Law student’s outlook enriched by Japanese exchange

14 August 2013
Andrew Duncalf
Andrew Duncalf

Andy Duncalf’s Law School exchange experience has completely altered the way he thinks about the law.
“It has forced me to reconsider many of the things that I had been taking for granted as the “correct’ way to do things he says.

Andy, a fourth year University of Auckland law student, recently returned from spending one semester on student exchange at Tokyo’s Keio University.

He was inspired to apply for the exchange programme after a summer job when he began to realise how much New Zealand depends on being able to interact in the global market. He wanted an opportunity to visit another jurisdiction and experience another mind-set first-hand. The Law School’s exchange programme did this.

Andy chose Keio University because it is one of the best in Japan, and has a long history of legal education.
“I took a variety of law classes including constitutional, civil and torts,” he says.

As Andy spoke just a little Japanese, the obvious challenge for him was language but he found that this was only really an issue for him at the beginning of the exchange , and when he was travelling in rural areas.

“All but one of my classes was in English. Even in the one that was in Japanese, the lecturer was fluent in English and was able to help me adjust,” he says.

Understanding and coming to grips with the Japanese Civil Law legal system was another major challenge.
“The system is completely foreign for New Zealand students, and I really had no idea just how different it was until I began learning,” he says.

For Andy the greatest benefit of his exchange was being put in a situation where his experiences and understanding were different to others where he had to defend or justify how aspects of New Zealand’s legal system operate.

“There are many interesting differences between New Zealand and Japanese law, a simple one being that Japanese law completely rejects the notion of punitive damages- they cannot be awarded at all. New Zealand courts do not give the damages out lightly, but they are at least available for contemptuous behaviour,” he says.

Alongside his study schedule, Andy enjoyed some travel.

“Nikko stands out for me as a highlight. It’s a world heritage site for a reason –It’s an amazingly beautiful area, which is still full of traditional culture and landmarks,” he says.

And for anyone considering an exchange, Andy advises:

“Go somewhere that excites you. The co-ordinators are all fantastic so there’s no reason to be concerned about potential challenges. It has definitely been the most interesting experience of my degree.”

For further information on the Law School’s exchange programme: