I first heard about the JET Programme from a neighbour whose daughter had been an ALT. At that stage, I didn't know about the CIR position. It was when I was in my final year at University, and wasn't sure what to do next that I saw a poster advertising a talk about the JET Programme. I heard about the CIR position and thought that it would be the perfect way to get back to Japan, improve my Japanese, get work experience and get paid!
My main apprehension was whether my Japanese was good enough for the job. I studied Japanese from scratch at university and was sure I would run into difficulties using my Japanese in a working environment.
I was placed in an international association in Nagasaki City. It was quite a relaxed office - my hours were from 9am to 5:30pm, except on Fridays when I finished at 12:00. It's difficult to give an idea of a typical routine as I was involved in so many different things that there was no typical day.
My co-workers were very friendly and helped me with anything I needed to know. One of them spoke very good English so if I got stuck with my Japanese I was able to communicate with her in English.
I did all sorts of things as a CIR. Here's a summary:
I was given lots of responsibility from the word go. At first I thought they had given me too much and had asked me to do things that were beyond my capabilities, but I was able to learn quickly and was given plenty of help along the way. The biggest challenge of the job was keeping up with all of the paper work and bureaucracy! It seemed there were forms to be filled in for everything!
It sounds really cheesy, but the thing I found the most rewarding about the job was that through the various projects I was involved with, I met so many people and was able either to help them out in some way, teach them something, or provide them with information. Moreover, without intending to, they too were helping me out, teaching me things and providing me with information.
My most memorable project was called "The Nagasaki Mystery Tour". I planned the whole thing from start to finish, got permission and funding from the boss, and was inundated with applications from people wanting to take part. The whole event went really well, with both Japanese and foreign residents taking part and the feedback was amazing. It was my final event as a CIR, and I really felt that I went out with a bang!
A successful CIR should love a challenge. They should be outgoing, and not be afraid of making a fool of themselves in the name of international exchange.
They should also be someone who does not get disheartened or give up at the first (or even the tenth!) hurdle, but at the same time someone who can gauge when they should stop pressing and try something different instead. You really just need to be willing to try anything.
Nagasaki was a lovely place to live. The people in Nagasaki are all very friendly and helpful, and there were lots of beautiful places to go at the weekends. We didn't necessarily spend our weekends in the same way as we would back home, and if you wanted to go clubbing for example, there were only a few places. However, this encouraged us to get into the Japanese way of going out, or alternatively to go to nearby Fukuoka for the weekend if we wanted to dance.
There was definitely a sense of community among the JETs. There were lots of both official and unofficial parties and "gatherings". When I first arrived in Nagasaki, the CIR who was already there told me that the ALTs didn't really mix with the CIRs, but I didn't find that to be true at all.
I went on holidays to destinations in Southeast Asia, as well as travelling around Japan a bit, going back to England at Christmas and having friends come over from England.
After doing JET I knew that I definitely wanted a career that involved Japan in some way, and having worked there for 3 years, I was much more "marketable" than someone who had only studied Japanese.
I work for a Japanese company and I share a flat with a friend I met on JET, so yes, I have been able to maintain the connections! The friends I made on JET are some of my closest, and I have been to Japan for both business and pleasure twice since I came home last year.
Do it! I can't think of any career in which you wouldn't use the skills you gain as a CIR.