure. Kthxbai!
Okay, well, not QUITE like that. But you get the idea.
Thankfully, the papers that go out in October are preliminary – you can change your mind after submitting these papers, but your final answer is due (this 2014-15 year) in mid-January. As an ALT, mid-January is really early – if you sign the papers, you’re committing to the next 19 months after only being here for five!
Last year, I had a really difficult time deciding if I would recontract to stay in Japan or go home. Unknown to everyone, when I first came to Japan, I intended to stay for two years (surprise!). Then, last November, I had a “happening” that completely changed my view and had me so upset and miserable that I seriously considered breaking contract. On top of the “happening,” I missed my family and friends and I missed my life in Canada. I had also realized that I did not want to work as a school teacher when I returned to Canada, so would staying on JET just be delaying my “real” life?
However, after taking time off over New Year’s, visiting Hong Kong, getting back into a good routine at school with my wonderful JTEs, and making plans to look forward to, I decided that I could keep to my original intention of staying for two years. There were still many goals that I wanted to accomplish here and, truthfully, my start-up costs were way too expensive for me to leave after only one year. Coupled with a really great, inspiring Akita South Block meeting the week before the due date, I signed my recontracting paperwork saying I wanted to stay and the rest was history!
For JETs who are having trouble with the decision-making process, there are some options for you. In the JET General Information Handbook, there is a checklist of things that you should consider. As well, at my block meeting, we were given a handout that asked us some important questions that we should be thinking about (for example, “Are you satisfied with your job? If not, how important is that to your overall happiness?” and “Is there something you could change to make you definitely want to recontract?”). I even made a few pros & cons lists. But, for me, the most helpful thing was talking with my friends and senpais here in Japan. When I described my reasons for wanting to stay and wanting to go, they were honest with me and told me that it sounded like I wanted to stay. Their honest opinions influenced me and helped push me to make the decision to stay for the second year.
Now it’s time for Christina vs. Recontracting, Round 2, but this time around is a no-brainer – I’ve had my mind made up almost since I signed my papers last February! Will I stay or will I go? Most of you already know, but until it’s “signed, sealed, and delivered”-official, I don’t want to publically announce it – not yet. ;) But let’s just say that I’m excited to see what life has in store for me!
To all of those making their recontracting decisions this week, good luck! I hope you do whatever will make you the happiest. :)