So, who likes lakes?

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Take a look at my new city folks! That’s right, I finally found out where I am heading to in Japan. Actually, I’ve found out twice because they have moved my placement once already about a week after I first found out. So this might not actually be set in stone but I’ll post this anyways because I have less than three weeks until I am in Japan!

Where am I going do you ask? Well in the last post I mentioned that I was narrowed down to three prefectures: Shizuoka, Shiga, and Kyoto. Well, I was placed in the capital city of the Shiga Prefecture, Otsu.

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As you can see it is very, very close to Kyoto and not very far from Osaka either. My earlier placement was a city only a little ways away on the other side of the lake so I’m not to concerned about the change.

Since getting my placement I have done a little, or a lot I suppose, of research on the prefecture and city that I am heading to. Shiga as you might notice from the picture is home to the largest freshwater lake in Japan, Lake Biwa. The lake itself is actually one of the twenty oldest lakes on the planet, something like 4 million years old. Because of it’s close proximity to Kyoto, Shiga is full of historical sites and things like that. The city that I am heading to, Otsu, is the capital of the prefecture and was at one point the capital of Japan for a very brief period. It’s maybe about 15 minutes away from Kyoto and it is full of some very famous shrines and temples.

I don’t know much else about my placement yet, besides that I will be working at a couple of elementary schools and that I won’t have to drive, but hopefully I will be hearing more soon. The countdown to Japan is officially in high gear though as I have 19 days before I get on a plane and get this adventure started!

Narrowing the Possibilities

As I talked about in my last post, patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to applying to live in Japan. That being said it seems like Interac is doing some new things this year which means that people like me, who were hired quite a few months ago, are getting a bit more info on where we will be earlier.

I got a phone call last night from the Tokyo office about a branch placement! So a branch of Interac is generally in charge of the contracts in a particular area in Japan. There are quite a few branches in Interac since they cover most of the country.

Anyways, I was offered a placement in the Hamamatsu Branch! (Which I accepted, obviously.) The Hamamatsu Branch works in the prefectures of Shizuoka and Shiga, as well as Kyoto (I’m not entirely clear on whether it’s the city or the prefecture for that one). I was really pleased to hear about this because it’s right around where I wanted to be. I really wanted some place that was in central Japan so that it would be easy to get around and travel.japan2

I have been spending my time (and abounding excitement) doing a little research on the areas Hamamatsu covers. Shiga is a prefecture right next to Kyoto and is home to Japan’s largest freshwater lake. It also seems to be pretty connected to Kyoto and rich with a lot of history. Shizuoka is on the other side of Japan and is home to Mt. Fuji.

I won’t find out an exact placement until sometime in January probably but at least I can kind of narrow it down now. I can’t wait to find out exactly where I will be. This blog might still be quiet for this month but once I start getting more information I plan to post more. I also want to talk about things like packing and purging a lot of my things and all. Also, you may find some really geeky translations of songs or cd dramas on here occasionally because I like to translate things to improve my Japanese.

Until next time!

Start the countdown!

That’s right folks! Start the countdown because I will be going to Japan next spring. I received an email with an offer of employment from Interac at around midnight last night, not even a day after I’d been informed that my information had been released to the Japan office. I sent an email accepting it this morning. It doesn’t quite feel real yet and I have a strong feeling it won’t until I do something like buy a one way plane ticket or possibly get on the plane. Anyways, March is a long time off and I have plenty to do in the meantime. Namely find a way of making at least $5000 before March. Other things I need to work on are getting my passport renewed, getting any documents ready, and obviously working on my Japanese. I wonder if my old Japanese sensei will let me TA again…. Probably not.

I will try to keep this blog updated semi-routinely as things progress with getting the paperwork in this fall and any other preparations that I am making for Japan. This is happening! Like really truly happening!

Interac Skype Interview

Hello everyone! I am back with another post on my Interac process as I have just finished my Skype interview. Now comes the worst part, waiting.

So, after my phone interview I was invited to a skype interview because of my location relative to the various seminars. This meant that there was a load of things I had to do on my own before I got the interview. I had to ensure that my two references were in, which meant several emails making sure that that was all taken care of. It was a tough time of year for me to be asking for this as my references were mostly partner teachers from my practicum and it happens to be the end of the school year here. I also had to complete the grammar test and pre-interview questions and email those in, not to hard really but I’m glad I didn’t just have the grammar test thrown at me or anything. And most importantly I had to do my demo lesson.

This was not all that simple to get together on your own because you need to film from a tripod or other surface which has to be high enough. Luckily my brother-in-law is a videographer and was willing to help me film it. I practiced the Japanese in my self introduction until I had it perfect, not to much the English part, whoops. There are 4 parts to the demo lesson video: self introduction, script, elementary warm-up, and high school lesson. The first two parts are relatively straightforward and in all honesty so are the last parts. For the high school lesson I choose the irregular verbs and it was fairly simple to do. They provide you with examples and are very straight about telling you that you can copy these lesson. Do that. Don’t get all creative because copying ensures that you have all of the components they are looking for and that you are being judged on how you present yourself more which is what they are really looking at. My video ended up 6:30 long and I was really worried that it was too long but it turned out fine.

