Oliver Trapnell

Anthropology with Year in Japan

I did some English teaching, one-to-one, which was a good experience.

Why did you choose this subject?

I’d done the International Baccalaureate and I was interested in geography, science and also humanities. My father had lived in Japan for a few years, I’d spent my gap year there, and I was fascinated with Japanese culture. The idea of studying anthropology really clicked with me. The Kent programme had a wide choice of modules and it had the year abroad, which I thought was an amazing opportunity.

What are your fellow students like?

There’s a diverse collection of people from all over the world. All of that experience comes together in the classroom to give us a really well-rounded education. It’s a close-knit School and you get to know students on other programmes.

How well supported do you feel?

Kent is very good with its student support system. You can email lecturers or ask them a question after seminars if you haven’t understood something.

I’m working on my dissertation at the moment and meet my supervisor two or three times a month as well as getting email support. Also, if you have a learning difficulty then you can get help from the University’s Student Learning Advisory Service.

How did your School help you prepare for your year abroad?  

In second year, we all had a lecture and an email about the year abroad and what we needed to do. Those of us who wanted to go abroad were registered onto a specific module where we learned about the Japanese universities we could apply to. After some deliberation I picked Waseda University in Tokyo. It’s a very prestigious university where several Japanese prime ministers were educated.

What was studying in Japan like?

I expected it to be really tough, but it wasn’t really like that. The learning culture was based on what you’d learned in lectures and extra reading, then you’d be tested with a quiz. Some of the modules were more Western in style, though, and assessed through essays.

One highlight was a class I took on the Pacific in the 21st century which was led by a lovely man raised in the Marshall Islands. He was a very engaging lecturer. He also ran an anthropology of gender module which was incredible.

What else did you do when you were there?

I did some English teaching, one-to-one, which was a good experience. I also explored Tokyo, which is effectively a hodgepodge of different towns which all have their own different cultures, foods and interesting things. I took the bullet train down to Kobe and from there I explored the south of the country. The whole area is steeped in cultural history because Kyoto was the old capital of Japan.

What extracurricular activities have you done at Kent?

I’m a writer and photographer for the student newspaper InQuire and have had several articles and photos published in print and online I’m building my portfolio and ultimately, I’m hoping to pursue a career in photojournalism.

Would you recommend doing a year abroad to a potential student? 

Taking a year abroad is one of the most enriching experiences you’ll have at university. Being able to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective, it’s something that is completely unique. Before I went to Japan, I didn’t really know entirely what I wanted to do. Now, after coming back, I’m confident in wanting to do photojournalism. Taking that year helped me reflect and it boosted my self-confidence.