When I received the congratulatory email saying that I would be attending the International Network of Universities Global Citizenship Seminar on Food and Water Insecurity (try say that three times, three times faster!) in Hiroshima I couldn’t keep the smile from my face. It was the opportunity to experience something new and exciting in a place far fro m home, and I couldn’t wait to board my flight and begin. Admittedly, I was a little nervous about travelling alone for the first time, but the fun I would have over the next two weeks completely outweighed any initial reservations I had about this trip.
My feet first hit the tarmac in Osaka, where I would spend the first few days before the program eating Okonomiyaki and acclimatising to the new culture (with some sightseeing in between of course!). Once I was used to the humidity and 35° plus temperature (a shock after months of rain and frost in Australia), and thoroughly addicted to Japanese food, I boarded a Shinkansen to Hiroshima for the start of the program.
The INU program began with a welcome reception at Hiroshima University, where we quickly bonded with students from across the globe. These friendships would strengthen over the ensuing week, as we worked together at the University, wandered around Hiroshima, and sang at the top of our lungs at Karaoke. I am especially thankful to the Japanese students we met who helped us navigate and translate throughout these experiences, and I am sure the friends we made on this trip will last a lifetime.
Over the next two days we would visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and attend the 73rd Anniversary Atomic Bombing Memorial Ceremony. It was both harrowing and inspiring learning about the horrific bombing of Hiroshima on the 6th of August 1945, which directly and indirectly killed over 200,000 people and decimated an entire city.
We heard a firsthand account from Keiko Ogura, a survivor living just outside the hypocentre at the time, who at only 8 years of age witnessed the stream of charred victims fleeing the city into her village. She recalled their cries for water… and how she watched them die shortly after giving it to them. As a child she did not know that you should not give water to someone with serious burns. Hearing her story and viewing the ruined remains of Hiroshima in the museum, it was difficult to imagine that the thriving city around us had been a wasteland just over 70 years ago – this makes Japan’s dedication to peace, and the courage of survivor’s like Keiko Ogura, who retell their stories every year to ensure there are ‘no more Hiroshimas’, all the more inspiring.
After the weight of the museum and memorial, it was an emotional reprieve to visit Miyajima Island and visit some of the many historic castles in Hiroshima. The (not so) wild deer on the island who were keen to inspect your bag for treats, and the iconic Itsukushima Shrine were a definite highlight of the trip.
The academic side of the program was a thoughtful and interesting insight into the problem of Food and Water Insecurity. We were fortunate to hear from a range of academics on the theories about, and practical solutions to these problems. The different perspectives, ranging from human rights and international law, to scientific developments (lab-grown hamburger, anyone?) and engineering ingenuity, provided a breadth of understanding and sparked a keen interest in the topic.
The true grit of the program, however, was the United Nations role play. Representing the interests of my country group, Niger, alongside my team members was challenging, frustrating, and fun – the secret meetings with other countries, the alliances formed and broken, the carefully laid plans which went out the window minutes before voting… it all provided an invaluable insight into the practical realities of international diplomacy.
The final days of the program were a whirlwind of emotion as we all said goodbye and parted ways. I am incredibly grateful to have participated in this program. The people I met, the things I learned, and the incredible beauty and hospitality of Japan and her people is something I will never forget, and I really hope I have the opportunity to return again soon.
Lydia Hart, Bachelor of International Relations/Bachelor of Law and Legal Practice student participated in the INU Hiroshima Summer Program at Hiroshima University, Japan in August 2018