For the last year, with the help of various contacts, I have been reaching out to Hyogo JET alumni, pestering them about what they have been doing since finishing up on the JET programme. For me, it has been inspiring to learn about the career and life paths of our ALT contemporaries. [Alumni – if you are reading and willing to answer a few questions to inspire your successors, please email hyogotimespublications@gmail.com ]

This month I decided it would be interesting to find out what the 2014 leavers would be up to next. Some of us aren’t yet sure – and when it comes to the big scary future, it’s nice to know you’re not alone.

 

This feels a little like group therapy, and it’s all of my own making, so I’ll begin…

 

charlotteCharlotte Griffiths, UK, Ashiya 2012-2014

Stand out memory from time on JET:

Getting traumatically lost driving to Kochi for the AJET rafting trip – evil SatNav, treacherous roads, misunderstood road signs, horror stories and scarecrows in fancy dress were a lot scarier than white-water rapids. I couldn’t have done it alone. As with everything else these past two years; memories shared are memories doubled.

Oh, and Kobe steak for dad’s 60th birthday – won me daughter of the year.

How do you feel about leaving?

Two weeks ago I was fine. This week I am a mess. Today a class of students reworded and sang a Taylor Swift song to me as a surprise. I cried. They cried. It was so cute my heart hurt. I still have 4 weeks left at school…help!

Where are you going/what will you be doing next?

For now I will be returning to the UK and becoming my parents’ house pet. Whilst preying on their generosity I am looking for work in international organisations, preferably in communications and/or cross-cultural promotion. I’d love to find a job I can apply my love for different cultures with my love of words, spoken and written.

Various back up plans include a ski-season, inter-railing around Europe, housesitting in France as ‘study’…why am I job hunting again?

Advice for new Hyogo JETs:

Smile.

Make friends with your students. It makes leaving so much harder, but the experience so much better.

If you are even vaguely above average height and live in a traditional Japanese apartment, do not wriggle-jump into your jeans whilst walking through a doorway. Trust me. Concussion is no fun.

 

 

AndrewAndrew McCallum, USA, Ashiya, 2011-2014

Stand out memory from time on JET:

Getting people together and going out for food all around Kansai (and starting an eating group: Another Empty Dish)

How do you feel about leaving?

It is time to move on and settle down to start a family at home, closer to family. The feeling is bittersweet because of the memories that can/will be shared.

Where are you going/what will you be doing next?

Hopefully I will be going back to Canada and back to teaching French in elementary school

Advice for new Hyogo JETs:

Work with what you have, what you are given, and then build from there. Incremental change will help overcome many barriers without stomping on people’s toes.

 

 

vikki coulsonVikki Coulson, UK, Miki City, 2013-2014.

Stand out memory from time on JET:

Miki Kanamono Festival

How do you feel about leaving?

I feel sad about leaving, but happy to be moving on to the next part of my life. I’ll miss the Miki ALTs.

Where are you going/what will you be doing next?

I’m going to be teaching English at A2Z Manchester in the UK.

Advice for new Hyogo JETs:

Venture out and explore Hyogo. It’s a huge prefecture with so many different sights all on your doorstep.

 

 

taylorTaylor Wettach, USA, Kami-cho, 2013-2014

Standout memory from time on JET:

The Tajima Scavenger Hunt! From falling in the water below one of northern Hyogo’s best waterfalls, to drinking a beer from five different vending machines, to taking a photo arm-wrestling a Japanese man with a tattoo (always a good decision) – it was a true Tajima trial by fire.

How do you feel about leaving JET?

 As someone who had been interested in JET since high school, it’s certainly bittersweet. But it’s also important to remember that JET’s value transcends our time in the program, be it one year or five years. Our charge to promote cross cultural exchange continues, and I’m looking forward to the long haul.

Where are you going/what will you be doing next?

Keio University in Tokyo to study Japanese and continue my research on Japanese economics and politics; another step down the long and winding road to a career in US-Asia policy.

Advice for new Hyogo JETs: 

In the words of (the recently arrested) Aska from Chage and Aska, “On your mark, yet we’ll never stop. We look up at the hill of dreams, feeling like we must go.” Every situation may be different, as JETs are fond of saying, but each provides its own challenges and opportunities. Think, “What would Aska do?”, skip the amphetamines, then embrace all that JET offers you.

 

 

JessicaJessica McSavage, Canada, Kobe, 2013-14

Standout memory from time on JET:

Seeing one of the students I coached for her university interview cry tears of joy after learning she got the highest score.

How do you feel about leaving JET?

I feel good. I enjoyed teaching my kids, exploring Japan and Asia, and getting to experience living in another culture. I will miss it but I am ready to move on to the next stage in my life.

Where are you going/what will you be doing next? 

I will be attending the University of Toronto to get my Master’s of Education, concentrating on Student Services and Student Development in Post-secondary Education.

Advice for new Hyogo JETs:

Make the most of your time here. Experience new things and find new ways to do the things you already love.

 

 

cherieCherie Pham, UK, Kawanishi City, 2012-14

Standout memory from time on JET:

I could say the icy masterpieces at Sapporo’s famous Yuki Matsuri or overdosing on Genghis Khan lamb and Sapporo beer. But my real stand out memory was the aftermath: a series of unfortunate events left us homeless in Hokkaido and the only choice was an all-you-can-karaoke room. My best memory is what happened next. We ventured to the picturesque hills of Hokkaido and bathed in an outdoor natural onsen, surrounded by settled and falling snow. We were in a delusional, giddy state, perfect for onsen gossiping. Turning what could have been a nightmare into my favourite memory was only doable with the amazing life-long friends I met in Hyogo. Cheesy but true.

