A while before I left, I started following a lot of other JET blogs from the 2013 Incoming JETs facebook group. It was really exciting to see other people's take on their preparations, placements, nerves, and everything else that comes with being accepted into JET! Reading those blogs and knowing we were all going through the same thing made me happy - I hope my blog does the same to someone else. :)
About a month or so before I left, I heard from my predecessor. It was another impatient wait for me! It seemed as though all my friends from various JET groups were hearing from their preds and finding out tonnes of useful information, but I was still waiting! Of course this wasn't really the case, lots of people I knew had still heard nothing by the time I did, but that's not what it feels like sometimes.
When I did get in touch with my predecessor, she was extremely helpful. I got much more of an idea of what my school, job, apartment, and life was going to be like. It was really reassuring, and of course it just added to the excitement! We emailed each other a lot, and she was lovely enough to set up a skype meeting to answer any questions I had in person, and just have a chat really.
For those of you who are at this stage of the JET programme, I have some tips and advice when it comes to talking to your predecessor. These are just some things that helped me, as well as my own opinions, so of course it's up to you how you approach it in the end.
- First thing's first: try to be patient and wait for your predecessor to contact you. Don't go hunting through facebook profiles and AJET group pages trying to piece together whatever little information you have to find them. It's going to cause you more stress than it's worth. Usually, your predecessor will find out before you, or at the same time as you, so just wait it out!
- In most cases, your predecessor is just as curious about you as you are about them. They're excited to find out who is taking over their job, and a lot of the time, the wait for information is killing them, too!
- Of course, if you haven't heard from your predecessor AT ALL and it's relatively close to leaving time, do your best to track them down. They know things you need to know!
- Make a list of questions you want to ask. Keep adding to it as things come to you. This is a pretty busy and overwhelming time for most people, and you're likely to forget a lot of the things you want to know.
- On the other hand, don't bombard your pred with dozens of questions all at once! Space them out a bit, if you can ^^
- Take the time to share a bit about yourself with your pred. They're going to be answering a lot of questions from you, and they'll probably end up telling you a lot about themselves and their specific situations. Of course your pred will have the most information to share, but it always helps to try to keep the communications from being totally one-sided.
- If you can, setting up a skype session is a great way to get some honest feedback about your situation from your pred. Better yet, if they're sticking around in Japan for a while, try to set up a face-to-face meeting with them! They can really show you the ropes, so if it's possible, by all means take that opportunity.
- Don't be afraid to ask the hard or awkward questions about your upcoming placement. It's okay to ask if there are difficult classes, if the apartment is a bit crap, or if any of the teachers are unsupportive. It's detrimental and unrealistic to pretend things will be perfect, so ask your predecessor what's what.
- Decide between you and pred if you're going to buy anything off them. Again, this can be a bit awkward, but it's best touched on sooner rather than later.
- Ask about more than the job. Find out about the town, the weather, the JET community in the area,and even get some recommendations for trips you can do around Japan. If you have a hobby you're super into, ask your pred if they've seen any facilities or groups for it around the area.
- Lastly...be aware that you're getting one person's side of things, and your experience may not match theirs. Your pred can only tell you about their feelings, and you can only read or listen to so much about your placement before you just need to sit it out and wait until you're there yourself. You can only prepare so much, and that will never feel like enough. So don't sress, keep that excitement up, take in your soon-to-be-ex home, and spend time with your loved ones. Know that you'll be here in no time, and then, everything you wanted to know will be right in front of you, waiting to be found out!
I hope these tips help someone out there, and best of luck to everyone who's about to start their JET journey.