Hannah Fitchett

Social Anthropology with a Year in Japan

I studied in Japan. It was probably one of the best years of my life.

Why did you choose Kent?

Kent has a good reputation for anthropology and the fact that you could study abroad appealed to me. Also, it’s in a great location and the campus is very green.

Why anthropology?

I hadn’t studied anthropology before but when I looked into it I discovered that it included everything I am interested in. Ultimately, I want a job where I can go out and explore, and undertake fieldwork. Anthropology helps you to find that kind of work.

How is the course going?

Great. In the first year you take biological and social anthropology modules, which is quite unusual and very helpful because it allows you to decide which area interests you most. Then, if you want to, at the end of the first year you can change your degree to reflect your interests.

In seminars, everyone is encouraged to get involved; the chance to discuss things with other students is one of my favourite aspects of the course.

Tell us about your year abroad.

I studied in Japan. It was quite an intimidating thing to do but it was probably one of the best years of my life, amazing and so much fun. I lived in Osaka near Kyoto. I studied Japanese at Kent for two years before I went, and continued to study it in Japan. The teaching is in English and the Japanese students are so keen to learn English they want to speak to you all the time, which is great.

What was the highlight of your year in Japan?

There were so many good things about it. Everything becomes an adventure even the small things like buying food. On top of that you get to go travelling and do wonderful things at the weekend. You meet amazing people from very different backgrounds, which as an anthropologist is very interesting.

What area of anthropology has most interested you?

Activist anthropology and many of my modules link to that. I have also found the anthropology of health and medicine fascinating; it has raised a lot of questions about anthropology itself and whether it is too closely linked to colonialism. It’s a fascinating area to study.

Are you doing a dissertation?

Yes on activist anthropology. I started working on it in Japan. There isn’t a lot of activism in Japan, and I was interested in exploring the idea of Japanese culture being collectivist and comparing it to western individualist culture. One of my lecturers in Japan mentioned the Student Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy group and I went to a couple of their protests and interviewed people as well as doing lots of reading. I am now building on the work I did in Japan and my advisers at Kent are being very supportive. I am enjoying discovering activist anthropology – it has a contemporary feeling and feels like a way of moving anthropology forward.

What are the lecturers like?

Good, inspiring and creative; they encourage you to try things.

And your fellow students?

It’s nice to have so many international friends – visiting them in their home countries is a bonus!

What do you think of the facilities on campus?

The academic facilities are excellent and the social facilities are also good. I also really like Canterbury; there is plenty to do, lots of good events but not overwhelming.

What would you like to do next?

I have applied for an Erasmus Master’s, which is a two-year course where you study in four different European countries.

What advice would you give to prospective students?

Try everything and be open to new experiences – not just going out and partying! I joined quite a few societies, including Canterbury Homeless Outreach, which is linked to a centre in Canterbury. We distribute food to homeless people and also chat to them about their lives. I came to realise that the interaction was just as important as the food. Listening to their stories was also fascinating to me from an anthropological perspective.