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Japan Association for Working Holiday Makers (JAWHM) Wanting People to Utilize the Working Holiday Scheme to Experience the World More!

At the Tokyo offices of JAWHM. Ms. Naoko Matsumura (C), flanked by Ms. Saori Mizuguchi (L) and Mr. Daisuke Terazono (R).

At the Tokyo offices of JAWHM. Ms. Naoko Matsumura (C), flanked by Ms. Saori Mizuguchi (L)
and Mr. Daisuke Terazono (R).

This month's Close Up introduces the Japan Association for Working Holiday Makers (JAWHM), a general incorporated foundation. The working holiday scheme is a means whereby, while living overseas, individuals can enjoy a wide variety of experiences including "learning," "working," and "traveling," etc. Those able to obtain working holiday visas are individuals aged between 18 and 30 years old, a visa allowing them to reside for a certain period of time (usually one year) in those countries with which the Government of Japan has concluded working holiday agreements (currently some 12 nations). On this occasion, we visited JAWHM, an organization that supports individuals going overseas on working holidays. We interviewed Ms. Naoko Matsumura, employed as a manager by the association, as well as Ms. Saori Mizuguchi and Mr. Daisuke Terazono, both of whom have experienced working holidays. The topics discussed were the latest working holiday developments, and the significance of utilizing the working holiday scheme as a means by which to experience life overseas, etc.

Q.What sort of support does JAWHM offer?

A guidebook published by JAWHM, full of working-holiday and study-abroad information.

A guidebook published by JAWHM, full of working-holiday and study-abroad information.

A.Matsumura: This association was established to both support and promote the working holiday scheme. While working with both the embassies and government tourism offices of the different countries involved, we offer a range of assistance and engage in a variety of measures; to increase the number of students going overseas to study, and to foster Japanese people capable of becoming global human resources in that they possess the basis of mutual understanding vis-à-vis the cultures of other nations. We distribute working holiday guidebooks, and provide information via seminars, etc. For those persons who have decided upon a purpose in taking a working holiday, we offer individual counseling services, as well as assisting with visa applications, airline ticket arrangements, and travel insurance.

Q.Among recent working holiday makers, what sort of trends have you noticed?

A.Matsumura: Of the great number of individuals interested in working holidays who aspire to live overseas, with recent comments such as "I want to pick up skills overseas that would be valuable in job hunting," and "I want to take on the challenge of a new job having learned English," etc., I sense that more of them are venturing overseas while being conscious of the careers they hope to pursue upon returning to Japan. Little-by-little, more companies, etc., are also adopting an approach whereby they encourage future recruits (to whom employment offers have been made) to take working holidays. This isn't just because of the language skills potentially gained. Rather, there is a sense that the ability to understand non-Japanese people and communicate with them will benefit greatly through the working holiday experience. Moreover, working holidays are drawing attention as a form of gap-year (or gap-term) activity.

Seminars are held 3~4 times a day at the Tokyo offices. Furthermore, optimized individual counseling in the form of support of plan creation is also offered.

Seminars are held 3~4 times a day at the Tokyo offices.Furthermore, optimized individual counseling in the form of support of plan creation is also offered.

Q.Turning to Ms. Mizuguchi, could tell us what led to your working holiday?

When setting out on her travels, it seems that Ms. Mizuguchi made a promise to her parents about obtaining a language qualification. ©JAWHM

When setting out on her travels, it seems that Ms. Mizuguchi made a promise to her parents about obtaining a language qualification. ©JAWHM

A.Mizuguchi: I previously worked at a hotel. However, with my English ability being what it was, I sensed I wouldn't be able to do the sort of job I wanted. Thus, I quit and went to Sydney, Australia. Because my biggest motivation for traveling was improving my language skills, I utilized a working holiday visa. However, I didn't work but instead focused on my studies, the outcome being that I obtained an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) qualification, which is widely-recognized in those parts of the English-speaking world where British English dominates. Now, I work at JAWHM as a staff member. Based on my experience, and through meeting people who worked in wide variety of jobs of which I was previously ignorant, I realized that it wasn't necessary for me to cling to the idea of just working in a hotel. Thus, when I returned to Japan, I searched through a number of jobs. In the end, however, I realized I wanted to be able to speak to others about my experiences. That is what this job is all about.

Q.Mr. Terazono, you also experienced working as an intern on your working holiday?

Mr. Terazono received business credentials from a vocational school. ©JAWHM

Mr. Terazono received business credentials from a vocational school. ©JAWHM

A.Terazono: After graduating from university, I used a working holiday visa and traveled to Canada where I lived for 11 months in Vancouver. After initially attending a language school, I then studied business at an associated vocational school for a period of six months, for which I received some credentials. After that, I took an internship at a local newspaper. My job mainly entailed administrative tasks such as creating mail and filing duties, etc. However, I was able to work fulltime for one month in an environment where everybody other than myself was a native English speaker. Indeed, I should point out that before I traveled overseas, the person who handled me at JAWHM was Ms. Matsumura. I should also mention that when I was in my fourth year of university, I went to the United States on a short-term study exchange, followed by backpacking in India, etc.. It was this momentum that got me interested in a working holiday. However, because I knew nothing at all, it was the wide-ranging support that I received from JAWHM that helped me to study in Canada without a hitch.