Once all those things are done you will get an email about a skype interview. After the phone interview they provide you with links to dozens documents including the seminar presentation which they want you to look over. They mention that in the skype interview they will go over this with you but in mine that did not happen, she just jumped right in to the questions. The questions were typical and if you’ve searched Interac interview questions than I can guarantee that you’ve seen them. There was a lot of repeat questions too like about driving and such. I also got the school lunch question this time! Also the question about tattoos which I was just very straightforward about and confirmed that I would keep it covered at all times. Otherwise the questions are basic. Is there any reason why you would leave early? What are your strengths and weaknesses? If you couldn’t be placed in a certain area how would you react? What is a typical day for an ALT? What do you consider professional? How do you deal with conflict? Criticism? That was about it really. After that I was asked if I had any questions and then I had to do another elementary warm up as part of the interview. That was the only nerve wracking bit as there are no do overs like when filming the demo lesson. All in all my skype interview lasted just over fifteen minutes. That was it and then she wished me luck and we were done.

As far as I know, now my things will be sent off to Tokyo and I will hear back 2-3 weeks after that whether or not I will have an offer of employment. Deep breaths because now the waiting begins.

Update July 9, 2015: I received an email today saying that my things had been sent to Japan and that I will hear back within 3 weeks. So by the end of the month I should know whether or not I’ll be going to Japan and this blog will be continuing as I intended it.

Interac Phone Interview

Two posts in a day! Crazy right? You’ll never see this much activity from me. Or maybe you will and I’ll end up posting five things in a day and then nothing for months, that’s more my style. Anyways, on to the post!

I wanted to write this and add my voice to all of the others out there that people look to as a resource because I know I was just trolling through them this morning. I have always found lots of advice through reading blogs and it’s only right in my mind to share my experience too.

As I am sure you have seen before the Interac Application has three stages to it. You first submit an online application through their site. It’s fairly easy to get through, if a bit long. Everything is straightforward enough and the part to worry about the most is the little essay/cover letter you are asked to write(2500 characters including spaces). Just focus on why you want the job and why you would be good for the job. If you’ve ever applied to JET before, because most people applying to Interac have at some point, then it’s fairly similar to your SOP. That should really be the trickiest part. After you click submit you get a confirmation that it’s been sent and then you wait. Probably not for very long though unless you are applying at peak times, like say after you find out you didn’t get a JET interview. In my case I submitted my application on June 1st at like 9 or 10 at night and I received a call the next afternoon. This call was very simple and quick. They just want to confirm a few details from your application and they will probably ask a few questions along the lines of ‘Would you mind a rural placement?’ and ‘Would you be willing to drive?’. Be as honest as you can and unless you have a really serious reason why you can’t then you should say yes to the driving and rural questions as your chances will improve. If they like what they hear from you in this call, which they most likely will because they called you, then they will probably ask to schedule a time for a phone interview. Mine was scheduled for today at noon.

After you get off that first call they will send you a few documents to look over. One is basically just the FAQs that you can find on their website. Read it over carefully though as there is tons of info in there about the job you are applying to do that you should know. The other is a document about working as an ALT and gives details about the schedule and expectations of the job. Read it carefully because they do ask you about it in the phone interview.

The phone interview itself is pretty straightforward and really laid back. The first they they will do is ask if you have any questions so if you have anything that the FAQs or other documents have brought to mind then ask them, they don’t mind. Personally I asked about tattoos because well, I have one, and the wording in the documents from Interac is not encouraging on that front. The recruiter I was talking too was very understanding though and to sum it up the message is, you can have tattoos but you can’t show them at work or in the community you are living in. So I guess that means no shorts in the summer, ne? Not too likely with how hot Japan is supposed to be in the summers but I have no problems investing in things to keep it covered while I am there.

After my question we jumped right into the interview. The questions really are what you hear about from other people. Why Japan? Is rural okay? Is driving ok? Remember that ALT sheet they sent you? They will ask a few things about it like what you think the typical responsibilities would be in a day and what makes a good ALT. These are the ones I would make notes on over anything so you don’t sound like you are fumbling for an answer. They will ask you about your teaching experiences if you have any as well. They will also ask you about money and whether or not you will have the money they recommend. It was all really straightforward and the interview questions maybe lasted 10 minutes of my 20 minute call in the end. The only thing that surprised me was that I never got the school lunches question which I had heard about on other blogs and videos. Goes to show that every situation is different and all.

After the questions part was done I was given the offer right away of moving to the next stage of the process(Yes!). Now here’s where this might get a bit different. Normally they next stage is you attend a seminar with several other applicants where you have to do a grammar test, demo lesson, and in person interview. Now I live kinda far away from the nearest seminar locations(I’m talking like full day drive, $300 dollar min. flights far), so instead I will be having a Skype interview. This also means that I am on my own to create the demo lesson and I have to film and upload it to them before my interview can happen. I am a little disappointed to not get the chance to meet other applicants but I am also glad I don’t have to find my way to Toronto or Vancouver. It also cuts down the wait time I thought I’d have as the Toronto seminar is next weekend and there is no way I could have made it and the Vancouver one was all the way at the end of August. So less waiting but also less help I guess? I am just glad that things are moving forward!