Backtrack #9: A Tapestry of Compassion, Patience, Humanity, Individuality, and Safety (May Tsun, Ainan 2008-2010)

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How did you find out about JET, and what led you to apply?

The program was well known at my college. I was interested in an experience abroad before graduate school, and I had more of a connection to Japan through kendo and pop culture.

What did you hope to achieve on JET, and did that change during your time here?

I wanted to travel and experience Japanese culture. It was great to learn more about diverse experiences through my fellow JETs who came from other parts of the my country and throughout the world. I hope in sharing my stories, I’ve broadened their perspectives of the US beyond what’s in the media.

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What is your lasting impression of the work you did on JET and the communities you were part of?

I think the continuity of the JET program is a bigger impact than any individual person. Even as I’ve injected my personal experience into my teachings and interactions, most of those were forgettable. What persists is that each small interaction further reinforces a positive and rich experience with those from outside Japan, hopefully a tapestry of compassion, patience, humanity, individuality, and safety.

Where did JET lead you?

The JET alumni network is broad. I work in an industry that doesn’t especially attract JETs, and even there I’ve encountered other JETs. I’ve met so many friends through JET or the alumni association, including my husband. I’ve also had a job referral through my JET network. The program continues to enrich my life with interesting opportunities through the alumni association. 

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Right now, some incoming JETs have been delayed by more than a year, and are in the difficult position of choosing to indefinitely wait for Japan to open up or to give up on coming here. Do you have any comments or advice for them during this time?

It can be an extraordinarily eye-opening experience to live abroad as an adult. The program and the country are unique in so many ways, and the network is so established that it can continue to enrich your life no matter what career path you take. That said, it’s incredibly difficult to live in limbo. JET is one more opportunity in life, and one you can always take up again at a future time if you’re determined. You should feel empowered to make whatever decision is right for you.

If you had been in their position, do you think you would have gone on JET if you’d been in limbo for a year?

When I went on JET, I had set in motion the next phases of my career, which had a deadline. I opted to that start to stay on JET longer, but I wouldn’t have cancelled it. I would probably still make similar choices in limbo: to plan my next piece, and go on JET if it isn’t a blocker or stumbling block, but perhaps be willing to delay those plans in favor of JET. I also see that living in Japan so early in my adulthood gifted me some much-needed experience and time, and I am grateful to always have that moving forward.

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