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140 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 23. The participants will give Japanese students opportunities to interact with native English speakers. The program 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, about 140 participants were recruited from the jurisdiction of the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago.

• A day before their departure, the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago hosted the pre-departure orientation and send-off reception on July 22 at the Holiday Inn Express Chicago O’Hare.

• In his opening remarks, Consul General Toshiyuki Iwado said that the JET Program marked its 30th anniversary, and more than 62,000 JET participants from 65 countries have experienced the real life of Japan through their work as JETs.
• Consul General Iwado said, “As JETs, you will bring the Midwest to your classrooms and communities in Japan. You will also learn about your new home in Japan– its history, festivals, pop culture, and most importantly, food. When you return home, I hope you will continue to support our Japan-Midwest friendship. You can join JETAA and Japan-related organizations.”

• The JET Alumni Association consists of about 55 Alumni chapters around the world. According to its website, the Chicago Chapter has more than 600 members in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. It has been actively engaged in providing professional networking opportunities, supporting the JET Program, serving as a resource for alumni seeking Japan-related education and employment opportunities, and promoting Japan and its culture in the U.S. through their communities.

• Austin Gilkeson, a JET alumnus, emceed the reception and took questions from the participants, who had some degrees of anxiety. Their concerns were driving in Japan, obtaining a drivers’ license, connecting with their students, and language barriers. Their excitements in Japan will be teaching English, motorcycling, food, Olympics, and riding shinkansen bullet trains.

• Michael Bugajski, who was a JET teacher in Niigata Prefecture from 2011 to 2012, is going to participate in the program again this year with his perspective on challenges such as facing teachers, who work in the Japanese school system. He said that every situation of each JET participant was different and every town, city, area, and prefecture was different. “Please do not be afraid of embracing that every situation is different,” he advised. He also encouraged the participants to join JETAA to share their own life-changing experiences.

• Tom Collins, President of JETAA Chicago, spoke about his own experience in Oita Prefecture to ease their anxiety and reminded them of the fact that they were also representing their own country.

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• Maggie Beer of Iowa is going to go Fukui Prefecture to teach English in a senior high school.
• When she was in college, some people came to her classroom and said, “If you are interested in teaching and working abroad, come and check this out.” She thought that it was a wonderful program and applied. She took two years of Japanese language classes, but she said that she forgot much of the language because she had little opportunity to practice it.
• As a salmon lover, she said, “I’m really open to eating and trying a lot different things. I’m not going to say ‘no.’” Fukui is one of the greatest prefectures for seafood.
• Regarding teaching plans, she said, “when I go there I’ll get a feel for what the class looks like, then I’ll cater my teaching style to my students. Let’s see what works and what doesn’t.”
• Her family was very supportive to her decision, but saying good-by was a little emotional. “So it takes a little time, but I’m sure that I’ll have amazing opportunities,” Beer said.

• Stephanie Tyler of Springfield, Ohio is going to Senamiyoko-machi in Niigata Prefecture to teach English.
• She was teaching English to high school students as a tutor since she had become a college student, and took Asian studies in the college, so her Japanese professor suggested applying to the JET Program. “So I decided to participate in JET because it sounds like a perfect fit for me,” Tyler said.
• “My Japanese is not very good, so I have to learn, but I can introduce myself to the students,” she smiled.
• Regarding her teaching plans, “I’m really excited to tell them about my hometown, which is small but has a lot of very cool things like corn festivals and pig growing competitions,” she said.
• Her mother was supportive, but misses her a lot. Her mother and Tyler applied for their passports together, so her mother can visit her in Japan.

• Robin Jungwirth of Green Bay, Wisconsin was a fluent Japanese speaker and was going to go to Obama City in Fukui. Her Japanese teacher in her college recommended her to apply to JET.
• Her interests in Japanese language started with Shonen Jump, a comic magazine. She wrote the dialogues and brought them to Japanese classes when she was in high school. Her Japanese studies continued until she became a college junior. After graduating from college, she practiced Japanese with exchange students from Japan.
• Regarding her teaching plans, she said, “I heard that I’m going to be mostly assisting the main teacher of the students. I want to do whatever I can to be an assistant. Maybe I’ll come up with some games to play with the students and want to learn what they are interested in, so I can teach things to them, and they can have fun.”

• Adam Eisenstein of Chicago was also a fluent Japanese speaker. His interest in the Japanese language started with games and “otaku things” when he was a high school student.
• During his college days, he studied at Doshisha University in Kyoto for a year; however, his dormitory was dominated with European students, so he became close to them.
• He wanted to return to Japan and make friends in Japan, so he applied to JET, but he said, “My real reason to participate in JET was my interests in Japanese culture,” he said.
• He was going to Higashi Sonogi-cho in Nagasaki Prefecture and planned to connect himself with his students through games and fun things to ease their nervousness.


The send-off reception on July 22, 2016


The Q&A session at the send-off reception


Consul General Toshiyuki Iwado


Maggie Beer


Stephanie Tyler


Robin Jungwirth


Adam Eisenstein