JET Spotlight: Sharleen Estampador

6th June 2024

JET Spotlight: Sharleen Estampador

Sharleen Estampador is a scholar researching the politics of memory, nostalgia, soft power, intersectionality and Japan, international exchange, and cultural diplomacy. At the University of Edinburgh, she teaches undergraduate courses that include or have included: Sociological Imagination, Thinking Sociologically, Anthropology and the Life Course, Why Anthropology Matters and Research Methods at the School of Social and Political Science. She is also the Executive Secretary for the Japan Foundation Endowment Committee.

What drew you to the JET programme, and where did you go?

I was in Ishikawa, about 20 minutes from Kanazawa, the capital, in a small town called Tsubatamachi. I was there between 2006 to 2009, so three years. I taught in China for about three months. I really enjoyed it, but it was different to Japan. I have always wanted to go somewhere in Asia to see what that side of the world was like, and then I thought, maybe I'll start learning Japanese. I took Japanese at University, just the beginners level. My Japanese teacher was great at presenting the language to us. I heard about the JET programme through that. I looked it up and thought here's a really good way to see another part of Asia.

What was your best JET memory?

I became very close to my Kocho sensei at one of my schools, and we're still friends to this day. I actually got him to join Facebook, so we keep in touch. I did so much there, I joined so many activities. I did ikebana, I learned Japanese, I did bodyboarding. I did a lot of cultural stuff, I played the Koto, I really tried to immerse myself as much as possible. Kanazawa was very beautiful, very similar, I suppose to Edinburgh. You could just walk around the samurai district. It was just beautiful. sometimes I would just wake up and think, "Gosh, I'm living in Japan, such an amazing place!" 

How did your career progress after JET?

I was doing my Master's at Aberdeen in International relations, and my supervisors were Japan-related, so they would go back and forth to Japan. I was trying to figure out the next step, but also I was pregnant at that time and trying to decide what I was going to do. At about a year and a half, I was applying for PHD funding that's how I got to Sheffield. I got ERC funding to do research on the JET programme. For me, it was just like, it never went away. If it wasn't that, I was already thinking of going back to Japan. 

Do you have any advice for JETs who want to get into academia? 

If you want to get into it, it's always good to network. Be careful about supervision. Make sure you network with people and get a feel for what the programme is and the output. What jobs do they get after they finish their PHD? I don't think it's bad to do a Master's degree after JET, and maybe feel around and see what you can do with that.

Do you have any advice for JETs who are unsure what their next career move should be after returning to the UK?

I think that happens sometimes. When I did my Master's after JET, I was working in a cafe for a bit until I figured myself out. Everything is up and down, but I think I would choose JET as a way to propel yourself forward. I think the problem is sometimes we don't navigate our social capital enough. When you meet people on JET who might be going into different careers, it's always good to reach out on LinkedIn, or your previous friends and say like, hey, what kind of job are you doing now? Is this something I could be interested in? JET is a worldwide network. I was able to tap into friendship groups here (Edinburgh) because of British people that I met on the JET programme. 

What skills did you bring from JET to your current career? 

I was actually a very shy person. I think when you're forced to teach in front of kids you've got to lose that. I learnt how to present well through JET.  JET also gave me the opportunity to intern for the Canadian embassy in London. That was an opportunity for Canadians that helped give me some kind of internship and gain a skillset of how to write papers for certain research and meeting key people.  So in that way, it gave me a lot of confidence. I suppose learning Japanese and being able to navigate a totally foreign place also gives you confidence. When JETs are going on to figure out what they want to do next, I think it is good to reflect on that. That's not a small thing, that's actually quite a big thing to navigate. I know we have a lot of support systems in place compared to other English businesses, but it's still a big thing, as we're put in the middle of nowhere in some cases. We're having to adapt, and learn the languages, and put up with the seasonal changes. So, I think that's something that you can use when presenting yourself to different businesses, when you're trying to figure out what to do next.

Any tips to stay in touch with Japanese culture?

I think you have to figure that out for yourself. In my research, I looked at people who went into Japan-related careers, and that was within academia or starting a business, but for some people, they were like, that was the end of the experience. Keep in touch with the friends you've made there. I've not kept up with all of the friends I made there. A few have come and gone, but I know that there are a few, if I go back there, they will want to meet up with me.


If you'd like to hear more of Sharleen's thoughts her publications include the Journal of European Political Science, describing the importance of addressing literature on intersectionality, politics and identity in the classroom, titled: ‘Why does political representation of the marginalised matter? Teaching classic literature from intersectional and decolonial approaches‘ and a chapter in Nostalgia Now, titled Transmigratory Nostalgia: Sentimentality and everyday life on the Japan Exchange and Teaching programme.

Check out her website:, or you can listen to her recent podcast hosted by Kevin Lor over Kotatsu episode 3: Nostalgic Echoes: Unveiling Soft Power Over Time.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our websiteView Privacy Policy