Please introduce yourself and where you’re from!
Hi there, I am Ashlie O’Neill, but almost everyone calls me Ash (unless I am in trouble). I am the child of a father in the Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) and as a result, I have grown up in multiple locations mainly Adelaide and Sydney. As a kid, sometimes it was hard to move schools but lucky for me, I am a twin so I never had to do it alone and also as a result of moving so much (I have lived in more than 14 houses/apartments), home is not a physical place but the people in a place which made my life in Japan much easier.
I have also lived in 3 places in Japan including Kyo-Tamba in Inaka Kyoto back in 2005, Niigata back in 2010 and Akashi City, Hyogo-Ken whilst on JET, which was the perfect spot, kind of inaka, not too far from Osaka, Kyoto or Kobe. I was able to have a car and get to the snow in 2 hours, as well as drive over the Akashi Kaikyo bridge to Awaji just for the day. Life in Akashi was pretty excellent. And my car (Sherlock) and I had some wonderful adventures.
Where and what did you study?
I graduated from Macquarie University with a Bachelor in Politics and International Relations just a month or so before leaving to go to Japan for JET.
Where were you placed on JET and for how long?
As previously mentioned, I was in Akashi City, Hyogo Prefecture. But my school was placed in a little town called Inami, in the middle of rice fields. I did 3 years on JET and seriously struggled deciding if I should recontract or not for the 4th year. I loved my students but felt like I had hit the professional growth ceiling and it was time to move on and develop a career.
What is your current career?
I currently work in International Student Services. My role is as in Student Services at the Boston University Study Abroad Program in Sydney. This essentially means that I work to deliver events, wellbeing service, support, internships, and all things student life. I love working alongside such amazing young humans and life is different every day. Next year I plan to go back to university to student Mental Health as it is something I have discovered I am passionate about.
What were some memorable experiences you had on JET and/or how did the JET experience as a whole shape you to who you are today?
My most memorable experiences on JET were probably organising the first big Snow festival trip to Hokkaido back in 2014. I was the NAJET Block 6 Rep at the time and I had always wanted to go, so I asked who would like to join me. Then I booked accommodation and reached out to the Block 1 rep at the time, and we worked to organise the big Jingiskan BBQ event. The exciting thing is that it was the largest event NAJET had ever hosted with more than 200 JETs from around the country!
Not only was it fun, but working as the Block rep and on Hyogo AJET showed me just how much I enjoy event planning and now that it is a big part of my career, I have my experience on the AJETs to thank for it.
I was also able to meet the current emperor and empress of Japan back in 2016 as the Vice-Chair of JETAA International and that was incredible.
My time on JET has taken me places I never would have dreamed possible!
How did JET help you in achieving your current career pathway or any professional endeavors?
On JET I was able to meet and work with/for people from many cultures to support and represent them. Also, my time as a senior high school ALT meant that I was able to work out that I adore working with young people in a capacity as a teacher, but also in a more pastoral and supportive role. The time I spent supporting the student interests, watching baseball games, attending recitals, and connecting with them as people led me to my current career.
Do you have any advice for JETs who might be looking into a similar pathway after their time on the program?
Work out what you love, then…build a career around it. Then even on the worst days, something will remind you why you are working in that field. I work in my field for the students and improving their lives while on our program and afterward if necessary.