First Year Rep Elections 2016!

Howdy! It’s time once again for the HAJET First Year Representative elections! (So bizarre, I was the rep last year and now I’m the one making the post about it.) All of the candidates look great, and they all seem to be genki about getting this position, so please please please actually take the time to read their bios and cast your vote when the time comes!

Don’t worry; as far as we know, none of these candidates have filed for multiple bankruptcies, nor deleted their emails. The First Year Representativeship will be in good hands.

13668859_10157149173715504_6508324975216108611_oAndrew Kaz

Hiiiiiiiii. My name is Andrew, but feel free to call me by my last name Kaz. I’m originally from the wild and wonderful state of West Virginia, but I’ve landed in Kushiro (“the City of Mist” tbqh) in eastern Hokkaido by way of Boston, Massachusetts.

(Whoops. Accidentally slipped into that jikoshokai I’ve been giving for the last two months straight…)

So my first visit to Japan was as a computer science student on a political science study abroad in university. After about two weeks, my professor looked at me and asked, “Andrew, what the hell are you doing studying computer science?” To which I responded, “Phil, that’s a great question,” before abruptly changing my major and joining his Arab League and NATO mock debate teams. After feeling unmoored for a few seasons during what were to me absurdly harsh Boston winters, joining that model debate program helped to ground me in a sense of community and (more importantly) positive peer pressure to get out of my house and socialize even when the snow was higher than my waist.

What I’m saying is that I have a deep and unnatural fondness for constitutional bodies. Honestly, it is absurd and slightly disturbing how willing I am to sit through points of order, successive tabling of agenda items, and other aspects of parliamentary procedure. And while I promised myself that I would only seek even a semblance of power through appointment (call it the Frank Underwood method; that’s where the real authority lies) rather than popular vote, I’m willing to make an exception.

If selected to be your First Year Rep, I hope to find that same sense of community—whether it be through camping, snapping pics, planning some amazing programming like the Hokkaido English Challenge, or having a beer in “the city”—as well as provide an empathetic shoulder for other newly-minted Hokkaido residents—especially those of us who may have never experienced this kind of majestic (and frankly terrifying) weather! And most of all, I would be sure to voice any concerns, issues, questions, or requests that you share with me to the rest of the PC through an appropriate moderated caucus.

As for what I’m “really digging right now”: it’s Utada Hikaru. Seriously, I have been listening to this goddess’ music since I was in middle school. Her first new album in eight years was just released, and I’m pretty sure I shed a tear in front of the cashier obaasan at my local music store. Even if this whole First Year Rep gig doesn’t pan out for me, I’m sure we’ll be speaking (read: I’ll be ranting) about this album at some point in the future. Blessings and best of luck to everyone!

img_20160822_135712Brad Breiten

Hello! My name is Brad Breiten and I am applying for the position of HAJET first year representative. I am very excited to be a member of HAJET and even more excited at the prospect of working with the prefectural committee to help make Hokkaido and Japan accessible and welcoming to the present and future first year cohorts.
From what I have seen of HAJET thus far it is obvious HAJET works to help us as JETs and foreigners to integrate into our lives and communities here in Japan, increase international exchange around Hokkaido, and to create a community around itself to achieve those goals and offer support to all of us. To me personally though, HAJET is an opportunity to get to meet a bunch of truly amazing people and to have a positive impact on your experiences here. I want to help in anyway I can, and the first year representative position is a perfect way for me to start helping and to learn what more I can do for the HAJET community in the future.

Before coming to Japan I finished my M.A. in Japanese literature and (somehow) wrote a thesis that focused entirely on dance in Japan. I love dance in all of its forms, it is something that has always made my life brighter and I quite literally cannot get enough of it. I am constantly searching for dance events and performance art, and being here in Japan there is so much new to experience! I have some specific interests, but I am always hoping to be introduced to new performances or styles. I just want to know what all is out there! If you see a cool event, want to teach me about your world of dance, or just want to cut loose with a portable speaker in a park, I am always in the mood to boogie.

image1 Finlay Harnden

Moving to a new country is a scary thing. Especially if, like me, you don’t speak the language and don’t know anyone nearby. The thing I have appreciated most about HAJET since arriving in Japan is the role it plays in welcoming new JETs to Hokkaido.

 I received a very warm welcome on the Hokkaido JET Facebook page. I learned from the presentations during the Sapporo Orientation and met some really great people. My block leader showed me around my area and introduced me to the other ALTs in Rumoi. I got to meet some of the JETs nearby thanks to the welcome parties. It feels comforting to know that there is an entire network of people who are able to help with the problems that new JETs may face.

With the HAJET meetings, the bookstore, the outreach project and, of course, the Hokkaido English Challenge, HAJET provides an opportunity for JETs to get together, meet each other, share tips about school, or just enjoy each other’s company. This helps new JETs settle into their jobs, contribute to international exchange and language learning and generally get as much as they can from their time in Japan.