How do you feel about leaving JET?

Like I’m on a see-saw. Day to day varies from being high on life and thinking about Yorkshire puddings then fear and gloom strike when I realize I won’t see my students again or won’t be living between Osaka and Kobe. The weirdest see-saw I’ve ever ridden, feeling a bit nauseous.

Where are you going/what will you be doing next?

I don’t have a concrete next step but what I’ve realized from living here and experiencing so many crazy, unique things is that I want to do it again. I set myself a two year limit for Japan and made a long list of things to do, see and eat – I pretty much did them all. On my return to England I want to set that same limit and then move again, perhaps to Singapore or Canada. This way, I can properly see my home country as a tourist and even if I don’t move again, I will have had two more years worth of awesome photos.

Advice for new Hyogo JETs:

Take a photo everyday and post it on Facebook so everyone can see – this forces you to do more interesting things, say “yes” to midweek outings and travel to faraway lands. It certainly did for my first year here; “Japan 365” is my favourite Facebook album.

And another thing…Sit in an onsen ‘til you get pruney. You will never be able to be so free and naked and hot in public. Maybe.

 

 

WhitneyWhitney Litz, USA, Kami Town, Tajima 2011-2014

Standout memory from time on JET:

So many come to mind, but I suppose it would be the time I stormed my elementary school in “oni” attire with my sixth graders in tow, shouting “I am strong! I am brave!” during recess. We started on the second floor, progressed down the hallway past the homerooms, through a game of dodgeball in the gym, and ended triumphantly in the teachers’ room.

How do you feel about leaving JET?

I have learned so much about myself while on JET. I am incredibly grateful for my three years here.

Advice for new Hyogo JETs:

Hyogo is wonderful in that it is a place of opportunity, even out in the countryside. Own this experience!

 

 

alexhAlex Hopkins, UK, Himeji, 2012-2014

Standout memory from time on JET:

It’s difficult to choose just one. Camping on Awaji, skiing in Nagano and exploring Tokyo are all prominent. Standout memory though, if I had to choose would be exploring Kyoto during sakura season with my parents, the first time they had ever been to Japan.

How do you feel about leaving JET? 

Mixed feelings. I feel like I’ve accomplished a great deal and learnt a huge amount on JET, and I have had two fantastic years here. Amongst the greatest memories I have, many of them belong to JET. However I do feel it’s time to move on – let’s just hope I’m right. In a word; conflicted!

Where are you going/what will you be doing next?

Moving back home to London to start my PGCE Primary and hopefully become a teacher.

Advice for new Hyogo JETs:

Explore, laugh, wander around all wide-eyed as a JET – and do your utmost to bring some of that fun and wonderment to your classroom. Share it with your students.

 

 

catherineCatherine Lovett, Ireland, Sanda, 3 years

Standout memory from time on JET:

It’s difficult to pick just one so I’ll pick 3… Climbing Mt. Fuji, cycling the Shima-nami-kaido and going to Okinawa.

How do you feel about leaving JET?

I feel happy to move onto new challenges.

Where are you going/what will you be doing next?

Returning home to Ireland for a while.

Advice for new Hyogo JETs:

Be open-minded and flexible. Try new things and meet new people! Try to learn Japanese.

 

 

castroRamiro Castro, USA, Himeji 2 years

Standout memory from time on JET:

I will never forget the first time any group of new students and I share a hearty laugh because at that point both parties sense that the learning process for the upcoming year might actually be enjoyable.

How do you feel about leaving JET?

Professionally, even though I have things lined up at home, I hate knowing I’m that much better now than I was 2 years ago. I wish I had a clone to stay and max out any potential I may have as an ALT. I feel like the kids deserve it.

Where are you going/what will you be doing next?

I will be going back to school to earn my teaching credential (most likely in secondary math). I learned on JET that I love seeing the students reach ‘a-ha!’ moments in class. In those moments you realize the communication process was a success. I look forward to chasing those moments through math.

Advice for new Hyogo JETs:

Take advantage of the geographically diverse prefecture you live in. Budget and explore it.

 

 

paigePaige Ngo, Canada, Amagasaki 2 years

Standout memory from time on JET:

Maybe I’m just a woman of extremes, but I find it really hard to choose between the girls’ nights in with wine and board games, and the wild adventures abroad with my best friends.

Here’s a list of my number ones in Japan to make up for (or add to) my indecisiveness:

Most beautiful sight seen: View from Mt. Miyanoura on Yakushima

Best Japanese food eaten: Ramen from がふうあん near Itami Hankyu

Craziest night: Mixed onsen and winning strip poker on that ski trip

How do you feel about leaving JET? 

Just terrible.

Where are you going/what will you be doing next?

Going home to Canada for a while, but setting off onto my next life abroad hopefully within a month or two. France?

Advice for new Hyogo JETs: 

Don’t let anything get in the way of experiencing Japan to the fullest. You will never have a better chance than now to meet the people, see the sights, and absorb the culture in and around Japan.

Fly Peach and Japan Guide are good travel catalysts.

 

Interviews compiled by Charlotte Griffiths