By Rachel Hay
Fourth-year Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws student, Nina Hamasaki, jumped at the opportunity to go on exchange to Japan when it arose last year.
The flexibility of the degree allowed Nina to take courses on Japanese language and culture whilst on exchange for a semester at Nagoya University.
“UTAS offers great support for students going on exchange,” Nina said.
“I wanted to go on exchange through my Arts degree to study Japanese. Because I was doing a double degree, the Law Faculty allowed me to do straight law in second year so that in my third year it was open for me to do it.”
Going on exchange allowed Nina to see the sights of Japan and the region, with new friends that she met whilst studying.
“The best part of my exchange was people that I met. They became like family.
“Because Nagoya is in between Tokyo and Osaka, we travelled to those major cities.
“We also went to small villages in Japan and I travelled to Korea for a weekend.
“My favourite trip was to Hiroshima. It was an interesting experience to see such a historic site with so many different people from different countries, who bring different perspectives.”
The opportunity to study in Japan was particularly important for Nina, given that she was born and spent much of her childhood there.
“I wanted to experience Japan as an adult and as a student in my twenties to see how much culture I had retained, how it had shaped my perspectives and where I belonged in this multicultural world.
“I learnt so many new things about myself by getting out of my comfort zone.”
One issue that Nina grappled with was the cultural differences between Japan and Australia on environmental protection.
“Living in Tassie and being a part of organisations like the Wilderness Society, it is important to me that I’m conscious of my environmental impacts.
“One of the things that shocked me while I was in Japan was that protection of the environment wasn’t discussed like it is here. Everywhere you look in Japan there’s plastic.
“As a class project we interviewed a bunch of the students about plastic waste.
“We asked them how they felt about changing their own behaviour and demanding change from their government.
“We talked about what we did in our own countries like using reusable bags, not using straws and bringing our own cups.
“We wrote a newspaper article on it and contacted local organisations to do clean up of and education on microplastics.”
Nina hopes to apply the cultural understanding that she gained in Japan to her law degree and future career, which she hopes will be in public interest law.
“Going to Japan helped me realise that a lot of countries need a lot of help in trying further climate justice and human rights.
“I hope that this experience will allow me to make a difference.”