I want to be the first year representative to learn how HAJET works, so I can contribute to giving next year’s JET’s a welcome as warm as the one I have received. I want to support JETs who are trying to get involved in their communities and I want to help make the transition to life in Japan as easy as possible for as many people as possible.

Right now, I am really into my bouldering. It’s not something I had done before coming to Japan. One of the ALTs in Rumoi had set up a meeting with the local young entrepreneurs club to arrange an event where the ALTs will lead an English conversation session for any entrepreneurs who are keen to improve their English.

Through chance, during our first meeting with them, we started talking about hiking and sports. They invited us out to a small scale bouldering venue in the town. I go along at least once a week. Despite the entrepreneurs not speaking much English, and me not speaking any Japanese, we have really clicked. Through miming, gesturing and much general amusement, they have taught me the basics of bouldering.

I have met people there who I wouldn’t have met in my daily life at school. Bouldering is a new hobby that I can keep up through the winter and I can feel my fitness and strength improving already. The bouldering sessions are a great place to meet new people who are always interested in speaking to the foreigners they have seen wandering around town. 10/10, would recommend!

Thanks for reading!

lianna-pictureLianna Hrycyk

Hey! My name is Lianna Hrycyk, and I’m Higashikagura’s newest ALT. My past few months in Hokkaido have been busy, yet exciting. I attended my first (and second… and fifth…) nomikai and mastered the jikoshokai lesson. I even made it out to a few welcome parties when the typhoons didn’t cancel my trains!

Why I want to be first year rep:

Our job as JETs is to bring internationalization to Hokkaido, all while settling into our new lives. Sure, this sounds good on paper, but how are we supposed to actually accomplish this? To me, that’s where HAJET comes in. HAJET brings JETs together to maximize the impact we can have on our new communities. Through HAJET, you can attend information seminars. You can participate in boozy bake sales and make new friends if that’s more your style. You can also take part in events like HEC, which impact our students and fellow JETs alike: it’s really cool to have an organization that bridges the gap between both. These initiatives are made possible by the collaborative efforts of the HAJET community.

Experienced JETs have joined HAJET to provide us with resources to help us thrive. We’ve all just arrived in Hokkaido, and we can all feel lost at times: that’s where I would help. If you keep encountering a certain obstacle, then it’ll be my goal to present your concerns to the council. If you want to launch a new initiative in your town, then I can help you access the resources you need through HAJET. In the end, HAJET is here to represent you and I. Please, leave the boring administrative work to me: I will make sure your ideas are clearly heard and I will enjoy doing so.

I am happy to be in a prefecture with such an active AJET chapter, and I hope to become a bigger part of it.

What I’m digging these days:

House of Cards. I think I’m a little late on this, but damn Kevin Spacey is amazing.

Besides taking advantage of Japan’s decriminalized streaming, I’ve been eating ridiculous amounts of Hokkaido ice cream. I took a trip to Toma to taste the watermelon ice cream. I found black sesame ice cream in Higashikagura. The lavender ice cream in Furano was definitely おいしい. I visited Sapporo’s chocolate factory for some Shiroi Koibito ice cream. Seriously, I’ve eaten so much ice cream. In what might by now be considered an expert opinion, Higashikagura’s Tamura Farms has the best ice cream so far. Come try it! And please, send me any ice cream recommendations.

Thanks for reading!

mike-bugajskiMichael Bugajski

Hi everyone!  My name is Michael, and I’m a sort of first year JET!  I say sort of, because this is actually my second time around on the JET Program.  I was in Japan from 2011 to 2012, serving as a Elementary / Junior High ALT in Niigata prefecture!  Now, I am a first year (in Hokkaido!) JET in Asahikawa, teaching high school and special education students!  In the years in between, I was the President of the Heartland US08 chapter of the JET Alumni Association (KS, MO, IA, ND, SD, NE), where I worked hand in hand with the Chicago consulate to help recruit and train new JETs, as well as provide opportunities for new and old JET alumni to (re)connect with the JET and Japanese community!

AJET and HAJET in particular, is an opportunity to really get involved with not just with your local JET community, but with the JET community as a whole, and in a really big way, with the people of Hokkaido.  Being the First Year Rep for HAJET is the kind of opportunity that is essential in a group as large as ours, to help represent those of us new to Hokkaido (or Japan!), and just as importantly, help to provide the kind of opportunities to volunteer and get involved that really help to shape and the quintessential JET experience.  Really, at the risk of sounding cliche, HAJET is that kind of organization that is more than the sum of its parts, and the things we can accomplish together can have a real, lasting impact.

On a lighter note, I am super pumped for Luke Cage on Netflix (No spoilers, please!), and I worry that this winter is going to lead to me over-indulging in one of my secret, guilty pleasures… sports anime. Seriously, volleyball, rugby, and… figure skating?!  That, and worrying about the glimmer in my coworker’s eye when I mentioned I would go ice fishing with him once things start to freeze.  He’ll forget by then… right?