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JET Impressions

How did you first hear about the JET Programme and what led you to apply?

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!

Did you have any apprehensions before beginning work as a CIR?

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.

Could you speak a little a bit about the workplace in which you were placed as a CIR; what were your working conditions and typical routine?

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.

Were you able to build good relationships with your co-workers, and co-operate with them effectively?

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.

What activities formed the main part of your work? Did working as a CIR entail a variety of duties?

I did all sorts of things as a CIR. Here's a summary:

  • Making a monthly newsletter for foreign residents of the prefecture giving information on up-and-coming events, living information, and things to do in the area.
  • Assisting foreign residents with all sorts of things from paying bills to difficulties with fitting into Japanese society.
  • Giving talks (in Japanese) at companies, community centres and schools, both about the UK and about cultural differences between the UK and Japan.
  • Visiting schools and teaching students various aspects of UK culture through games, music, cookery etc.
  • Planning and running international exchange events (i.e. events that involved both Japanese and foreign residents, and that encouraged each side to understand more about the other).
  • Translation.
  • Interpretation. There were lots of other things as well that I can't recall right now!

What were the challenges, and what were the rewards in your job?

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.

Was there any project that you worked on that is particularly memorable to you?

 

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!

What would you describe as the key characteristics of a successful CIR?

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.

How about your life outside of work? Did you find Nagasaki an easy place for a foreigner to live, and were there opportunities to enjoy yourself?

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.

Did you feel that there was a sense of community among the JETs living there?

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.

How typically did you spend vacation periods away from work?

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.

Looking back on your JET experience, how (if at all) did it alter your ideas about your career, and did it influence the moves that you have subsequently made?

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.

Could you identify any particular skills and experiences acquired on JET, which have been useful in your current career?

  • Confidence
  • Adaptability, flexibility
  • Improved language skills
  • Organisational Skills

Have you been able to continue to maintain a connection to Japan? And the friends you made on JET?

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.

What advice would give to those contemplating taking part in the Programme?

Do it! I can't think of any career in which you wouldn't use the skills you gain as a CIR.