Alumni Spotlight: Laurence Innis (Sasebo, Nagasaki)

Please introduce yourself and where you’re from!

My name is Laurence and I currently reside in Trinidad, one of the islands of the Twin-isle Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. For those of you not familiar, that’s the lower eastern side of the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela. I am the first and current president of my country’s JET Alumni Association. Even though it comes with its share of challenges I still love helping and guiding the new applicants be prepared for the journey and experience ahead.

Where and what did you study?

I studied Computing and Information Systems and got my BSc from London Metropolitan University. I have also done short courses and workshops in Media/Television Production and Wedding/Event Coordination, the latter being to assist with the family business.

Where were you placed on JET and for how long?

I was placed in Sasebo City, Nagasaki Prefecture. I taught at one of the high schools for the full five years from 2008-2013. Sasebo is a port town which hosts a US Navy base as well as a JMSDF base. It was home to people from many places around the world. I have met people from Korea, The Philippines, China, Nepal as well as Thailand. This contributed to the wide array of culinary choices available downtown. Sasebo felt like home and I try to visit every time I go to Japan even if only for a day.

What is your current career?

I have returned to my first love, Information Technology. Currently I work with my brother maintaining I.T. infrastructure and giving support to his engineering firm. When I have spare time I put my video production and camera work skills to use, working with a friend of mine on various projects.

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?

I’ll put in point form so I do not write my Japan life story!

Memorable Experiences:

Every day of my first year! The many new things I saw and experienced from student life to festivals and daily life. Every day brought a new wonderful moment to cherish.

The warmth of the people in the city and neighbourhoods that comprised it.

That one year I went from being the ALT to Laurence, a coworker, a friend. Able to share thoughts and experiences and form lasting friendships that endure to this day. One in particular was the weekend I took my coworkers on a road-trip to Fukuoka city. We went to 3 malls, Costco, Hard Rock Cafe and then topped it off with Cirque du Soleil. When we returned to Sasebo, we were not just coworkers but friends.

The best is probably my farewell ceremony where students who seemed to not like or be interested in class, burst into tears and embrace me saying thank you. This moment in my opinion was the best reassurance and validation a teacher can get.

JET and the individuals I met shaped me into who I am today. I’ll always be grateful for that.

I went from being uncomfortable with public speaking to singing “I Love You Baby” in front of the school assembly, parents and the local cable news station. I even did a top-hat toss into the crowd for dramatic effect.

The time spent in Sasebo, Nagasaki and Japan in general, where I met people from different walks of life, all had amazing warm stories to tell and kindness to share.

It is because of these and so many more experiences in Japan that I have invested time and effort into keeping the JETAA of T&T alive in order to help others have as great and meaningful time as I did.

How did JET help you in achieving your current career pathway or any professional endeavors?

I am no longer a teacher but I will say work ethic and principles definitely come into play on a daily basis. Public speaking, leadership skills and the ability to relate to and communicate with a variety of personalities is also a few things that help along the way.

Do you have any advice for JETs who might be looking into a similar pathway after their time on the program?

Whether you plan is to continue in education or to return to a different career path I would absolutely recommend that JETs plan ahead. Maintain your skills in your field while on the programme through online classes, courses, and the like. Don’t let your time on JET seem like a blank space to your future employer.