Saturday, 3 July 2010

JET Pre-Departure Orientation in London

I came back from London yesterday after attending the UK JET Pre-Departure Orientation there. It took place over the 1st and 2nd at Brunel University, and in the day there were talks and language classes, while at night everyone stayed over at the on-campus hotel/accomodation. The accommodation was decent, even if it didn't feel 5 star like the sign outside the reception claimed, and I stayed over on the night of the 30th as well due to the 9am start the next day.

There were quite a few of us staying over on the 30th and we all bumped into each other, formed a group and went to the city centre for something to eat. Apart from myself there was only one other guy who'd been to Japan before, so I fielded quite a lot of questions concerning the country and its language. By the morning of the 1st all the UK JETs (over 100 in total) had arrived and I managed to have at least a short chat with a large number of those, eventually finding the other 4 JETs who'll be working in Aomori. And after meeting all these people I realised that JET have done a good job on the selection process, as everybody seems intelligent and eager to head out, even if they've had little, or no, experience of Japan before. There were also no (discernible) anime geeks, and pretty much everyone seemed well socially adjusted, which I was glad about, as there's definitely room for improving the image of the typical Westerner in Japan. There was also a good selection of people from every part of the UK, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Another thing that struck me is how small the community of people with an interest in Japan in the UK is. I had random connections or mutual friends with a lot of the people I met over the three days, and I even met one guy who I'd seen a few months previously at an interview for a different Japan-related job.

There are two different jobs within the JET programme, and the vast majority of those going from the UK are ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers). However, I'm going out as a CIR (Co-ordinator of International Relations), and apart from me there are only three other CIRs from the UK this year. We had separate language classes from the ALTs, and these were focused mostly on 敬語 (keigo - honorific language) and telephone Japanese, as we'll be using a lot of that in our respective workplaces. The four of us got on well, and I'm looking forward to seeing the guys at the Tokyo orientation.

I managed to get down to London and back for cheap using National Express, and I enjoyed sampling McDonalds' new Mars milkshake whilst waiting for my coach in Victoria Station. Going to McDonalds reminds me of Japan, in fact, as I used to go a lot during my time in Kobe. For long stretches of time I was extremely busy, returning home late with little time to cook anything, and this meant I would often stop off at McDonalds whilst passing through Sannomiya to pick up a few burgers for dinner. McDonalds is even cheaper in Japan than the UK, with cheeseburgers being just 99 yen, and I remember there was also an offer on at one point where the Filet-O-Fish was 99 yen, and I used to buy four or so of them on every visit. When I had time though, and if it was open, I would prefer to go to Wendy's, which was a bit more out of the way, but the burgers were equally as cheap and far more tasty. There were also many times when I would smuggle Wendy's burgers into karaoke for a quick snack in-between songs. It's a shame that Wendy's have since ceased operations in Japan, meaning I won't be able to enjoy their Jr. BBQ burgers next year. I am looking forward to being able to frequent Mister Donut next year though - I've already checked their website and there are quite a few of them in Aomori City. In fact, Mister Donut was mentioned in one of the talks we had during the orientation, as the man giving this talk on life in Japan as a Brit had also been extremely fond of the place during his time there.

Anyway, the days are slowly passing by, and it won't be long before I'm flying out from Heathrow on July 31st to begin my job as a CIR in Aomori City. I don't mind being around for this lovely British summer we're having until then though.

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