Tag Archives: featured

Introducing… Your 2017 HAJET PC!

Good morning and sorry for taking so long to make this announcement! Congratulations to all of the newly elected members of the HAJET Prefectural Council! The “Who We Are” tab will be getting an update soon as well, so for adorable pictures and awe-inspiring self-intro’s, keep an eye out for that.

President: Betrice Yambrach

Vice-president: Andrew Kaz

Secretary: Debbie Walter

Treasurer: Michael Bugajski

Polestar Editor-in-Chief: Samantha Delia Peterson

Social Coordinator: Lianna Hrycyk

Publications Coordinator: Kelsey Elizabeth

Northern Rep: Finlay Harden

Central Rep: T.J. Wissick

Southwestern Rep: Haley Hollen

Eastern Rep: Stephanie T. Serres

Sapporo Rep: Stella Fronius

Bookseller: Adam Gentle

Christmas Party at Rubeshibe High School!

Golly good gracious oh me oh my, TWO Christmas party posts in one day?! Okay, every family that leaves their Christmas lights up until early summer, you win this round. This one was hosted by Stephanie Serres at Rubeshibe High School; check it out!

Rubeshibe High School held its first annual Christmas Party on December 22nd, 2016. The snowy afternoon was full of Christmas tree decorating, joyous caroling, candy munching, educational-yet fun-Power Point learning, and comfortable and casual conversing. All of this fun and cultural exchange would not have been made possible without the financial assistance of HAJET. Thanks to HAJET’s Event Funding, Rubeshibe High School was able to end the year with happiness and merriment.

Christmas Party in Akabira!

Good morning! And what a good morning it is; I could actually see the asphalt thanks to the recent warm weather! You know what else warms my soul, even way up here in the frozen north? A post about a HAJET-funded Chirstmas party event, hosted by Chan Niang in Akabira. With color photographs! Enjoy.

The Akabira Christmas party has been going on in my town since the first ALT founded it, nearly 10 years ago.  With the shrinking population, attendance was lower than expected this year. Nonetheless, with the help of JET volunteers and the funding provided by HAJET, we were able to provide a very Merry Christmas full of hot chocolate, silly games, and crafts.  Especially popular was the photobooth, where kids can pose with holiday-themed props.  This is the first year the photos were taken on an instant camera, which I was worried couldn’t be done because of the cost, but luckily HAJET was able to cover that too.  The kids loved decorating their pictures and taking them home right away!  I hope that the people of Akabira can have more events to interact with people from all over the world.

Winter Meeting 2017 RSVP!

From the depths of my kotatsu I emerge… to bring you news of the 2k17 Winter Meeting! We’ll be in Niseko this year, so let’s enjoy enjoying Niseko together with me. Seriously, this is the last big HAJET meeting for quite a while; you won’t regret joining us for some classic gaijin shenanigans.

The deadline for RSVPing is Wednesday, Feb 15th (Wed. February 1st if you’re relying on HAJET for accomodation!)

Below are the RSVP link, the information pack (Japanese version to be uploaded soon!) and the BoE Letter Form. Make sure you RSVP ASAP so that you don’t miss out on any of the winter fun times!

2017 Winter Meeting Info Pack

2017 Winter Meeting Info Pack [日本語]

2017 Winter Meeting Email Back Form

2017 Winter Meeting Request Letter [日本語]

2017 Winter Meeting RSVP Link

See y’all soon!

2017 Prefectural Council Elections!

*tap tap* …ahem, is this thing on..?


We’ve got a good lookin’ selection of candidates for you to harshly criticize and pit against each other in the HAJET PC Election arena! (That’s right; even solo candidates must prove their worth in trial by fire!) Feel free to peruse this year’s hopefuls at your leisure, and prepare to cast your vote starting next Monday (01/23)!

UPDATE: We have been blessed by… presumably Ainu gods with candidates for VP and Publications Coordinator!

