Here you are, you started your JET Program journey half a year ago, you sent off your application last fall, waited six weeks, made it through the first round of cuts, another month went by, had your interview, and have now waited patiently 2+ months for results.
You finally get the email, it starts off “You have successfully passed the 2nd stage of the screening process”. You want to run around the room and shout “I’m going to Japan!” until you read the next sentence. “You have been selected as an alternate.”
I got this email, and I knew I was supposed to be grateful that I was an alternate. It meant I wasn’t rejected outright, and there was still a real chance of going to Japan. But in some ways it was worse than just being rejected. Being rejected would have meant that it’s over and done with, and it’s time to move on. As an alternate, all that laid ahead was weeks – possibly months – of uncertainty. When will I get the call? How much time will I have to prepare for Japan? What I can’t go? What if I’m never upgraded at all?!
Being an alternate kinda blows. It’s the ultimate limbo, you’re not in JET, but you’re not out. You’re sort of treated like a short-lister (you get some of the same paperwork, get invited to a few events), but at the same time you’re very much not a short-lister. You get asked if you’re going to Japan, and all you can say is “I don’t really know yet.” While short-listers get all sorts of checklists and guides to pre-departure, there is no “Official JET Alternate Guide”.
So here is the Unofficial JET Program Alternate Guide from someone who went through it.