Hi fellow JET alumni,
My name is Yeu-Li Huang, and I currently serve on the JETAASE board as secretary and newsletter editor. I had the pleasure of representing the Southeast chapter at the 2017 JETAA USA National Conference as well as attending the first ever national JET reunion event, JET30 Reunion, which celebrated the 30th anniversary of the JET Program. Both were held in Washington DC during August of this year.
Each time I attend a National Conference, I'm amazed at the efforts and accomplishments of the JETAA USA chapters as a whole. Alumni have been hard at work supporting potential, current, and former JETs; the following list only touches upon a few of the many events that the chapters have implemented:
- The Chicago chapter held a survival event series spanning several days to prepare new JETs for Japan.
- The Northern California chapter has been awarding scholarships for several years to high school students who are interested in Japan, funded through members' fundraising efforts.
- Many chapters have been building chapter nest egg through various efforts to support diverse chapter activities.
- Subchapters set up to provide a network for JETs residing outside the main chapter's geographic area have been going strong, e.g. Monterey Bay and Pittsburgh.
- Board members across all chapters are planning for the future with the following goals in mind: strengthening the board, strengthening membership, providing chapter transparency, creating a knowledge repository, increasing the ease on onboarding new board members and transitioning leadership, and more. This is a topic close to my heart since JETAASE would love to see "new blood," so to speak!
The chapters have always been supported by the CLAIR arm of the Japanese government, and in more recent years by USJETAA, an independent non-profit organization with the goal to support US chapters. USJETAA is run by Paige Cottingham-Streater and Laurel Lukaszewski, JET alumni who have been instrumental in helping JETAA be recognized as a national organization.
Now onto JET30 Reunion!
JET30 Reunion was the JET Program's 30th anniversary celebration inviting all JET alumni, family & friends at the historic Omni Shoreham Hotel. It featured the following themes:
- Celebrate - 30 years of cultural exchange
- Reconnect - to Japan and JETs from around the world
- Reminisce - with old friends and discover new ones
The reunion was the result of the hard work of the JET30 planning committee and volunteers. It would not have been possible without the help of supporters and sponsors, including the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and CLAIR. In addition, the Embassy of Japan graciously invited all JET30 participants to the ambassador's residence for an evening reception on Friday.
JET30 was truly a reunion of JETs from all over the country, and even included JETs from Jamaica and Brazil. I myself connected with tons of new people-JETs who went to Japan before I did, JETs who went to Japan after I did, JETs who worked in the same town I did, and JETs who live in Atlanta that I'd never met before.
JET30 featured many interesting panels, lectures, and discussions, with topics ranging from the economic and political state of Japan, to networking and career support, to films directed by Seijun Suzuki, to Japanese youkai and haunted houses. I was impressed with the breadth and depth of knowledge that JET panelists obtained through their professional careers and social interests.
The last event of JET30 Reunion, the Natsu Matsuri, encouraged guests to come dressed in Japanese festival clothing such as yukata and jinbei. It kicked off with a sake kanpai and ended with fireplace gathering of JETs recollecting memorable experiences in Japan. All in all, the event truly lived up to its "natsukaii" billing.