Candidates for PC President

brad breitenJonathan “Brad” Breiten

Good day all!! I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting a good number of you, but for those of you that I have not met yet, I am Jonathan Breiten, a.k.a. Brad, a.k.a. Drab Bard Brad. I am a first year JET based in lovely, snow-filled Iwamizawa (seriously, I’m no stranger to snow, but this is worrisome). When not working or shoveling snow I practice judo, play shamisen, teach bachata, and do latin dance in Sapporo, on top of that I love traveling around our beautiful island, meeting new people, and-as the old adage goes-I can always find time for a drink with friends. (Check out this link if you don’t know the story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqGRnlXplx0). You might eb thinking to yourself, “When does the Drab Bard Brad sleep?” An excellent question! To which I reply…I don’t really know. Maybe we can piece it together over a drink sometime.
But enough about me, let’s talk about why you’re actually reading this. You are basically vetting me for a Prefectural Council position. I want to be the HAJET prefectural council president, and beyond my winning personality, I need to convince you, in a few short words, that me holding the position will not result in an implosion of the HAJET PC, but will in fact help the PC continue to grow and be a unifying and internationalizing force at work in so many different ways in Hokkaido. I have always worked to share my passions, energy, and drive with as many people as possible by starting extracurricular activities, taking on leadership positions, and working to innovate and improve on established systems. During my undergraduate career I helped to start and run the UAlbany Mixed Martial Arts club, the Salsa Dance club, and the Japanese Anime Manga club, all of which are still active on campus now. During my time as a graduate student at CU Boulder I organized two conferences, and worked as the Lead Graduate Teacher to the Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations-an obnoxiously long title, but a position that allowed me to improve my skills as a teacher, work closely with departmental faculty to oversee graduate student participation and development, and to meet regularly with graduate students and department faculty to discuss ways to improve the ALC department at CU Boulder. I take great pride in my ability to organize, and I love working together for the betterment of an organization.
To me, that is exactly what HAJET is. So far HAJET has helped me learn how to engage with my local community as well as the community of JETs as a whole and has been an invaluable part of my time here in Hokkaido. I want to give back to that with my experience to help deepen HAJET’s participation not only in the JET community, but to help JETs integrate with their local communities more. HAJET is an opportunity to meet people, exchange stories and ideas, and help to make JET life better, and to promote international culture in Hokkaido.

DSC_0155Bryan Campbell

Hello everyone. I’m Bryan Campbell, and I want to be your next HAJET President.


One thing I’d like to work on is the value of membership. We do a great job helping new JETs and providing supports to our members, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot for recontracting JETs beyond the peer network. I’d like to work with our members to find out how HAJET can help and support them, and what we can provide them so they feel like their lifetime membership has more value.

My second major project is to work on internal procedures (don’t worry, I’m not touching the constitution). It feels like the Prefectural Council ends up rebuilding the wheel every year. While we have a lot of advice and institutional memory still around from year to year, there are some strange growing pains that pop up. I’d like to work on internal procedures to make it easier to evaluate and approve International Event Funding, clarify membership policies, and provide some better transitional materials so that future Councils can get to work faster.

Our website is also in desperate need of an update, and I hope to work with the webmaster to create that direction.

What’s my experience?

I spent the last year serving HAJET as Treasurer. Since this is a position on the Executive Committee, I have been very close to a lot of day to day decisions for the organization. Being an existing Prefectural Council member will be a major help as President, since I am already familiar with how things work; I can more easily hit the ground running than a new and less experienced President.

I also have a background in policy development, governance, and committee management. I was a member of my university’s Students’ Union, committee chair, student association president, and long-time event volunteer. All of this experience leaves me in a great place to help move HAJET forward.

What HAJET means to me

HAJET means a lot of things to me. Obviously, HAJET is a great peer support and friendship opportunity. Most of the people I know in Hokkaido were met through HAJET, and a lot of what I learn has come from HAJET meetings and workshop. I’ve had a lot of opportunities through HAJET that I really wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Additionally, HAJET is important to me because it helps legitimize our role as ALTs. Not only does it help connect ALTs and CIRs and thus allow for advice and support to reach all corners of Hokkaido, but it helps build a professional network for the future. It also helps show our COs that we are trying to be active and that we are always trying to better ourselves, even if it might not always look like it.

