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116 JET Participants Leave for Japan to Teach English

JET participants, who teach English to Japanese students or work for international relations for local municipalities, left O’Hare Airport for Japan on July 26. The participants will give Japanese students opportunities to interact with native English speakers. The program especially is extremely valuable to the students in rural areas where the students seldom have a chance to speak English with foreign visitors.
JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program is supported by the Japanese Government and municipalities, and recruits participants from 40 countries. This year, 116 participants were recruited from the jurisdiction of the Consulate General of Japan at Chicago, and the number is the biggest among the consular offices in the U.S.

A day before their departure, the Consulate General of Japan at Chicago hosted the pre-departure orientation and send-off reception on July 25 at the Holiday Inn Express Chicago O’Hare.
In her opening remarks, Deputy Consul Keiko Yanai said that JET participants are a key part of Japan-US friendship, and have brought the two countries closer at the people to people’s level over 30 years. She encouraged them saying, “You will meet people, who you always remember in your hearts, co-workers who mentor you, students who inspire you, and friends who help you. You will touch their lives as well by sharing much about America, its people, its places, its music and sports, and its can do spirits.”

Andrew Principe, former JET participant, made a toast and gave advice to the participants. One is keeping one’s goal for whatever he/she wants to accomplish in Japan, so they are able to get through all their struggles. Another is taking advantage of the support and service of JET Alumni.

According to Wesley Julian, President of JET Alumni Association Chicago, JET Alumni Association International consists of 55 Alumni Chapters around the world and has been serving 58,000 JET alumni. Chicago chapter has about 500 members in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana, and has been actively engaged in providing support for JET program, providing cultural events, professional networking opportunities, and more.
Julian advised the participants saying, “Do your best always to say, ‘Yes.’” He encouraged them to actively accept invitations from local people to experience food, culture, customs, and people to people relationship. He also said, “You are public servants, and everything you do will be noticed. You are representations of our country of the JET program and JET Alumni of Chicago.”

Austin Gilkeson, a JET alumni, emceed the reception and took questions from the participants, who had some degrees of anxiety. Their concerns were unknown insects, buying a car, driving on roads, housing, loneliness, communications, and so on. Gilkeson and other alumni answered each question.

Kelly Madison taught English at 14 schools in Nichinan City, Miyazaki Prefecture. At first, she didn’t speak any Japanese and had difficulties communicating with workers in the City Hall and co-teachers at schools, who spoke little English.
She said that JET Alumni offered many language programs in Miyazaki City, so she bought a car and drove to the City to take classes. According to her, JET offers many services such as giving phone numbers, skype and e-mail communications.
After she learned more of the Japanese language, it became much easier to communicate with local people. She said, “I didn’t care about my apartment because I was able to be doing things all days. I was very involved (in the community).”
Madison’s advice was, “Keep an open mind. There are lots of opportunities that you may not be aware of. Just go ahead and talk in your office and schools, and you will be able to join as a part of an event. They will give you great experience.”
After returning to the U.S., she has taught in Rockford, Illinois. She said that she often brought her students to the Anderson Gardens to learn about Japan.

Natalie Dmytrenko is going to go to Akishima, Tokyo. She said that she has been interested in Japan since she was about five years old because her grandparents and a Japanese family from Hachioji, Tokyo were good friends. She had taken Japanese courses from high school to college for seven years. She has studied abroad three times, and the most recent one was at Waseda University in Tokyo for six months. She always knew about the JET program and decided to apply for it. She said, “I really like people in Japan. I think that the people are polite and have a different way of talking and interacting with people.”
While she was in Waseda University, she had an opportunity to teach English to Japanese students, who were going to study abroad. Regarding her teaching plans as a JET teacher, she said, “I think that a big thing is just to approach the students. I want to do a lot of activities more than just learning. I’ll also work with partners as a group.”

Andrew Whelan asked how to handle loneliness at the Q & A session. He came from a big family and was the middle child of seven brothers and sisters. He said that his family lived close together, and he never moved from his home, so leaving was going to be a big thing.
He is going to Kurayoshi City, Tottori Prefecture. He said that foreign exchange students visited his high school and showed origami and other Japanese things. Since then, he wanted to go to Japan. He also missed an opportunity to study abroad when he was in college, so he decided to apply for the JET program.
He majored in Opera and minored in Japanese. Regarding teaching in Japan, he said, “My biggest thing is going there, and as a singer I definitely use singing as a part of my classroom.”
He added that his family was looking forward to visiting him, especially in the cherry blossom season.

Tina Brown is going to Shimanto City, Kochi Prefecture. She heard of the JET Program 11 years ago from her college teacher. She applied for it for three times and finally got a position.
She has worked with students’ behavior problems in Madison, Wisconsin in recent years, but she wasn’t sure if her experiences could be translated to Japanese students. She said that her goal was to make them interesting enough to study English.
Her husband is going to join her while he keeps his job in the U.S. She said that he would do the same job through internet in Japan.

James Wilson is going to go to Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture. It is big, but remote from the main island. He said that he was disappointed because he wouldn’t be able to ride trains a lot, but he was excited since the Island was smaller community, and he would be able to get to know more people.
His teacher in high school had participated in JET Program, and his experience and stories moved him to participate in it. He majored in Ancient Greece and Japanese religious studies. He also took Linguistics and studied Japanese.
He said, “I have 11 nieces and nephews that I dealt with a lot, so I’m hoping my experiences with them will help me over th

JET Alumni share their experiences in Japan with JET participants at a Q&A session.


Deputy Consul Keiko Yanai (R) and Edward Henry Hullsick


Kelly Madison


Natalie Dmytrenko


Andrew Whelan


James Wilson