Where Are They Now? JET Alumni Jake Vollebregt and Arrun Soma

Version 2Hiroshima JET alumni Jake Vollebregt and Arrun Soma answer some questions about what they’ve been up to post-JET and how the JET experience has helped them. If you’re a JET alumni and would like to answer this questionnaire, please email the editors at wideislandview@gmail.com!
Names: Jake Vollebregt and Arrun Soma
Ages: 31 and 28 respectively
Location in Japan while on JET: The one and only, Hiroshima, baby!
Years on JET:  We did one teaching year in Japan – 2012/13

Currently living in: London, United Kingdom

Current occupation: 

Jake, Inventory Analyst for a UK clothing retailer

Arrun, Television News Producer at the BBC

Highlight/funniest part of your JET experience: 

Jake ,  I was walking along a very quiet back street in Kure, and I saw a mother and her seemingly shy (or so I thought) elementary school aged son. Without a “Hello, how are you? What’s your name?”, the boy out of the blue yelled “I’m hungry!” in English.  He wasn’t even one of my students. Taken aback, the only thing I could think to say was, “Me too.”

Arrun,  My absolute highlight was the profound effect JET had in bringing people together. We made so many amazing friends, and they are people we now consider family. You know who you are, peeps.  Love y’all to bits!! Karaoke sessions were epic.

How the JET Programme has benefited you career-wise: 

Jake,  My background was in finance and office management, so teaching English wasn’t a direct path in my career, and my new position is strictly finance based. However, in my current role, I have to discuss complex issues and provide reasoning in easy to understand language. The experience of living and working in a very foreign place has been very useful.

Arrun, The JET programme for us was more about taking a one year life-break rather than making a career move, and so while it hasn’t had a direct effect on my career now, there are many skills which I think have benefited me – one of the most important is learning to be a fish out of water.

What transferable skills JET gives you:

Jake,  Adaptability and patience.

Arrun, Patience and patience.

What advice you would give to current JETs for getting the most out of the JET experience in order to further their career afterwards: 

Jake,  Try to add value to your teaching experience by adding to your skills, especially in your down time. This could be assisting with a sports club at school, or a community or international centre. If you can do correspondence courses from your home country while you are on JET that add more to your education, then it could be a way of getting to where you want to be, quicker.

Arrun, I would really urge you to get some special projects under your belt. For example, at my school, I started an annual English speech contest complete with shiny trophy. When it comes to writing your CV, saying that you project managed an educational event is better than saying you graded papers. Even if schools say no at first, push hard, as we often know better than our Japanese colleagues.  Don’t be afraid to talk-it-up and capitalize on your JET experience.

Any tips for job hunting after JET?

Jake and Arrun, On leaving JET, look back at the wonderful time you had, and what you achieved. Things like learning another language, living in an isolated rural village, having to make new friends, and accomplishments as a teacher. You may not realize it now, but these are important life skills. Cash in on these things. Sell yourself. We initially thought our year in Japan was just a nice little one year holiday. In fact, we learnt so much about ourselves, each other, and that we could accomplish a lot if we put our minds to it. Make sure your CV is up to scratch, and start job hunting before you leave Japan.

Have a great time on the wonderful JET journey. Live in the moment, but definitely prepare for the future.  Good luck to you all.