Further, HAJET helps me find a way to give back to Hokkaido. I love that the support we can offer to new members helps reduce stress on our supervisors. I am so happy to have reviewed and approved the International Event applications that have come through the PC. These are all great events and I’m glad that I’ve had a part in helping to support them. And I enjoy talking about what I’ve learn about Japan and teaching at HAJET events with my co-workers and friends.

And lastly, I appreciate that HAJET means different things for different people. Our entire membership has something to gain from HAJET, be it professional training, networking, lifestyle support, or just having a friendly face during the dark times. We live in a really big place, and I appreciate the diversity everyone brings.

I like writing. Sorry for making you read all of that. As President, I want to make it easier to be a member and easier for the PC to do its thing. HAJET is really important to me, and I hope to keep working with the organization for at least another year.

betrice yambrachBetrice Yambrach

Hey Everyone! My name is Betrice and if you don’t know me already, I’m the current Central Rep on this year’s PC. Even though I am a part of the Central Region, I actually live in the southeastern edge of Hokkaido in the decently sized town of Urakawa, mainly known for its racehorses and konbu (the two main necessities in life). I enjoy traveling, road trips, hiking, onsening for hours, and sassing my high school students. I also really love ramen and want to eat at all of the famous ramen spots in Hokkaido (maybe even all of Japan??).

I think HAJET is a great community that provides some really awesome opportunities. Whether it’s volunteering, parties andevents, or just finding someone to hangout with, there issomething for everyone. I’m applying for the role of President because simple enough I want to continue working on the PC. I really care about HAJET and I want to help it continue to grow and be as fun, resourceful, and amazing as it can be. Obviously there are a lot of logistics that go into keeping HAJET running so smoothly. Being on the PC as Central Rep for the last year, I learned how the PC operates and understand the specific roles of each PC member as well as the work and responsibilities required from the President.  In addition, I’ve always found myself in a leadership position, whether in college club activities or in the jobs I’ve had pre-JET.

Like I said before, HAJET provides something for everyone. I think for Hokkaido, it’s kind of hard to have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into before coming here. Once you get here you realize how large and vast the island is and that it can feel pretty isolating, especially when you live in a small town. For me, HAJET helped me see the beauty of Hokkaido and feel excited about being here. Of course I still have some upsets about the prefecture (those winter roads…) but I’ve also had some really great times out here as well. I’m especially grateful for the people who I’ve met during my time here in HAJET. I don’t know where I’d be without them, but I know they’ve definitely helped shape me into an English teacher, an adventurer, and overall better person (with just a little bit of sarcasm and saltiness).

Candidate for Vice-president

16144559_10158130343120504_1984154564_nAndrew Kaz

Hi, everyone! My name is Andrew Kaz, but feel free to call me Andrew or Kaz—I’ll answer to either. I’m originally from almost heaven West Virginia in the mid-Atlantic US, but I’ve come to Hokkaido by way of Boston, Massachusetts. You *could* say I’ve had a bit of preparation for Hokkaido’s cold, snowy winter, but then I’d have to listlessly chuckle towards my cold bones and correct you. Now I’m one of a few ALTs scenically located in Kushiro (also known as the “City of Mist” or “Planet of the Cranes”). Oh, and I’d like to be your new Joe Bide—I MEAN Vice President.

I believe I can demonstrate many of the qualities required to be an adequate or—dare I say—successful VP. First and foremost, it is the VP’s responsibility to “organize and coordinate” the organization’s annual meetings. During my years as a university student, I participated in my university’s model debate program, both as a member and leader. Some such responsibilities included reaching out to new or underrepresented members, guiding monthly leadership meetings, and confirming hotel and dining arrangements during out-of-town conferences.

