Thursday, October 13, 2016

JET: Interview

Okay, so I'm back to writing about pre-JET matters. For Singapore, we received the notification for interviews in January. I remember freaking the fuck out about my interview.

There were three interviewers in the room, and the atmosphere was very formal. We were all entirely in formal suits. I don't think I've actually had an interview as formal as this, because most of my interviews are arts-related and require thinking out of the box / showing a portfolio of sorts.

So these are my questions, and some of my responses as I can best remember them (I jotted this entire list down as an iPhone note back in January.)

1st interviewer:

1) Tell me about yourself, what you do and how you can help the JET Programme.

It was a basic self-introduction, although I felt I could have elaborated a lot more in this section. Ended my response with nervous laughter (and visible trembling), and she gave me an awkward smile. What a great first impression I must have given.

2) How do you think arts can help to promote Singapore?

I was completely thrown off-guard by this question because of its scale. One of my opening questions too, at that. Good lord, we get asked this question nearly every week in college, and even as graduates we still have trouble answering this instantly. There is no concise answer to this question. And since there was no time to attempt a mental PEEL essay structure, this one ended up being complete blabbering.

2nd interviewer:

3) What are the challenges of learning a second language that you think Japanese students will face?

Lack of motivation, limited practice with native speakers, lack of practical use, differences in phonetic acquisition - the Japanese use katakana to adapt to English phonetics - rote learning systems, etc. These are typical common answers but it helped that I was learning second/third languages all my life (yay for bilingualism policies in Singapore) and I could relate to this very much, so my response was immediate. It is useful to know these reasons, and I think it also helps if you are able to understand why such reasons exist.

4) If you are in Japan, what arts will you be interested to try?

I said I wanted to learn traditional arts like ikebana, and a martial art or two if possible. On hindsight and in the present, I realised I actually REALLY want to learn how to play the shamisen. I've always wanted to and I regretted that it wasn't my first answer. I also said I wanted to revisit theatre, and study the preservation of traditional theatre and development of shingeki (新劇, not 進撃 yeah) in Japan.

5) If you were asked to start an after school club to help students to discover English more, what ideas would you suggest?

This was not so bad, I really had a lot of fun answering this one. I talked about how I would love to implement English language drama activities and applied drama, introduce all kinds of music and movies to them.

6) If u were posted to a rural area will that be okay for you?

To be honest, I never answered this directly. I have no idea if I would be okay in a rural area. I just told them that I don't have a driver's license and I can foresee how that would be a big disadvantage in the inaka. Little did I know I would end up in the capital itself. (Tokyo was none of my choices.)

3rd interviewer (Japanese ability/Japan-related matters): 

7) Do you possess any Japanese nationality?

Lol. I forgot to indicate in the form that I do not possess Japanese nationality. Alarms immediately went off in my head. CRAPPPPPPP.
But nope, I'm 100% Singkapor lang siol

8) Do you think you may face any problems moving to a new country and living there by yourself?

I tried to answer this question as honestly as I could. I didn't want to give any sort of false bravado that I can totally manage living alone - I've never lived outside of Singapore and I know it'll be a big challenge, but I said I was willing to try and I know that if I ever needed the help, there are always several ways for me to ask for help, and numerous people that I can turn to.

The next few questions are translation/Q&A questions aimed to test if I was at N4 level as I had stated. Ha ha ha ha ha I could see her changing all the self-assessment numbers as I answered her questions. After a 1.5 year hiatus, did I really think I would still be at N4 level???

9) (In Japanese) Do you always wake up early?

10) (In Japanese) What time did you arrive here today?

11) Please tell me about a famous Singaporean.
Me: .... ......... .............................. Lee Kuan Yew

12) Please tell me what he is famous for.
Basically stared at her for a minute before surrendering in shame and telling her I don't know the answer. She asked if it was because I couldn't understand her question, and I said it's because I didn't know how to say 'former prime minister' (actually I could have said 'first' couldn't I - omg what a fool) and she seemed satisfied with it.


The whole interview took about 25-30 minutes. In all honesty, I left feeling like my chances of passing this round were completely over. It was an awful feeling to carry around, tucked away at the back of my mind every single day for the next few months until I finally received the email from the Embassy on the last day of March.

It definitely wasn't my best attempt at an interview, and there are so many things I would have tried to answer again in a different way if I had the chance. I still think about this day often and wonder what made them decide to give me the green light. So for whoever was out there looking out for me that day, thank you.

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