Saturday, September 24, 2016

JET: Application + Statement of Purpose

It's been nearly two months since I moved to Japan. I've pretty much gotten used to the life here, but as always, there is something new to discover every day. I've been wanting to update this blog regularly, but as usual, old habits die hard. I've been procrastinating this until a couple of days ago, when an old friend contacted me asking me for advice for her application the the JET Programme this year. So I guess I'll be catching on a load of backlogged entries.

Let's go back to the beginning, i.e. November 2015.

For those of you who know what the Programme is about, or have vaguely heard about it, the application is administered by the Japanese embassy or consulate in your region. For me (and the other Singaporeans on the Programme), the Embassy of Japan in Singapore handles our applications.

Personally, I think the paperwork is singlehandedly the most challenging part of the process. It pretty much felt like I was applying to university all over again, with the required certified true copies of your certs, character references, extra supporting documents etc. It doesn't have to be a flawless application - but it doesn't hurt to be close either. This stack of papers is the only way of securing your chances for an interview.

I included the following in my application:
- Character references from two of my lecturers at Lasalle. One was my course programme leader, and the other was my music studies lecturer. Thank you so, so much, Audrey and Samuel.
- Letters of proof of employment from the bosses of my previous internship at a theatre company, and a cultural centre that I was interning at last November. They helped to put a good word in for me. Again, thank you Huzir, and Claire-Lise. 
- I also asked for a reference from my first Japanese teacher at Bunka, but in order to keep the congruency of my entire application, I chose not to include it in the end. Still, I'm truly grateful that you took the time to write me a letter. 山本先生、いつもありがとう。
Now, on to the Statement of Purpose. I spent a long time writing it. Thought about it day and night for a month and a half, went on holiday in Europe and spent each night on my iPad editing and tweaking the outline. I returned to Singapore three days before the deadline and wrote everything in one shot. Then again, I have always been a perfectionist, and put way more pressure on myself to do this than most people would/should; just ask Iggy - she was my mentor since my journey for JET began - I was a nervous wreck. (I still am.)

I've only asked three people I really trusted - Iggy, Faith, Wendy - to check my SoP before I sent it in. As always, a disclaimer: I wrote this with my entire application and my interests in mind. It fit the approach I was going for. There is no "model essay" for the SoP, because everyone is on this Programme for different reasons. Go with your gut instincts.

With that, I leave you my Statement of Purpose.


JET Programme 2016: Statement of Purpose 
Sherilyn Ng Y H 

Perhaps it began when I read my first translated Japanese novel, Toto-chan, the Little Girl at the Window, in primary school; or when I had the chance to participate in an exchange programme with a high school brass band from Nagoya during my secondary school days. My interest and fascination with Japan has been a process of gradual accumulation. Growing up, I was introduced to more aspects of Japan: reading and analysing Kabuki plays, as well as discovering the world of modern and classical Japanese writers through the translated works of Natsume Soseki, Haruki Murakami or Murasaki Shinobu, to name a few. The admiration for Japanese writing and aesthetics only continued to grow, and by the time I started attending weekly Japanese classes at a language school during my college years, I was wholly enthralled with a culture that I had so much more to learn about. 

I am very keen on participating in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme as it is in line with my interests in promoting culture through language teaching and cross-cultural interaction. Language has always been important to me. Growing up in a multiethnic and multilingual society like Singapore meant I was constantly exposed to an environment with several languages. As a result, I have always valued the importance of language in communication and self-expression – it is a part of our identity that shapes our values, beliefs and ideals, and provides a gateway for mutual understanding. I hope to be able to help Japanese students understand the merit of learning another language apart from their own, as this can create opportunities for further cultural exchanges in the future. 

I have tutored secondary school students in English for the past three years while pursuing my undergraduate studies. I learned to work with students of different capabilities, including one with dyslexia, by customising every teaching experience as no two individuals are the same and respond best to different methods of teaching. As an educator, I believe it requires more than just the imparting of information – a teacher should offer an encouraging environment for students to gradually develop their own interest and motivation in lifelong learning. 

 As someone who is currently learning both Japanese and French in respective language schools, I am familiar with the challenges faced in learning foreign languages, where there are limited chances to converse with native speakers. I hope to offer Japanese students the experience of communicating in English with a native speaker in their daily lives as a way to complement the school curriculums, allowing them to improve their abilities and self-confidence in the language. 

In spite of my extra-curricular commitments, I remained committed to my studies and was able to receive a scholarship from my school in my final year. I believe my strong work ethics and high regard for responsibility to meet goals and deadlines can allow me to work efficiently in any environment. 

I have always been passionate about promoting culture through the arts. Since the beginning of my career in arts administration, I am fortunate to have worked with Checkpoint Theatre, a Singaporean theatre company that actively promotes playwriting among local youth and intercultural collaborations with international writers and actors. Presently, I am working with the cultural affairs department in Alliance française de Singapour, where I have observed to date a wide range of programmes in cinema, visual art and photography being curated to showcase French and Francophone culture to Singapore. This journey has been inspiring and proved to be a valuable lesson on how I can share Singapore’s culture with others. My work experiences also taught me crucial skills in project management and communication, qualities that will certainly aid me in my role as an Assistant Language Teacher. I believe my penchant for the arts will also enable me to implement more engaging forms of teaching through the use of drama, music and literature. 

My formal training in performing and visual arts management has also helped me to become familiarised with Singapore’s arts scene, and to develop a profound appreciation for Singapore’s heritage. As an ambassador for Singapore, I am eager to share the knowledge I have of my young yet vibrant home country with Japan, and in return, discover more about the extensive histories and cultural values of Japan from the rare yet opportune perspective of an educator. At the same time, I aim to take this opportunity to further improve my Japanese language proficiency. 

With my deep interest in Japanese culture as well as a love for inspiring others to learn, I believe the knowledge and experiences I will acquire on this programme can improve my personal and professional capabilities. I wish to promote further diplomatic relations between Japan and Singapore upon my return, and eventually work towards my long-term goal of international collaborations and promoting of Singapore’s artistic scene.

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