Bearing this in mind, draft language and procedure are sort of my bread and butter. Put another way (namely, in the words of Arianna Huffington), I *thrive*in an environment that allows me to draft, amend, or vote down draft language. Rest assured that HAJET’s constitution will be safe with me [makes two thumbs up and gesticulates towards chest].

Most recently, I had the great fortune of participating in my university’s summer study abroad trip to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nagano as a teaching assistant. While I can’t guarantee that I know all or even most of the work involved in securing a venue for such a large group in Japan, I feel that I have some beneficial preconceptions as to the requirements of the job.

Most importantly, I want to learn. As a first-year ALT, I have honed the craft of asking for help, and I won’t be afraid to do so if (read: when) the moment arises. If selected for this position, I will have been preceded by multiple highly-qualified and supportive individuals whom are still with us in Hokkaido today, so I am confident I can benefit the organization in this environment.

To me, HAJET represents a gathering of individuals, sometimes isolated across a large (often less-than-wholly-forgiving) island, who understand the value of reenergizing together to be as beneficial for their respective communities as they can be. I’ve experienced how a harsh winter and lack of sunlight can affect people, so I want to do my part to see us through it together. If you’ll give me the opportunity, I believe I can contribute my skillset towards the greatest good as HAJET Vice President.

Thanks for your time and best wishes on plowing your car out of the snow that is inescapably falling,


Candidate for Secretary

debbie walterDebbie Walter

(Bio スタート!)

Hello, hello! I’m Debbie and I’m a 3rd year JET holed up in the cute little town of Kuriyama, but I hail from the Steel City, itself: Pittsburgh, PA in the good ol’ US of A! Why do I think I’d be a great fit for Secretary? Well, it certainly has nothing to do with the fact that I’m the Secretary for the current PC… Really, though, I could list a whole slew of technical reasons why I’m a great fit for the position, but as a matter of fact, I’ve been a part of the HAJET PC ever since I ran for Central Rep on a whim 2 years prior.

I’ve really come to love what it means to be a part of the HAJET community, and I would love for the chance to continue giving back to the community that has helped me from the very beginning. I love working alongside the PC, helping them with organizing our awesome seasonal meetings, welcome parties, and various smaller events throughout the year. I love welcoming the newly-arrived JETs to their new home. I love the opportunities HAJET has that allow me to meet every one of you, especially when those opportunities arise in the most random of times and places. I love the fact that HAJET continues to make it possible for members to improve their efforts to bring international events to their towns.

If nothing else, I’ll leave you with one good reason why I should be Secretary: given the high turnover rate of JET, every year the HAJET PC changes over to mostly new faces. This is actually pretty awesome. It shows that the departing members of the PC were successful in accomplishing what they have set out to do, and that’s making HAJET into an even better community than before. However, if I could draw a parallel to the nature of JET, when you join the PC for the first time, you get thrown into a new position with only an inkling about what you do and how you work in the grand scheme of things. As someone with 2 years of experience, I believe I can use my knowledge of how the PC works to help the new members with making the year to come the best one yet. So, if you all would have me, I would love to continue my work here and return to the position of HAJET Secretary for another year. Thank you! ^^

(Bio エンド!)

Candidate for Treasurer

michael bugajskiMichael Bugajski


My name is Michael, and I want to be your next HAJET Treasurer!  I’m currently serving as the First Year Rep, but am eager to get more involved and take a more active role in HAJET!  I am a first year Hokkaido JET in Asahikawa, but also a second time JET (I was in Niigata from 2011-2012).

A little background on me and the numbers!  Prior to moving to Hokkaido to be an English teacher, I had the wonderful experience of being the department head of the Logistics division of an aerial mapping company.  What does that mean?  It means it was my dubious duty to oversee and track expenses across the entire aerial mapping division, and manage our yearly operating budget, as well as track expenses across 60 employee credit cards, matching every. single. expense. to what was reported.  I was also responsible for planning, supervising, and executing a plan to (successfully) reduce departmental expenses from nine million USD to six million USD.

