For JETs that are choosing to leave Japan and venture into their next step, I have compiled a list of things to make your transition easier. Leaving is a hard decision and the leaving process is even harder. The transition out is a sad one and Japan will forever be a part of you. The experiences you have as a JET are something that can’t be replicated and will resonate in your memories (unless you go senile, but I honestly hope you don’t).
Know you’re not alone. Reach out to other JETs that are leaving and go through this together. Leave me a comment or on my Facebook page and I’ll be happy to lend an ear. Just prepare yourself to say goodbye. Don’t get sideswiped and have it all rushing in at once. It’s too much to take in. Here’s a list on how to prepare to leave JET.
1. Sign Up for the Returners Conference in February
This conference is typically held in February and provides invaluable information. There are over 60 companies in attendance that are looking to hire JET participants. This conference is held entirely in English with professionals from overseas will talk about the job market and a variety of career fields. Don’t miss this free and great opportunity! Always know your options. Don’t let yourself get backed into a corner with no way out.
2. Start thinking about the future NOW
I know July seems so far away, but it’ll be here before you know it. Think about what you need and what you don’t need. Get rid of stuff you don’t use. Start selling your car or other valuables (if you’re not going to sell it to your successor). The longer you put off doing what you have to, the more stress you’ll have in May or June when it’s crunch time. If your successor is taking over your apartment, I’m sure they’ll appreciate moving into a clean place. Don’t leave the crap. If you think it’s crap and it looks like crap, chances are, it’s crap. Throw it away or donate it.
If you need to apply to grad school or another job, get on Linkedin. Organizing your life back home is hard when you’re in a different country and timezone. Allow a large chunk of time to make sure your life is in order.
3. Cry if you have to
It’s only natural to cry about leaving. After all, you’re leaving a special place and you need to grieve for your loss. You’ve made some connections here in Japan, from your coworkers to the kind old woman down the stairs from you. I’m still dreading telling my Okinawan grandma downstairs that I’ll be leaving. She took me under her wing and has done me a few solids. She treats me really well and I’ll miss her… A lot. Time here is precious and not forever (unless you choose to be here forever then by all means, carry on).
4. Make a goodbye list
The list will help you figure out what you want to do before you leave. It’s important to know where your funds lie. Thinking about taking a trip to Kyoto to see the cherry blossoms? Start planning now. July isn’t far away so if there’s a place you’ve been dying to go, make the preparations. Are your travel plans feasible and doable? You don’t want to find yourself in a pinch for time and money.
This list should also include people important to you that you want to say goodbye to. Saying goodbye sucks but it’s good for your sanity. Tie up the loose ends. Have a dinner with your loved ones. Give presents to people if you want. When you leave, you can start fresh in a different county without any worries.
5. Save money
It’s going to cost quite a bit of money to move out. Your last paycheck as a JET is going to take a hit because of taxes. You’ll have to pay for cutting your phone and internet contract. Figure out what deposits you’ll have to collect. Send money home through the Japan Post or Go Lloyds. Leave at least 50,000 yen in your bank account. Your bank account will stay open for ten years after you leave unless you close it.
The money you leave in your bank account ensures that you won’t be putting your BoE or contracting organization in a pinch. There may be hidden fees you have to take care of plus your last phone bill, insurance, etc. will most likely come in after you leave.
6. Connect with your family and friends back home
You’ve been gone awhile. Whether it be a year to five years, you’ve gone and done your life and life went on back home. Create a space for yourself. Start reaching out to your friends and family. Shoot the shit about old times or make plans for when you’re home. They’ll be happy you’re back.
7. Find your JETAA chapter
Most major cities that you’ve departed from have an established chapter. They host events and meetups. JETAA is still comitted to many things Japan so if you miss it, head on down and connect with people who have been successful after JET. Alumni can give advice and relate with you.
8. Realize you’ll be different
Living in a foreign country has changed you. It’s inevitable. You’ve seen a different way of life and you know a different culture. Don’t be surprised when your friends ask, “How was Japan?” And after five minutes their eyes glaze over because chances are, they don’t understand. It might be hard to reconnect with them, but you should try.
Also, know that they’ll be happy you’re home but they might maintain their distance. You’ve been gone awhile. You maybe missed out on important familiy events like the births or weddings. They’re probably keeping their space because it hurt to let you go the first time.