The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program is a program that engages the global community and brings in people from around the world to work in schools, boards of education and government offices in Japan.

A unique opportunity for any individual, the JET program is equally special in that it is conducted by the government of Japan. The cultural exchange allows for people around the world to live and work together while engaging in another culture altogether.

“Basically, your goal is to go over to Japan and work as an assistant language teacher, or ALT. You assist a Japanese teacher in English in their classes,” Alexandria Poppendorf, an APSU professor and a recent accepted applicant of the JET program, said. “Your goal is to be an ambassador for America, taking your culture and bringing it to Japan, as well as to bring the English native speaking element to the Japanese English classes.”

Poppendorf and another winning applicant, Justin Randall, are just two individuals in the growing community that are planning to move to Japan for this opportunity. One a professor and the other a senior student, both history majors, they hope to apply their passion for history to this new experience in Japan as they immerse themselves in a new culture.

Their shared interest in Japan, along with the encouragement of Professor David Rands, inspired them to apply for the JET Program. When asked about their greatest concern, they both gave the same answer: culture shock.

“I’m most concerned about the culture shock aspect because several of my colleagues have come to me and warned me that culture shock is a real thing,” Poppendorf said.

Randall also expressed a similar concern.

“During my interview for the JET program, I asked my panel what the most difficult thing was about living in Japan. They all reflected a similar message, that adaption to the many social customs proves to be a major stumbling block, especially since many Japanese citizens will not advise you when you are actively breaking the rules,” Randall said.


One example of culture shock is the difference in language. English and Japanese are wildly different, proposing an challenge to any prospective member of the JET Program who may not be familiar with Japanese.

However, speaking Japanese is not required. While Randall has been studying elementary Japanese for the last two semesters, Poppendorf has not studied it at all. Regardless, they both were accepted into the program.

“The ability to speak Japanese is not a requirement for the program. It would help, but what they really want are people who understand English grammar rules and have spoken English their whole life to go into these classes and just provide that fluidness of native English speaking,” Poppendorf said.

Though an applicant may not need to know the language, there is a variety of other criteria one must meet in order to be considered for the program.

First and foremost, an applicant must be interested in Japan. Beyond that, the program considers criteria like mental and physical health, having a bachelor’s degree, being adaptable to living and working conditions in Japan, level of English skills, among many other things.

If considering the program, one must also consider how long the immersion will be.

“I will be there for at least a year. The contract is for a year, and you can sign on for another year or up to five years,” Poppendorf said.

The contract may be extensive, but it provides a year’s worth of experience that could be used for numerable opportunities. Beyond that, the full-on immersion allows applicants to learn more about another culture and how to encounter other cultures around the world.

“This is an opportunity not only to visit, but to have prolonged exposure to Japanese culture. I can visit Japanese historic sights and understand their cultural and historical identity,” Poppendorf said.

The JET Program also has the potential to carve the way to even greater opportunities.

“The JET program allows me to travel and see an entirely new world while maintaining strong connections to my home. After the completion of my contract, the career opportunities at hand are innumerable,” Randall said.