The JET Programme, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, will hold a commemorative ceremony on 7 November. This will be preceded by a JETAA International Meeting and Global Forum on 6 November, where representatives from each country’s JETAA chapters as well as National AJET representatives will gather together to discuss various JET Programme matters.
At the commemorative ceremony, presentations on the activities of JET Programme participants will be given, the ‘JET Declaration’ will be announced, and an award ceremony for the winners of the JET Programme Video Contest will be held. The ‘JET Declaration’ is a statement made collectively by past and current JET Programme participants who have helped make the programme what it is today. As the first ever JET Declaration, it is hoped that it will provide an opportunity to look back on the history of the programme and tell the world about its successes and future goals.
At the JETAA International Meeting, along with the adoption of the JET Declaration, the JETAA Country Representatives will exchange opinions on topics such as how to facilitate future development of the JET Programme and how to continue to strengthen the JETAA network.
Xander Peterson, Former Miyakonojo City ALT, 2009-2012
Welcome to the newly reformed JETAA International, or JETAA-I, the organisation representing the global community of former participants in the JET Programme and their JET Alumni Association chapters.
Although JETAA-I was active in the 1990s and 2000s, activity dried up after 2011. However, after a year-long effort by people around the world to improve the alumni’s ability to contribute to the JET Programme, including participating in the 30th anniversary, JETAA-I was successfully relaunched. JETAA-I’s members are comprised of all recognised JETAA Country Representatives, and with new bylaws ratified and officer elections held, JETAA-I has succeeded in building momentum going into the inaugural International Meeting that will be held on 6 November this year in Tokyo, as part of the 30th anniversary celebration of the JET Programme.
There are currently approximately 65,000 JET alumni around the world, many of whom belong to one of 52 JETAA chapters or their numerous subchapters. There are also communities of alumni in countries that are not officially recognised as chapters, either because they have not applied to JETAA-I for recognition or have not yet met the eligibility requirements.
JETAA-I exists to support these recognised and unrecognised JETAA chapters and individual alumni by providing information and coordination services, as well as by serving as a central point of contact for anyone wishing to learn about or engage with JET alumni in some way. JETAA-I also works to support the JET Programme in collaboration with the alumni and the Japanese government.
JETAA-I is excited about the future potential of international JETAA collaboration efforts. As a first step, JETAA-I has launched a new website, www.jetaainternational.org, to facilitate sharing of information across JETAA chapters and alumni around the world. Please be sure to check it out!
Eden Law, Former Iwaki City ALT 2010-2011
In recent years, CLAIR has provided support for post-JET life through the After JET conferences (AJC), where final-year JET participants can receive career advice and mentoring from JET alumni from different industries and occupations. I myself participated in the 2016 AJC in Chiba as an advisor on IT careers. Frequently running at the same time, the JET Programme Career Fair gives JET participants a chance to speak to and network with potential employers and recruiters from local companies in Japan. And recently, CLAIR has started yet another method for career development: the JET Internship Programme.
The internship lasts 5 days, has a choice of either an August or September placement, and is unpaid. The criteria for suitable candidates are very selective, being open only to 3rd year and above JET participants, with a JLPT Level N2 and above required (considering all the application forms are in Japanese only). Candidates are usually recommended by their contracting organisation as being suitable for consideration. Successful candidates are determined by CLAIR, who also try to match them to the workplace that best fits them, with consideration given to the requests of the companies. Joshua Leong (Kagoshima-ken CIR) was one of the selected participants who participated in the August internship period. The application and selection process, by comparison to the JET Programme (which can take almost 5 months), can be very quick, starting from early June, with successful applicants notified in late July – meaning Joshua had to scramble to book travel and accommodation for a week in Tokyo near summer peak season, even before he knew where exactly he was placed. Luckily, the commute wasn’t a problem with Tokyo’s legendary and extensive rail network.
Apart from the information pack that interns get detailing who the contact would be at the placement and what the intern would be doing, details weren’t particularly specific, and while Joshua knew he was placed with a foreign technology consultancy, “consulting”, as Joshua points out, can cover a whole range of things. Fortunately, the placement turned out to be a very good match. Describing the company as having ‘a very progressive work culture which I really enjoyed’, he also got to go with company representatives to meetings with clients. ‘It wasn’t as if they were holding my hand… I got to do actual work’, which included writing reports based on the client meetings he was part of and doing market research for projects that were in the planning stages. ‘I felt I was contributing to the workplace – that was very positive… I would consider working at [this type of company] after JET’.
Interestingly, while obviously Japanese is important and used for business and client interactions, English was frequently used internally in the company. Though a CIR, Joshua noted that dealing with Japanese business language and IT jargon could be challenging in comparison to the Japanese used in public service. Sometimes it would require writing an unfamiliar word down phonetically, to be later looked up and corrected back in the office.
Joshua goes on to describe the workplace as one that was highly diverse, with people from different nationalities, including Japanese. It was a far more relaxed workplace – initially, Joshua was relatively traditional in his work habits. He discussed the merits of a more flexible work environment with several work colleagues – interestingly, the Japanese nationals who worked there all had experience working overseas and thus had exposure to an international work environment (it should be noted that there has been a public service push by the government to change the traditional Japanese work culture).
In terms of how the internship influenced his after JET career plans, Joshua says that it was good to get a taste of both the public and private sectors. The experience with this private sector job was extremely positive, and certainly something he would aim for as a place to work at after JET. Additionally, the internship has ‘taught me that it’s very valuable to get yourself out there and network with people’ – which of course means keeping in touch with the people at the place that he interned.
