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Student story

Maha Sun

20 July 2023

"Turn your interests into a degree and give it your all..."


Bachelor of Arts in Cinema Studies and Japanese

Assistant Language Teacher, JET Programme, Japan

Maha’s secret for success in her studies is that she learnt about things she would naturally choose to spend her time on.

"My BA in Cinema Studies and Japanese combines all my hobbies and interests into one degree. At UC you have the choice of studying what you want and what you love. Turn your interests into a degree and give it your all," she says.

Maha adds that, because she studied what she's interested in, it never really felt like work.

"Every lecture and class I had flew by, which has to be a good sign! I can't say the same for many of my high school classes! I often studied in the library and I usually had my lunch there too. I loved level 4 because it has all the Japanese literature, manga, western comics and a lot of books on film too. I am a huge cinephile and I tried to get as much of my uni work done during the day so I could keep up with my film and TV shows."

Maha discovered her love for all things Japanese when she got into anime and manga at the age of 10.

"The specific series that changed my life was Naruto which has a very traditional Japanese setting. The food, the clothes, the weaponry, the customs – everything was extremely traditional to Japanese culture and I fell in love with that and the language itself. Through anime I learned about the historical periods in Japan, warriors and places in Japan that most people wouldn't know about."

She also started playing Japanese video games around this time. Through her hobbies became more exposed to the Japanese language and she took Japanese throughout her high school years in Christchurch.

"When I started at 12, I was able to apply my knowledge of Japanese that I had learned from anime and manga into class, and it certainly paid off."

Maha says that Canterbury was her 'first and only' choice of university.

"UC offered all the subjects that I am passionate about. It was local for me, and with Christchurch being a developing city, there are a lot of opportunities – the city is changing fast and at UC we are in the heart of the new developments."

Maha was impressed by the teaching and the academic environment.

"I have a lot of respect for my lecturers and mentors. I have learned so much in such a short space of time, and I feel grateful to be taught by such skilled and enthusiastic staff.

I was fortunate to be a recipient of the Arts Scholars Scholarship which has a great programme to help first-year students like me adapt into life at UC. The programme assigns each Scholar with a mentor who specialises in their subject. We also took part in master classes with renowned academics as well as a community outreach programme."

Maha was excited to spend her second year at Waseda University in Tokyo, one of Japan’s most prestigious universities, through the UCXchange programme and with funding from a Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia.

"The UCXchange and my year in Waseda, living in Tokyo was the greatest experience of my life so far and all my hard word and sacrifice really paid off. I cannot stress how grateful I am that UC has such a fantastic exchange program with so many highly prestigious and respected global universities," she says.

"My Japanese level sky rocketed during my exchange thanks to various reasons including my incredible classes and teachers at Waseda, the many Japanese friends I made and my own tenacity to learn and achieve. I not only learnt language skills but also travel, communication and management skills.

Being overseas in another country for a year really pushes you to step out of your comfort zone and through doing that you grow as a person. My passion for the culture, language and people has undoubtedly kept me extremely ambitious and excited for what I can do with my life."

As such, after graduating Maha leapt at the opportunity to return to Japan through the JET Programme, which offers graduates teaching roles. Maha is placed in Kamagaya City, Chiba Prefecture not far outside of Tokyo, as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) teaching English at elementary schools in the area.

"My goal is to do JET for five years, develop my language and teaching skills, and perhaps move into translation work, tour guiding or more teaching."

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