The Pre-Departure Orientation wasn’t what I thought it was going to be at all. Granted I went there with almost no expectations, and yet somehow I left feeling a little disappointed. But I’ll try to give you more of the facts with my opinion only sprinkled in there.
The orientation took place the day before I left to Japan. It was hosted at the Official Residence of the Consulate-General (a stunning million-dollar home I could only dream of). It was divided into two parts, two hours each. The first part consisted of presentations of important information for the JETs that were leaving. The second part was a reception where we were allowed to bring guests, and former JETs and our interviewers were also in attendance.
The information that was presented during the first part of orientation was very useful. They started by telling us what to expect tomorrow at the airport in the U.S. and what to expect when we got to the airport in Japan. Then they explained how we were going to get to Keio Plaza (where our Tokyo orientation was going to take place) and what we were going to do during our Tokyo orientation. After all that information was given, another presentation took place but this one from a former JET. He shared with us about his time in Japan and what he was doing now and how it connected back to his time in the JET Program. After that there was some time for a Q&A session with the 4 former JETs that were there. Once the Q&A was over so was the first part of the orientation.
Now for a little of my opinion:
Walking into the official residence was impressive. After getting my name tag I was ushered into the first room where everyone was already sitting. We were filing in from front to back so there wasn’t really a seat choice. Everyone was dressed formally. Aside from a few people, the majority of the new JETs were wearing blazers with their outfits. Most of the girls, who weren’t wearing slacks, were wearing pantyhose with their skirts/dresses (myself included). It seemed like everyone was talking and yet somehow I was place between two silent girls. One never spoke a word to me. The other let our conversation die after a few sentences. Tough luck for me I guess.
Back to the facts:
Reception started at 3:00pm and the guests came piling in. The socializing was interrupted by a speech from the Consulate-General, followed by a toast to us departing JETs. After that refreshments were served and the variety was enough that everyone could find something they liked. There was more time for socializing while eating and then came the closing speeches. The first two were given by our 2016 JET Representatives (didn’t even know we had them). One by a guy who was the CIR representative, and other by a girl who was the ALT representative. Then came a speech by the JETAA President, and lastly the closing remarks by our JET Coordinator. We gather for a group picture and that was the end of the pre-departure orientation.
A little more of my opinion:
During the short break between the first and second part of orientation, I went upstairs to use the bathroom. While waiting in line, I noticed that a surprising amount of people seemed to know each other. By the time I made it back downstairs, parents and other guests had already filled the room and everywhere I looked little circles (cliques) had formed. I grabbed a glass of water and walked around trying to decide where to join in. I stood there by myself for a couple of minutes feeling incredibly awkward and completely out of place then decided “eff it” and found someone to talk to.
Let me take this opportunity to say a couple of things.
First, I know that we were allowed to bring guests with us, but I was genuinely surprised that so many people did. Most people invited their parents and I couldn’t help wondering, “Why??” Unless your parents are freaking out about you moving to Japan, I don’t see what the point of having them there is. To hold your hand during the last step on your new adventure? If that’s the case, I fear for how you will cope if/when you end up as the only JET in your town or when the other JETs are too busy with their own lives to care that there’s a newbie around. Maybe it’s because over half of the JETs there were only 23 and younger (I felt old T.T). Regardless, unless you’re going to leave your parents to their own devices during the reception, I suggest not bringing them at all. You’re supposed to be socializing during this time, getting to know the other JETs, making friends, etc. (Although I will admit, I only met one person I would actually be willing to visit and I’m lucky enough he doesn’t live on the other side of the country.)
Second, since we’re talking about socializing, I was shocked at how shy(?) people were (I’m not sure if that’s the right word). Rare were the people who actually moved around the room from group to group. It was like once a group was formed, that was it, they weren’t talking to anyone else. And it seemed like most of these groups were formed by at least one set of people who already knew each other. But this could be because I didn’t attend the Q&A session that was held about a month before the Pre-Departure Orientation. Maybe they all became friends there, who knows. My point is grow a pair and talk to someone you don’t know. Especially considering that there’s a 98% chance none of the people you are so desperately holding on to will be in the same prefecture as you. You should really mingle. (Why you so clingy??)
Okay, sorry, this is sounding like a straight up rant. Maybe it’s because my introverted self was tired from being the only person making an effort initiate a conversation. Seriously, no one came up to me and started a conversation; not if I was with someone else, not if I was by myself. Nobody wanted to be my friend~ TT^TT I’m kidding. One person did come look for me because we were going to the same prefecture. Unfortunately, we were only able to get out a quick introduction before it was time for the group photo.
And after the group picture was over I was out of that house like a bat out of hell. Was it a horrible experience? No. Would I ever want to do it again? No thanks.