This month, we caught up with a recent JET-Alum, Sabrina Venture. Before JET, Sabrina was a painting major looking to pay off her student loans. As such, she took a job with a Police Department as a dispatcher. She “sought out that job since it had governmental security and lots of perks (never a parking ticket!), good pay, and offered an education pay program.” However, after two years, she was burnt-out — “too many people dying and too much drama and sad stories” — and looking for a break.
That’s where JET came in. Sabrina moved to Kyoto for a year in 2009. She “would have stayed on the JET program but [she] had a fiancé waiting for [her] so [she] returned to the states. [She] took a month off for [her] wedding and applied to other agencies to go back to dispatch.” By then, she was feeling less burnt-out and found a position in a quieter area. “It’s a smaller agency, quieter than New England, and [she’s] living in an adorable apartment right in downtown.”
Sabrina tells us a little bit about her transition back to her previous career in the States (and how she’s infused it with a little of her Japan-experience) and how she keeps her creative juices flowing…
NAJET: Have you experienced any reverse culture shock since coming back? (You’ve probably been keeping busy with the wedding and finding a job and everything, so maybe you haven’t had a chance to worry about that!) If you have, how did you deal with it?
Sabrina: Culture everything-is-cooler-in-Japan shock. I dunno. I really, REALLY miss the beauty of the natural surroundings. I don’t miss the crowds in downtown. I can also go back — maybe not with JET, but there are other ways to get into Japan. I don’t consider JET my one and only shot at time in Japan and knowing I can always go back helps keep any culture shock in check.
NAJET: You’ve returned to a career that you had before JET, does it feel different? I know you said your time on JET helped you get over some of your burnout — but is there anything else? A new perspective?
Sabrina: I returned to the same career — but not at the same place — and I had to take a pay cut due to financial restraints in the county. That sucked. It still sucks. But I DO have a job, and a nice place to live, and while I’m not swimming in cash, I have enough to cover my needs and still save. My time in JET helped my remember to appreciate the things I do have and relax about things I don’t.
I think that before I left I was really focused on the bottom line and early retirement — I was so focused on earning as much as possible that I worked in neighborhoods that were dangerous and dirty. After JET, I’m more focused on the non-monetary aspects to quality of life — I consider things like population, crime rate, natural beauty now instead of just money.
NAJET: What do you think you’ll miss most from Japan? And do you have any ideas for incorporating a little bit of your life in Japan into your new routine?
Sabrina: I miss Japan!! I miss the kids! I keep some of that around, I’m working on a scrapbook of the 6.2 gazillion pictures I have and all the scraps of receipts from my favorite shops and napkins from my favorite bars. That sounds corny, but scrapbooking is something I really like to do. I also made it a point to mail over some gifts to myself to help me decorate — I mailed a bunch of fabric prints (really pretty but cheap!) and now they are framed around my house.
I also have a stronger urge to volunteer with the kids in my own community. There is an art program here — and maybe before I wouldn’t have considered spending my free time with teenagers helping them with essays or sporting events, but now it feels kinda weird not to.
NAJET: You majored in painting at college. Did you get a chance to try anything new and art-related in Japan?
Sabrina: Short answer — No. Long answer — you have to look for things, art is all around you and Craft is in the heart of Japan. There are so many skilled craftsmen lurking about just everywhere, and they kept me so awestruck I didn’t miss my easel.
I didn’t have any of my painting supplies with me in Japan so I sketched a lot and took a bunch of photos of things I wanted to do something with later. I tried to incorporate art into a lot of English lessons by spending extra time drawing game boards and I would draw big pictures on the dry erase board if we were introducing a new topic or there was a special event coming up. I participated in a folk art and music event and made little finger puppets and other crafty items. I went to gallery shows and admired other artist’s work, I went to houses and begged forgiveness while I stared at beautiful old floor joints and hand-carved wooden rails and beams.
NAJET: Do you think it’s important to have some kind of creative outlet while on JET? Do you have any advice for people who aren’t feeling motivated?
Sabrina: I think its important to have some kind of creative outlet wherever you are — even on JET. Its also important to realize that there is a LOT to take in and its only natural for your body to become overwhelmed at times. Let it happen — but don’t let it be a habit. Set yourself a time to do nothing — curl up under the kotatsu and stare off into space for a few hours. Make it a day. Don’t make it a week. Get up, go for a walk, and remember to be thankful for your opportunity to even be here. JET doesn’t owe you, and neither does Japan. Its important to keep that in mind when you get [upset] ’cause the grocery store doesn’t carry your favorite brand of Jiffy.
NAJET: With your current job, do you have trouble making time for things like scrapbooking or other crafty/artistic endeavors?
Sabrina: At my current job, I have plenty of time for artsy stuff. I get a lot of crafting done — knitting, scrapbook stuff, etc. As long as I’m prepped and ready to answer the phone I can do just about anything I like — sleeping is, of course, not one of those things. Yoga, chili cook-offs, knitting, needlework, schoolwork, playing with the K-9 dogs, are all acceptable behaviors. The kind and range of activities are limited by the agency — some will let you do anything except sleep (the kind I’m at now) some want you to sit and stare at the blank screen waiting for disaster (the kind I was at before and left for JET).