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Student exchange visit to Hokkaido

A group of nine undergraduate veterinary students from the Dick Vet has recently returned from a study trip to Hokkaido Island in the north of Japan.

The trip was part of a long-standing exchange programme which gives our students the chance to learn how their profession is taught and practiced in different cultures. Students benefit from a deeper understanding of what they have already learned and gain experience of working across cultures in what is now a truly global profession.

MOU with Hokkaido University

The Vet School first signed an MOU with Hokkaido University Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. The main objective was to facilitate this student exchange, providing an exciting opportunity to experience veterinary science in a very different culture. The MOU has just been renewed and is complemented by a university level MOU promoting international collaboration between the two universities.

Veterinary Practice and Conservation in Japan

Hokk 1
Catching soumen noodles as they race past - Photo: Neil Anderson

Dick Vet students participating in the exchange came from very diverse backgrounds with Canada, USA, UK, Hong Kong and Singapore represented.

The first few days were spent in Sapporo, the main city in Hokkaido and the home of Hokkaido University. Students were taken on a tour around the new state of the art small animal hospital, the experimental farm and the internationally acclaimed Zoonosis Control Laboratory. A small conference was also held in honour of the students with presentations from leading experts from both Edinburgh and Hokkaido universities. Topics included oncology, orthopaedics, One Health and veterinary education, with several students also getting the opportunity to give presentations.

The exchange then moved on to the Shiretoko Peninsular in the northeast of Hokkaido Island where the emphasis changed to conservation of biodiversity. The Shiretoko National park is part of a world natural heritage area and is home to many indigenous species of wildlife, including brown bears.

The trip involved a walk around the renowned Shiretoko Goko Lakes, where students learned about the years of painstaking negotiation and research needed to manage the conflict between brown bears and the many tourists visiting the famous lakes.

Hokkaido trip 2
The trip involved a walk around the renowned Shiretoko Goko Lakes - photo Neil Anderson

The exchange was led from the Hokkaido side by Prof Tsubota who is an expert on the biology of brown bears and students were able to learn about many issues affecting their conservation, in particular the management of bear-human conflicts. Deer management also featured prominently as over-population of sika deer makes regeneration of native forest challenging.

There was also visit to a raptor conservation centre where world renowned expert, Prof Saito, has instigated many inspiring methods to mitigate against losses of birds of prey through human activity. Marine mammals were also studied and the visit included a whale watching trip and a kayaking tour to see a seal colony.

The tour concluded with a visit to Obihiri Veterinary faculty to learn about farm animal veterinary work and horse practice. Japanese hospitality is second to none and we were accompanied by several Japanese students on the trip giving us all the opportunity to engage and learn more about Eastern culture. The exchange was very valuable to both universities and provides an excellent opportunity to open horizons and make new friends.