Friday, February 25, 2005

The Interview

The Japanese Consulate is on the top floor of the Washington Mutual Building on the corner of SW 8th St. and SW 1st Ave in Downtown Miami. Parking was a bit difficult. I had to circle around the neighborhood a couple of times before finally finding an open space on the street.

When we arrived in Miami I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt so I changed into my suit in a Subway bathroom. We would have gone to the hotel to change, but we could not check in until 3 PM.

I walked down the street and entered the building. I took the elevator up to the 32nd floor. When I stepped out of the elevator there were signs directing me towards the JET interviews. The signs led to a large lobby-type room. There was a reception window on the left side of the room, a pair of double doors on the right, and a full floor to ceiling window straight ahead overlooking Miami.

I checked in with the secretary behind the reception window. She was American. I gave her my interview voucher with the photo stapled to it and my copy of my passport to prove that I was American. She also asked to take a look at my photo ID. She looked at it, handed it back, and told me that my interview would be in a few minutes. She directed me towards the video playing on the TV.

I was the only person in the room. I had imagined a room full of nervous college graduates wearing suits waiting to inteview. I guess not.

One half of the room was filled with a couple of tables. Each had a neat stack of magazines and flyers. In the middle of each table was a simple white sign that read "No eating or drinking" in small black letters. So much for my bottle of water.
A TV in the corner was playing a video on Japanese Anime. There was a row of couches in front of the TV. They doubled nicely as window watching couches if the video got too boring. The walls were lined with posters, bookshelves, pamphlets, videos and other Japanese propaganda. Some of the literature was in English, some in Spanish, and some in Japanese. If I had looked harder I'm sure I would have found something in another language, but I didn't spend too much time looking at the stuff lining the room. I had read on another blog that the secretary watches you and gives a little report on your behavior to the interviewers. She told me that I should watch the video, so I watched the video.

I watched the whole segment on Anime and had started watching the segment on J-Pop when I was informed by a young Japanese man in a suit that my interview would be in five minutes. He had come from behind the double doors. My interview was obviously going to take place behind those doors. I could hear voices and occasional laughter coming from behind them. I wondered if another interview was going on. It made me kind of nervous. Could I make the interviewers laugh?

It turned out that there wasn't an interview going on; the interviewers were just laughing to each other. ("Ha ha ha...he looks so nervous, let's ask him some really horrible questions!")

A few minutes later the same young man came out and said "Mr. Villagomez, we are ready for you." I asked him if I could bring my water bottle in, he said I could, but that I couldn't drink from it because this "was an interview." How silly of me. I hoped that my mouth wouldn't get dry from talking.

I walked through the double doors into a room comparable in size to the one that I had just left. The room was bare except for a long table with four chairs separating the room into two halves and a single folding chair situated about halfway between the table and the window.

I don't remember if I was asked to take a seat, but I did anyways. I felt like I was in an interrogation room. ("Mr. Villagomez, where were you the night of the murders?")

There were three other people in the room besides the young Japanese man that had led me in. One was a young woman with very distinct Japanese mannerisms, the second was an older Japanese woman and the third was an American, probably a former JET.
The interview started as soon as I sat down. There were no introductions. Nada. Nothing.

The asked a few ice breaker questions as I was getting settled, "did you drive" and "how was traffic", but I had hardly sat down when the younger Japanese woman said in a Japanese accent, "tell us about yourself."

Here we go. The next twenty minutes would determine my fate for the next three years.

Each interviewer asked a string of questions. They each had a copy of my application in front of them and most of the questions seemed to come off of my answers and my statement of purpose. They asked me a lot of questions about Saipan, LCV, and a few about Emily. They asked me how I planned to prepare and what I had done to study Japan in the past. They never got specific. I was prepared to answer some trivia questions, but was never asked any.

I think I did a good job. I don't want to get into my answers to the questions in this blog because I think that is something that each interviewer should come up with on there own, but I will tell you that I did get a couple head nods out of the interviewers. I also got a couple of smiles. The American, who turned out to be a former JET, was the most receptive to my answers. He was the only one to give me any immediate feedback on my answers. When I was asked how I would answer a question about American politics, I answered that I would present both sides of the coin and explain that in America people have very different opinions on lots of different issues. He told me that it was a very good answer because Japanese students of English are warned not to ask Americans about politics because Americans are very passionate about politics and are easily upset.

The young Japanese man never asked any questions. He was more of a moderator. His only job was to lead me in, ask the interviewers if they had any more questions, and to lead me out (I found out later that he was the JET coordinator for the Miami Consulate).

Then it was over. I didn't have a watch on, but the whole thing couldn't have lasted longer than 20 minutes. The end of the interview was very anticlimatic. I was told that I would receive an email on April 4th with the decision.

So I wait.

Just a note on waiting:

I feel like this job is a test in patience. Wait for your confirmation that the application was recieved, wait for the interview announcement, wait for the interview, and then wait for the job announcements. On April 4th (if I am accepted) we will probably have to wait some more to find out where we are being placed. I'm amazed at how long the process is. The process takes well over 6 months. It more than just a test of your abilities and experience, JET is also a test of patience and endurance.

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