Field Studies seminars are one-term courses that study a particular theme or research topic.
The seminar also lays the groundwork for a one- or two-week, faculty-led research trip in which you conduct fieldwork, visit museums, and engage in other educational activities. The trips are scheduled during the vacation periods, and the destinations are often overseas. Upon your return to campus, you prepare a written report based upon your course work, research and experiences.
An Example of a Field Study
In 2018, under the guidance of Professor Michael Watson, we conducted a 10-day research trip in New Zealand.
Exploring New Zealand’s natural heritage visiting botanic gardens, geothermic areas around Lake Rotorua, forests, and parks.
Encountering native animals in Wellington Zoo
Developing a better understanding of indigenous history and culture by visiting museums and watching Māori traditional dances
Eating lunch cooked in traditional way at Māori village in Rotorua
Learning to cook ourselves a meal with New Zealand food
Talking to faculty and students from the University of Auckland
A Student's Experience
Here are some impressions of our 10-day field study trip to New Zealand. We started in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. First, we visited the botanical gardens. The plants were quite unlike those in Japan—the pine cones were two or three bigger than ours. Then we went to the Museum of New Zealand, which was a wonderful place to learn about Maori culture. I researched about Maori culture this semester and saw many photos on the internet, but seeing actual buildings and tools was a very different experience. At Wellington Zoo, we saw animals from New Zealand and Australia. The most exciting part was to see a kiwi. Kiwis are active at night and very shy, so to see them we needed to go inside a dark room, be silent, and wait until the kiwi moved. It was great to see animals that cannot be seen in Japan.
Next we stayed in the town of Rotorua, which is famous for hot springs and Maori culture. The whole town smells like sulfur and there was a huge lake behind the hotel. We went to a Maori village to see the traditions and life of Maori today and to experience their culture. A Maori tour guide took us on a simple village tour. They still preserve their traditional life style, but also get rental income from town land. The guide explained that they save money from the rent and from the village tour for their children’s future, for example, by supporting village children who go to university. After the village tour, we saw a very powerful performance of traditional Maori dance, including the famous Haka dance. Afterwards, we had a Maori lunch, pie filled with potato and meat, cooked using geothermal energy, with steam from the ground. I did not expect this kind of simple traditional food to have much taste, but we all enjoyed it.
That night we went to a big supermarket and shopped for dinner. Everyone prepared one dish. Making dinner and eating together was another great experience. We could talk, get closer and learn about what others thought about New Zealand culture. Even when we went to the same places and saw the same things, each of us learned, thought, and felt differently.
The final place we stayed was Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand. We took a ferry to visit the beautiful port town of Devonport. At night we went to see a musical. There was a much more relaxed, family atmosphere than in Japan. Auckland has many tourist spots crowded with tourists, but there are places nearby where you can escape the city to enjoy nature. We went to One Tree Hill, which is famous for its sheep, more than 600 of them in a beautiful environment I remembered learning that the number of sheep is larger than the population of New Zealand. As we hadn’t seen sheep in other cities, we decided we couldn’t leave New Zealand without seeing them. We took bus to get there and walked more than two hours to find sheep, but it was the great opportunity to see sheep so close.
In Japan, we often say that “seeing is believing” or “nothing beats experience” and I realized that this is true. I researched about New Zealand during this semester, but seeing the reality with own eyes had a great impact on me. It was a very valuable experience.