If you’ve become interested in participating in the programme yourself, check out the JET Internship Programme website, and more importantly, make sure your contact information with CLAIR is up-to-date. The programme is quite new and developing, so positive support and feedback will ensure that it continues and expand to provide more opportunities for JETs in the years to come.
The audio version of my discussion with Joshua about his internship will be available soon on the After JET podcast, available on Soundcloud:
As the name implies, After JET focuses on the stories and careers of people after JET. Not affiliated with the After JET Conference by CLAIR, though certainly inspired by it. Thanks to CLAIR and Joshua Leong for the chance to talk about the internship.
Xingmin Ji, Former Yamaguchi Prefecture CIR 2013-2014
Regardless of whether we lived in Kumamoto or elsewhere, we, the JET alumni of China, possess a shared experience: all of us have lived in Japan, and we will certainly not forget the extraordinary lives we led there.
When news of the Kumamoto Earthquake reached China, the JET alumni scattered around the various regions of China began talking with each other on WeChat, with many agreeing ‘We should definitely do something (in response to the earthquake)’. What could we do for our friends right across the sea from us? I myself wanted to travel directly to the affected areas and participate in the recovery efforts as a volunteer, but faced with various other obligations, I had no choice but to forgo traveling to Kumamoto. However, after thinking about the matter further, I resolved to start a fund-raising campaign, and so formed a fund-raising campaign team with a group of other alumni.
China is a vast country with JET alumni tending to spread out to the various regions of China upon returning home after their term of appointment on JET. How to get the word out about this fund-raising effort and how to collect or transfer the donation money were both great concerns. How to deliver our support to the disaster affected areas was also a difficult problem we faced.
Fortunately for us, the world of online services and electronic payment systems have expanded significantly in China. Such convenient services were unthinkable a decade or so ago, but now mainstream apps like WeChat and Alipay (an online payment application) exist and were helpful in solving our problems.
After forming our fund-raising team, we divided the work of making posters, handouts, etc., and did all that we could to spread the word about our campaign by sharing and forwarding emails, WeChat messages, and by talking about the fund-raising effort on Tencent QQ chat groups.
To be honest, for many of the JET alumni in China, it has been many years since they participated in the Programme; getting in contact with these alumni is quite difficult. In addition, the alumni are scattered all over China, so I did not really know what to expect when we started the campaign. Fortunately, despite my concerns, the response to our efforts moved us again and again. A senpai alumnus who participated in the Programme in 1992, over 24 years ago, sent a donation. In addition, we received donations from alumni living in a wide variety of regions – Bejing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Lanzhou, Yunnan, Shangdong, Heilong Jiang, and even Tokyo and Singapore. One household in Shanghai even contacted us, asking ‘We aren’t JET participants or alumni but can we still donate?’. Yet another person sent a donation from faraway Sri Lanka. In moments like this, I became so overwhelmed with emotion that I was at a loss for words and struggled to hold back tears.
Only one week after starting our campaign, we already had 119 donors contributing 25,000 yuan (approximately 420,000 Japanese yen). While only a small contribution, we hope it will be cherished by those affected by the disaster as an “expression of our love” from China.
Having differences in our governments and being geographically distant from each other…these are things that divide us from country to country. However, compassion between humans is something that can overcome any difference between our countries, any difference in our language, and can reach across any mountain or sea that separates us to bring us together.
As time goes on, there will probably be less and less news about the earthquake. However, we will always be looking out for and cheering on our Japanese friends across the sea from here in China. Ganbare, Kumamoto!
For 11 months starting in October 2015, the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR) hosted a video contest to create a platform for JET Programme participants and alumni to utilise their unique insight to discover and share the hidden charms of Japan’s local regions. The 10 award winners of the contest, announced recently, will be recognised for their achievements at the JET Programme 30th Anniversary Commemorative Ceremony, scheduled to be held this 7 November, 2016.
The contest, held over two periods – an Autumn/Winter Edition and Spring/Summer Edition – saw current and former JET participants submit videos on the theme of “JET Participants Introducing the Charms of Japan’s Local Regions.” The 50 videos of the Autumn/Winter Edition and 57 videos of the Spring/Summer Edition were evaluated together by an expert panel of judges for excellence, originality, and effectiveness as a promotion tool for the regions of Japan featured in the video.
Dr. Mitsuko Okamoto, Professor at the Graduate School of Film and New Media at the Tokyo University of Arts and Chair of the Contest’s Panel of Judges, commented on behalf of the panel, saying “Even professionals in the film industry such as us [judges] felt that the submitted videos exhibited a high-level of professionalism and excellence in editing and cinematography. Watching these videos, I was moved to see that JET participants truly understand and enjoy the tradition, culture, and variety of seasons of Japan, and that they proactively make efforts to interact with those around them and become part of their respective communities. The videos in this contest are a great endorsement of the JET Programme, of the regions they feature, and of Japan itself. If videos such as these are compiled further, they will become a precious archive treasured by both people in Japan and around the world. I would love to see this project continued in the future.”
CLAIR hopes to utilise the videos submitted in the contest to contribute to the revitalisation of Japan’s local regions as well as raise awareness of the activities of JET Programme participants and the JET Programme itself.
The award-winning videos, as well as the other submitted videos, can be viewed on the JET Programme’s website at https://jetprogramme.org/videocontest/.