Celebration of cross cultural experiences
The world is a global village, it is said, and what better way to explore this village than to experience first-hand the land, culture, tastes, sounds that are diverse, intriguing. Since 2000, more than 350 Jamaicans can share their testimonials of living this experience.
Recently, a group converged to celebrate the Jamaica JET Alumni Association (JJETAA) 15th anniversary at the residence of Ambassador of Japan to Jamaica Masanori Nakano.
It was a celebration of their experiences as teachers in Japan under the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) programme and defacto ambassadors of their country.
"I would like to say congratulations to JJETAA on reaching this milestone," said Ambassador Nakano in his address. "You have worked hard to enhance the diplomatic relations between Japan and Jamaica by promoting Japanese culture within Jamaica."
The JET alumni, in unison, agree that leaving the shores of Jamaica, the comforts of home, and going to a land that is far, literally and figuratively. "There were butterflies in my stomach, how will I fit in, what will I eat ... ?" was the reaction.
This change cannot be termed a transition. It is more of a cultural shock - the bustling metropolis, neon lights galore, an unheard language in the occidental world - but Japan is like Umami, the flavour profile, it grows on you.
JET, founded in 1987, has sent more than 62,000 global participants from a total of 65 countries to work in schools, on boards of education, and in government offices across Japan.
"What makes JET unique is that in addition to the fact that JET is a teaching programme," said Nakano, "it offers a unique cultural exchange opportunity to meet many people in various sectors living and working in Japan".
The JET participants, during their tenure, imparted the gift of education, but take back a life-changing experience. Coming back home, they were different people.
"I was going back to Jamaica to another kind of unknown," said Nadine Thompson, a November 2006 to August 2011 JET participant, who is now living and working in China. "It was hard to explain all the emotions I was going through - loss, anxiety, emptiness - yet, I still had hope."
Thompson's sentiments were evident, even though they were not said in so many words.
Sheena Jarret, JJETTA's president, said as a group, she would like the alumni association members to support each other.
"It was good to reflect on the past 15 years and take pride in how much the association has grown," Jarret said. "It was also a pleasure to see the new returnees come into the fold and willingly offer to assist with our activities."
She said further that through the experience gained in Japan, the alumni members found opportunities to build their careers in environment, culture, education, tourism, music, fashion, and as support group for participants of the JET Programme.
Florence Blackwood, senior director of sports development and monitoring, who read a message on behalf of Olivia Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment, and sports, congratulated the alumni for the milestone and expressed special commendation to the Government of Japan for its work in contributing to the development of Jamaica and enriching Jamaican culture.
Claudia Barnes, former ambassador of Jamaica to Japan, raised a toast, wishing JJETTA success, encouraging the alumni members to follow the traits of discipline, meticulousness, and hard work, which are a way of life in Japan.
Gregory Gordon, a JET who spent nine years in Japan, talked about his experiences in Japan as he churned out tunes from his Korg - his keyboard. "I bought this lovely keyboard in Japan from the money I saved in the JET programme," he said.
As Gordon shared his melodies, others reminisced about the memories everyone seemed to have carried something back home - a sense of achievement, a feeling of a void, perhaps.
Thompson left Japan on August 9, 2011, a day that she says she can never forget.
"When I got to Narita airport and the Customs officer put that stamp in my passport declaring residence permit and visa finished, I gasped. This was it! I boarded the flight and closed my eyes, said a prayer and goodbye to Japan," she said.
But in Japan, it's never goodbye, for one should not be sad that something just ended Just be happy that it happened.
Application for 2018 Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme is now open
The application period for the 2018 Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme is now open and will be closed on Thursday, November 2, 2017, at 4 p.m. The application package is downloadable on our website http://www.jamaica.emb-japan.go.jp/itpr_en/jet_application.html or persons have the option of visiting the Embassy of Japan in Jamaica, located at NCB Towers, North Tower, 6th floor, 2 Oxford Road, Kingston 5, to collect the application form(s).
About the JET Programme
The JET Programme is a large-scale exchange programme administered by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations in Japan.
Through the JET Programme, people from participating countries are invited to Japan and are appointed to work as ALTs (assistant language teachers), CIRs (coordinators for international relations) or SEAs (sports Exchange Advisors) by local governments in Japan for one year (up to five years). Please note that Jamaicans can only apply for the ALT position at this moment.
The JET Programme aims to promote internationalisation in Japan's local communities by improving foreign language education and developing international exchange at the community level by fostering ties between Japanese youth and foreign youth. The objectives of the programme are being achieved as JET programme participants serve in local authorities as well as in public and private elementary and junior and senior high schools in Japan.
Jamaicans on the JET Programme have always received high praises over the last 17 years. It is of great importance that this excellent reputation and high level of respectability is maintained. Participants are invited to Japan as representatives of their countries. Therefore, the tradition must continue, and in so doing, enrich the promotion of mutual understanding between the two countries.