Q.In fact, Ms. Matsumura has also been on a working holiday?

Ms. Matsumura at a banana plantation in Tully, Australia. ©JAWHM

Ms. Matsumura at a banana plantation in Tully, Australia. ©JAWHM

A.Ms. Matsumura: That is correct. After working in an administrative position for five years, I decided that I wanted to escape from the tedium of the same repetitive tasks. As such, I took a working holiday to Australia. However, in terms of people who take working holidays, the age range of many approximates to that of a university student. When a 26-27 year old mixes with such people, there can surface a strange sense of conceit or pride, in feeling that you should be able to do everything because of greater experience in the wider world. You fret about whether you are "also being invited to lunch," and you worry about being unable to speak English well in front of more proficient younger classmates at language school. Due to concerns such as these, I initially experienced some difficulty in making friends, and I felt I was withdrawing further and further into my shell.

Q.So how did you go about breaking out of your shell?

When Ms. Matsumoto came out of her shell she made lots of new friends. ©JAWHM

When Ms. Matsumoto came out of her shell she made lots of new friends. ©JAWHM

A.Matsumura: I thought it was necessary to discard my pride, and even if the English I spoke was incorrect, I decided to speak as much as possible while proactively making new friends. I previously had the impression that South Americans and Europeans spoke English really well, the reality is, however, that they find grammar difficult. Then again, they don't get hung up about such things. As a result of seeing these people, I felt that I had to try and say at least something. This change of heart occurred when I had been in Australia for about two months, and it made me come out of my shell. Since that experience, when traveling overseas I have realized that you shouldn't get hung up over issues of nationality, gender, or age. Rather, everybody is on the same level. Anyway, all of my experiences are valuable in terms of me supporting those individuals who now hope to go overseas. Looking back, everything I experienced was really positive, even the difficulties I encountered.

Q.As a result of your overseas experiences, what did your particularly learn?

A.Ms. Matsumura: I would say the importance of self-assertiveness. For example, if you are in a homestay and you simply comment that the food is "Delicious," everyday might end up with something you hate appearing on the menu. Moreover, if somebody you don't like calls you, if you don't clearly say, "No" to their advances, they will just keep calling. Just saying, "Yes, Yes" to everything creates confusion for the other party, and it can lead to trouble. As such, it is important to be able to say, "No."

Mr. Terazono lived in a share-house with a couple from Mexico. ©JAWHM

Mr. Terazono lived in a share-house with a couple from Mexico. ©JAWHM

A.Mr. Terazono: I lived with people from other countries in a share-house. I also sensed it was important to be self-assertive. If you say nothing and just do the household chores, the people around you might begin to believe that you are doing them because you love housework. Without speaking up and saying, "Because I am busy, I would also like some help," there is no way that other parties can understand what you are thinking.

Q.Due to your working holidays, have your attitudes about things has changed?

A.Ms. Mizuguchi: Having met people from many different countries, I have become more conscious of global news. For example, if there's a European earthquake, I am concerned about the safety of my European friends. "Are X and Y OK?" Becoming more conscious of the welfare of particular friends is the major way in which I have changed.

A.Mr. Terazono: In my case, I also view the world as being much smaller than I did. Concerning regions such as South America and Africa, etc., with which I previously didn't really identify, I now feel that I might actually go and see some of the countries in these regions. I suppose a major factor in my change of heart is that I have lived overseas. Previously, I was also more conscious of "nationality." These days, I merely view those around me as "human beings" like myself. Moreover, my own sense of being "Japanese" has also largely disappeared.

Q.Could you please offer a message to those people who might be in two minds about venturing overseas?

The participants smiling vividly in recalling their working holiday experiences.

The participants smiling vividly in recalling their working holiday experiences.

A.Ms. Mizuguchi: I suppose the biggest cause of concern for some people is whether or not they have the language abilities to be able to communicate. In particular, by definition, people who gather at language schools are those who cannot speak the lingua franca. In such situations, however, if you show some courage and make an effort to speak, you realize that the people around you are in the same boat, in that they want to make friends with others but they unable to express themselves.

A.Mr. Terazono: What I am aware of is that, when you meet new people, you have to discard any stereotypes or preconceptions, and instead approach them in a forthright manner. Even with different languages, everybody is still a human being. The ideas that others have might be similar or different from your own. However, if you make an effort to convey your thoughts, the other party will definitely try to understand. From this starting point, you can start to grow the roots of friendship and begin get along.

A.Ms. Matsumura: There are two concerns that I am often asked about. The first is English ability. This is something that I have also felt myself. Even if you cannot get the words out, I believe that by just being with other people it is possible to communicate what you feel. If you spend time with others it is possible to become friends, and in order to better understand each other, and due to the desire to convey your own feelings, there is the impetus to learn English. The second factor is related to employment after returning to Japan, and if going overseas will actually result in learning something. With working holiday visas, it isn't the case that doing something in particular has to be decided upon. Indeed, in that everybody is different, it is possible for people to experience life overseas with a sense of purpose that is in keeping with their own personality. In imagining what they want to be after they return to Japan, I would like people to consider what sort of experiences they should have overseas in order to become that person, and they should develop their own objectives and then go overseas in order to achieve their aims.