Since Hokkaido is so freakin‘ huge, HAJET offers a great opportunity for JETs all across Hokkaido to come together and build relationships and community, and I think that is what is so amazing about HAJET!   In a big way, the relationships we build here are the things which bond us together not only in Japan, but as we return to our home countries.  The chance to be a part of that, and take an active role…. I think that is pretty rad!

Candidate for Northern Rep

20170107_134226Finlay Harden

Hello! I’m Finlay. I am a 27 year old ALT from Scotland. I work in seven different Senior High Schools, one elementary school and one junior high school in the Rumoi district. I studied ecological economics and worked as an economist before coming to live the dream in Japan. I enjoy being outdoors and being generally active but my interest in Japan originally came from reading Haruki Murakami books. I’m looking forward to meeting you!
Why me
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 Northern representative 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.
Thanks for reading!

Candidate for Central Rep

tj wissick

TJ challenges a legendary obstacle course in order to prove his worth to his students.(Photo: Associate Press)


T.J. Wissick


Greetings, fellow Northerners! In the Hokkaido underground jellyfish racing circuit, I am known as Mister Donut. But if your box jellyfish isn’t pulling turns so well anymore, or you stopped paying your monthly dues, feel free to call me T.J. (“Teej” if ya nasty). I’m a first-year ES and JHS ALT in Naie, a small town smack dab in between Sapporo and Asahikawa. Originally I hail from the waving cornfields of Upstate New York, where all the trucks are lifted and the taxes are high.

This year marks my second visit to Japan. I’m tremendously excited to be here in the Frozen North working as an ALT and hopefully, as your Central Hokkaido Regional Representative. In applying, I’m hoping to bring my enthusiasm to the HAJET PC. It would be an honest privilege to work for you, and to become a more involved part of the JET community that helps make placement in Hokkaido such an incredible experience.

Since my arrival during the Warm Days long ago, I’ve been amazed by the support that HAJET offers both members and non-members. It’s so easy to get caught up in yourself, and in work. Joining HAJET has already proven a great way to see more of Hokkaido, meet its people, and stay involved. Running for this position is an incredible opportunity for me to be a bigger part of that experience, and to help share it with others.

In short, I look forward to working, talking, and hanging out with you all. I’m very eager to work in this position, and to help make our snowy tundra feel even more like home.

Candidates for Southwestern Rep

haley hollenHaley Hollen

Hey, fellow Hokkaido JETs! I’m Haley Hollen, and I live in the seaside town of Esashi in the Southwest region. I am applying to be the Southwest Representative because I believe that fostering a tight-knit community with your fellow regional JETs is an invaluable part of your experience here in Japan. I am so grateful to the current representative for all of the events and gatherings that have helped make the Southwest into the goofy family that we are today. In university I held leadership positions in my fraternity, including Fundraising Chair and Alumni Chair, which required coordinating and planning events for large groups such as hikes and BBQs to more formal networking events in Washington DC and on university Grounds. To me, HAJET has helped make Hokkaido not just the beautiful, snowy place where I live but a community where we support each other in our work and personal lives. More than anything, I’m looking forward to the chance to give back to a group of people that has already given so much to me in my short time here as well as act as a welcoming face for incoming JETs down in the Southwest!

image1Anna Thiel

Hello all! My name is Anna and I am a first year Prefecture ALT in Hakodate, the South of the North. I want to be SW representative because I really appreciate all that HAJet does and organises and would love to be the support and contact person for the area. There is a lot going on here, and I know that when SW Jets get together, we know how to have a good time. Currently, I find myself involved in (and organising) informal SW get-togethers and HAJet sponsored ones. There is so many great locations in the SW, from Niseko to Onuma, that we’re sure to have a great welcome enkai to follow up this years beautiful misty mountain camping. I hope that we can continue that spirit by inspiring other JETs, Hokkaido JETs, and HAJet members to come to the south a little more often–come see life on the peninsula!
I’ve taken leadership training in university, and feel that the best leader is one who listens and compromises to make all happy, not just themselves. This is my third time living in Japan, so my Japanese communication ability is pretty up there (though I was unable to take the JLPT this winter to give you my score). Other than that, I am a creative person, had majored in design at university. Hello kick-ass posters and marketing materials!
Hope you find me suitable to represent the south! Thank you all!

