This article originally featured in the January 2020 issue of Connect.

A Winter Vacation in Europe

Head of Visual Media: Ashley Hirasuna (Ishikawa)

What are some impressions people have of the JET Programme when they hear about it? Perhaps they think of it as a chance to gain valuable teaching experience in a culture that is completely different from their own. Maybe they think of it as a chance to learn a new language and make friends in Asia. People can even think of the JET Programme as a way to travel to parts of Japan and Asia they didn’t have ready access to before. These were all thoughts that I had when I first applied for the program some . . . years ago. As one year in Japan became two and then three, I realized there was another benefit to belonging to the community of international residents in Japan—the people you meet and the friends you make from other English speaking countries. It’s these experiences with folks that I’ve met in this community that inspired my winter vacation plans.

Now I know it sounds insane to go from cold and freezing Japan to even colder, if not the same level of cold, Europe, but remember that one key factor that Japanese buildings lack . . . INSULATION. I’ve also come to realize that, since I have decided that this is my last year in Japan and on the JET Programme, I probably won’t have as much vacation time in any future job. If I’m going to go to Europe to visit my friends there, then it might as well be now.

My first, and by far the longest, flight will be from Kansai International Airport to France. Not because I wanted to go to France but because it was cheaper to fly there than straight to Spain, which is where I want to celebrate Christmas. The first person on my list to visit now, after completing her tenure on JET, now teaches English in Spain. Second, I plan on flying to Edinburgh, Scotland, where I will meet up with a current Scottish JET who happens to be visiting home. Then, utilizing my British Rail Pass, I plan on taking trains down to York (where I will meet another friend), Sheffield (where I will meet up with two friends), Oxford (taking a break from people), culminating in celebrating the New Year in London (where I will meet up with more people). After the New Year I plan on flying back to France (and will probably meet up with yet another friend who I found out moved to France recently) and then making the trek back to Kansai.

Things to consider and that I have prepared for my Europe trip:

  • flights around Europe and between European countries are relatively cheap if you use discount websites like
  • there’s Pocket WiFi that works in many European countries, so I don’t need to reserve several different Pocket WiFis when I travel between countries. Best of all, it can be picked up in the airport I’m arriving at in France and dropped off the same (with a small fee).
  • in order to make the most of my journey, I reserved a consecutive day British Rail Pass that I can take from Scotland all the way down to London, England.
  • I also reserved all of the places I’m staying using a combination of begging my friends, Airbnb and

I’m both excited and terrified about how everything is going to play out, especially as this is going to be the first time I’m going to be traveling completely on my own.

Wish me luck!

Ashley is a fifth-year ALT who spends her days, when she’s not chasing small children around a classroom trying to get them to speak in English, socializing, designing for CONNECT, and performing vague attempts at exercising.