University Update: November 2020

Toyonaka, OsakaーAutumn has finally arrived in Japan; the days are getting shorter and the temperatures, lower.

In my last university update, I mentioned that the university had planned on in-person classes at the beginning of the year in April. That plan didn’t last long and more than half a year later, all of my classes are still online. That being said, I am now in the second semester of my third year so most courses are self-directed and research-based anyways.

I have been continuing research on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but am sad to say that fighting has erupted once again. Unlike the war in 2016, the ongoing conflict has lasted for over one month and has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people on both sides, including a number of civilians. International organizations have recorded potential war crimes and fears of ethnic cleansing are increasing.

My previous papers focused on conflict resolution and legal dispute mechanisms, but this year I have been looking at health policy in the region. Believe it or not, the two topics are actually closely related and significant diplomatic effort will be needed to provide necessary health services to those affected by the conflict. This project has served as a great way of combining my interests in health and diplomacy.

While I had taken a few basic medical courses in the past, this year I have had the chance to take a variety of courses now that everything is online and I don’t need to run between campuses. I’ve also been taking some courses online from Johns Hopkins University in the US to supplement my studies here in Japan.

Another positive outcome of the pandemic is that a lot of academic conferences and guest lectures have been moved online, and as a result, anyone can participate. Last week, the David Nott Foundation hosted a wonderfully insightful seminar on humanitarian surgery and providing medical care in austere environments. For those of you interested in humanitarian work, Dr. Nott wrote a book on his humanitarian work in conflict zones around the world called War Doctor, which I highly recommend.

There was also a lecture by Samantha Power, former US Ambassador to the United Nations. She spoke about the effects of the pandemic on global governance and the Trump administration’s failure to maintain US diplomatic presence in many regions around the world–the Caucasus, where Nagorno-Karabakh is located, being one of them. The end result has been the emergence of middle-power countries jumping at the chance to fill the power vacuum, while contributing to further escalation of the conflict.

On another note, I tried job hunting in Japan this summer just to see what the process was like (Japan has a very unique job hunting process… more on this in a future post). It was a good experience to take part in a few interviews in Japanese and to see the differences between offers from Japanese companies and foreign-based companies operating in Japan.

Mind you, I won’t be trading in my books for a briefcase anytime soon. In addition to searching the job market, I have been searching for masters programs all over the world. At this point, I’m leaning towards the Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, where I could continue researching health policy in conflict zones, but am trying to keep my options open for now.

The past few months haven’t been too eventful (hence the short update), but hopefully I have more to write about in the coming months. Hope everyone is staying safe, wearing masks, and getting a flu shot this year! Take care and thanks for reading!

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