Candidate for Eastern Rep

Illest_selfieSERRESStephanie Serres

Short(ish) Bio:

Well, hey ‘der! My name is Stephanie T. Serres—but you can call me Smiley! I am originally from the quaint and tiny town of Prescott, Wisconsin, U.S.A. where we are known for our Midwestern charm and our Guinness-World-Record-long bratwurst—dont’chya know! In 2015, I obtained my undergraduate degree in Social Work at Bemidji State University. During my university years I worked as a Youth Counselor for at-risk girls, a Middle School Social Work intern, a Residential Assistant, and a Community Outreach Coordinator for the ARC United. After graduation, I journeyed to the “small city” (nearly 2 million people) of Weifang, China where I taught English at Weifang University’s Beihai International College. Now I am happily living in the charming town of Rubeshibe, as a Hokkaido BOE ALT, where we are known for our adorable Fox Village and delicious yakiniku! Please feel free to visit and enjoy together with me!  

Why are you applying/ why is this a good fit?

I am applying for the position of Eastern Regional Representative because I have a deep passion for creating and cultivating community. Aside from my previous work experience building community and doing outreach, I believe this position would be a good fit because I have always sincerely enjoyed helping, uniting, empowering, and connecting people to one another and to helpful resources. When I look back on all of my memorable experiences in life I can find a common denominator: a supportive and helpful community. By becoming your Eastern Regional Representative I will utilize my skill set and passion to continue to develop a supportive and helpful community for the ALTs/HAJET members living in Eastern Hokkaido. I hope to help enrich member’s time spent in Hokkaido by making it more fulfilling by organizing events, parties, dinners, and volunteer opportunities so we may all feel more connected to each other and to Japan! In the end, HAJET has already given me so much in the short time I have been here and I would now like to actively give back what I have so kindly received by becoming your next Eastern Regional Rep!

What does HAJET mean to you:

As I stated before, when I think back on what has made moments in my life most memorable, it is due to the community I was a part of.  When I heard of HAJET I instantly knew it would be a great community to join. Since joining, I have been met with boundless amounts of kindness, support, and encouragement—especially when I have needed it the most! Because of HAJET, I have felt truly welcomed. HAJET means many things to me but, to best answer your question, I would like to reiterate what was said at our 2016 Thanksgiving thankfulness readings: HAJET is more than just a community…HAJET is my Hokkaido family. So, what does HAJET mean to me? Simply put: family. 

Candidates for Sapporo Rep

hanna callen-wicksHanna Callen-Wicks

I’m a first year ALT from Edmonton AB but situated in Sapporo. I am currently at a private high school, but before coming on JET I received my secondary education degree and was working in junior high schools. My hobbies include reading, sports and long walks on the beach. Although the last one is a little hard when you are always surrounded by snow. I guess it would be more accurate to say that I love snow and long walks through snowy parks.

I’m applying for Sapporo Rep because I understand that being in the city can be very isolating. Despite thinking that it wouldn’t be when I first arrived, I have definitely felt that isolation first hand. My hope is to be able to socialise with people more and create opportunities for other JETs who feel isolated to come together and bond. I also feel like this will be a good reminder for me that I have a life outside of work, and that there are fun things/cool people to hang out with.

To me HAJET means making friends. I felt really isolated my first few weeks alone in August after first arriving and it took an 11 hour journey, full of multiple trains, buses and a white van, out to the Eastern welcome party along with some pretty awesome HAJET members to remind me that I’m not alone.

stella froniusStella Fronius

Good morning! はじめまして!

