Meet Yumeka Kawahara, F23

School: The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

Degree: Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy

Home: I love the U.S., and I love Boston, but home will always be Sapporo, Japan, where I was born and raised.

What has been the focus of your studies?

Human security and global governance, with a particular focus on migration and integration. I was fortunate not to be living in an affected area when the 2011 earthquake hit Japan and the Fukushima nuclear disaster happened. But a lot of people lost their homes and became IDPs (internally displaced persons). Some students who were from affected areas transferred into my school right after the incident, and learning about their experiences made me realize how terrifying it is to lose a hometown because of incidents over which a person has no control. That’s how I got interested in migration.

Then, during undergrad, I did a year of study abroad in Paris. While I was there, I volunteered at a refugee camp, and I saw how isolated the citizens of Paris were from people in the camp. That’s when I became particularly interested in refugee integration.

Why was Fletcher right for you?

The flexibility of the program is amazing. But the biggest reason I came to Fletcher is that I wanted to learn from Professor Karen Jacobson. I’m currently working as a research assistant for her Refugees in Towns project.

Any particularly valuable lessons from outside the classroom?

Japan is a pretty homogenous place. Here, I learned how to work in a diverse environment, with a diverse team. It’s not just the diversity of the U.S.; it’s also the fact that 40 or 50 percent of students at Fletcher are international. This place has given me the opportunity to broaden my perspective on many issues.

What surprised you the most about yourself during your time at Fletcher?

I came to learn more about real-world refugee situations—but the more I learn, the more I feel like I don’t know anything! The field is so deep, complex, and interdisciplinary. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge here, but I’m always surprised by how much more I have to learn. My aim is to continue researching, and continue learning, far into the future.

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