My name is Stella and I am a first year ALT based in sunny Sapporo. I have always had a hankering for history and I became interested in Japan through my involvement in an Okinawan public history research project, which I helped co-manage while in university. While my Japanese language skills are still a work in progress, I have had a blast these past few months traveling around Hokkaido, making new friends, and participating in HAJET events.

Why I am applying:

  1. I want to be a point of contact within the city for both JETs living here and those visiting from elsewhere, whether that means helping out with common household questions, or lending an ear in a time of need.
  2. Sapporo plays host to the largest number of JETs of any city in Hokkaido. It is my intention to work to improve their representation in HAJET activities and meetings. I’ve already done my best to reach beyond Sapporo to integrate myself with the broader community throughout Hokkaido and I hope facilitate in creating similar opportunities for other JETs in Sapporo.
  3. This has been the first year that JET has contracted with private schools in Hokkaido. As one of the first few JETs positioned at such, I would like to be a voice to share the experiences of private school JETs both in HAJET meetings and with incoming JETs that will find themselves in a similar situation.

To confess, I get lost very easily. On the day of Sapporo Orientation I sat with baited breath on the old government building steps, only an hour and a half early. I wasn’t alone for long. I was soon joined by two current HAJET members bearing a banner for the upcoming orientation. While we waited for the others I was regaled with stories of HAJET and HEC, and explanations as to why these individuals chose to become more involved. At some point during the discussion, we realized that with 15 minutes to go and no one else showing up, we’d evidently chosen the wrong location, which thankfully wasn’t too far away.

Over the next few days, I saw pictures and videos and listened to lectures about HAJET. It was the personal stories from these two girls that convinced me that they really cared and believed about the goals of HAJET.

HAJET is composed of likeminded passionate people who really want to bring together the JET community. I believe this organization represents an opportunity and a challenge to impact the local community, our students and Hokkaido at large.

Fun fact: my current dream (alongside becoming Sapporo Rep) is to become a cup of coffee. Come share a cup of joe with me.

Candidate for Polestar Editor-in-Chief

samantha petersonSamantha Peterson

Short bio: About an hour and change west of Hakodate there is a very cold girl huddled under her kotatsu, drinking her weight in apple tea and typing away at her computer. That’d be me. My name is Samantha and I’m a first-year ALT in the self-proclaimed “Potato Kingdom,” more commonly known as Assabu-cho. When I’m not magically producing last-minute variations of that one vocab game and making a fool of myself in front of a group of 12-year-olds, I like to write stories, play music, and explore the beautiful nature that is so abundant around Hokkaido.
Why I’m applying: First and foremost, my experience as the Head Editor of the Lion Tale, Thompson Middle School’s quarterly student news publication, in 2007 makes me the best fit for this position.

Okay, all joking aside, I’ve really enjoyed working with publications all my life. All aspects of the job of Polestar Editor-In-Chief sound exciting to me, from working with the designer in order to create an appealing layout to gathering articles to distributing the Polestar. I have some relevant experience, as I’ve taken journalism classes and helped run a publication at my university last year. In addition to that I have about 9 years of Adobe Suite experience and I know my way around a page layout.

I’m applying to this position because I’m passionate about writing, design, and publishing. I have a lot of ideas for the Polestar, such as getting more people involved through social media, including a section for short creative writing, and reaching out with polls and surveys to see what people all around are interested in reading. I think the Polestar is an amazing platform with the potential to bring people from our widely diverse island together and better understand the variety of experiences that can be had here.

What HAJET means to me: Before I’d even stepped foot on this frozen island I’d heard all about HAJET and knew what it does. I was relieved by the idea of having an organized group of people I could belong to through shared experience. It was good to know that I wouldn’t be traveling out to some isolated great unknown. That’s what HAJET is to me. An organization that connects us all to each other and supports us, no matter how inaka you are, no matter how much snow you have to shovel to even leave your house, no matter how many bus transfers it takes you just to hang out another person who speaks fluent English. It’s the guarantee that when you first come to Hokkaido people will be waiting there to welcome you, and as you spend your time here that you will always have someone to see on those dark winter days.
Thank you!

Candidate for Social Coordinator

lianna hyrcykLianna Hrycyk

Hey guys! My name is Lianna Hrycyk, and I want to be the new HAJET social coordinator.

About me:

Originally from Montreal, I’ve spent most of my life in the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada, which is affectionately known as the GTA (not to be confused the video game). I studied psychology and cognitive science, so I’m a lab nerd by training. Studying language acquisition as a summer research gig somehow spiraled into an interest in ESL… and, well, you can probably guess the ending of that story.

I’m currently based in Higashikagura-cho, known by JETs for hosting HEC for the past few years. I have decided to stay another year and continue to see what other challenges my lovely town will throw my way.

What HAJET means to me:

Our job is “to bring internationalization to Hokkaido”. This motto sounds appealing, but I strongly believe its power lies in its practical terms. How do we actually accomplish this? Cue HAJET.

First, HAJET brings JETs together to maximize the impact we can have on our communities. Through HAJET, you can attend information seminars. You can apply for international event funding. As well, HAJET also provides you with a community of foreigners seeking to improve English ability. Boozy bake sales, enkais, and camping parties are organized to help you feel at home in Hokkaido. Finally, You can also take part in events like HEC, which bridges the gap between students and fellow JETs alike. These initiatives are made possible by the collaborative efforts of the HAJET community.

Why I am applying/Why I’d be a good fit:

The best part of Hokkaido, for me, has been the people I’ve met. I might live in a town of 10,000 people, but I’ve never been so busy socially. I have met so many great people at the welcome parties and the fall meeting. Hokkaido is so big, which makes it all the more important to organize events that tighten and strengthen our sense of community.

I think I would be a great person to organize HAJET’s social events next year. I like to think I’m pretty outgoing (as I am talking…). I love talking to both new people and good friends. I’m also a very organized person and have held administrative jobs before moving to Japan. This organization-freak-extraverted combination is exactly why I think I’d be well suited to the social coordinator position.

Candidate for Publications Coordinator

IMG_3452Kelsey Woodford


I’d like to have a go at being the HAJET Publications Coordinator and bringing out the Hokkaido Newcomers’ Guide this year. I’ve seen and experienced two of these guides in my time on JET now, and I think now after my experience as an ALT in Hokkaido and on the PC as the Eastern REP, I have enough of an idea of what HAJET and Hokkaido is all about to do this right and work with the content well.

My house was filled with numerous interesting piles of books and things when I moved in, among them were a few older Newcomers’ Guides. I’ve seen how it has changed for the better, and what got lost along the way.

What’s my experience?

In high school I started to learn to use adobe software in year 10, I took art, design and photography at high school. At university I studied and achieved a Bachelor of Fine Arts and also took a number of Design classes (that number would be 3…) and did my best to use manual design techniques and avoid the computer as much as possible. What that means is that I’ve figured out ways to get what I want done, while still learning everything necessary for an understanding of design principles and an understanding of the software. I have experience making and collaborating on zines (not quite the same thing as the newcomers guide, but publications nonetheless). I’ve been using computers (although not for the same tasks) more and more these days… daily in fact. I’m no stranger to writing as that was also a big part of my Fine Arts degree.

From an observer’s perspective watching the Hokkaido Newcomers Guide being made last year, I saw how Karisa handled some of the more challenging aspects, and I’m ready for a new challenge too.

What HAJET means to me:

When I first got to Hokkaido, HAJET meant support. Later HAJET meant friendship. When I joined the PC as Eastern REP, HAJET meant family. When I participated in HEC camp, HAJET meant experiencing and understanding the core of what we are here for as ALTS (and those young English learners! Fantastic!). When I decided not to re-run as Eastern REP, HAJET meant growth, both for me and whoever would come next. I kind of miss making and creating things, and haven’t found a way for that to fit smoothly into my life here aside from photography, so I’d like to see what I can do with this. Also, I just love Hokkaido so ‘ much.

Happy voting. :)