Rachel Murdock (2012)
Rachel studied German at Daramalan College and received an award for high achievement from the Goethe Institute in Year 12. Now Rachel is a successful civil engineer working for a design consultancy and she believes her knowledge of German helped her in her career.
Which language did you study at Daramalan College, and how did it help you in life?
I studied German and Indonesian in year 7 and then chose to continue with German all the way to year 12. Learning German has shaped my life and consequently my identity in ways both subtle and obvious – ways that I could not have predicted when I was learning it at school. Learning German in high school developed my interest in German and language learning in general which I then chose to continue by studying a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Linguistics and a minor in German language. I strongly believe that taking the opportunity to pursue my interest in language alongside my Bachelor of Civil Engineering provided me with a well-rounded and well-paced tertiary education experience. Through these studies I made friends I would never have made just studying engineering. I don’t know if its language learners in general, or something specific to those who decide to learn German but I have always found the people in my language classes through high school and into university to be really easy to get along with.
It was through one of these friendships that I was given the opportunity to undertake a year-long paid internship as a civil engineer in Berlin, working on one of the biggest infrastructure projects happening in the country at the time. It would not be possible for me to overstate the importance this experience for development both personal and professional. I developed so much empathy for those who come to Australia and learn to live and work using English as a second language. I learned to fail in front of others which gave me compassion for myself and for others. I gained a level of independence and self-achievement possible only for those who have lived in a foreign country without the support networks of family and friends being close by. And finally, I know that having had this experience and being able to demonstrate to prospective employers my problem-solving ability, initiative and independence played a big part in me securing my first job in Australia as a civil engineer. A job that I am so proud to have, with a team I am pleased to work with every day. None of these parts of my life would have played out the way they have without learning German,
What do you think is your most significant career and life achievement?
I view my time spent living and working in Berlin as both of those. I achieved well in my job – offered a continuing position but sadly I had to return to Australia to finish my studies. And I made new friendships, learned to navigate a new country, with only my self and language skills to rely on.
What is your fondest memory of your time at Daramalan College?
My fondest memory of a school related event is a language immersion retreat we did over a weekend, with both the German and French classes. We spent our days immersed in French or German, doing our best to communicate only in our respective languages. In the evenings we gathered for dinner, sharing our languages with each other and one night we were even treated to the experience of German raclette for dinner – a super fun and communal meal.
Who was your favourite teacher?
Frau Craig was my favourite teacher. Her lessons always had a sense of pragmatism and practicality that I personally value highly in a learning environment. We were taught using the most real-world examples possible and I always had the sense that she cared deeply about language learning and giving us the best possible education. She was always fair but wasn’t afraid to push us when she knew we had the capacity to do better and with language learning having that push can be really important because it’s not easy. Having Frau Craig as my teacher made my decision to continue with German very easy. Also she’s a natural comedian and the German trips to Hahndorf, the Language immersion weekend, the Goethe Institute and Germany were my favourite school trips by far.
Why do you think it’s important to learn a new language?
I think it’s important for so many reasons. There is the obvious point that knowing a language other than English can open doors like a professional posting in a new country because you have the right language skills, new friendships with people because you can talk their language or the ability to travel comfortably overseas. There are also the more subtle influences like, becoming more empathetic towards and better at communicating with people who may not speak your own language, being humbled by the experience of having to navigate a foreign place where suddenly basic communication becomes much more difficult, the sense of self satisfaction and pride as your language skills progress and suddenly you realise, you can have a whole conversation in your chosen language, the joy of dreaming in another language or learning to express yourself differently. There are also studies that show that people who speak one or more languages are more capable of processing multiple stimuli at once.
Which language that you don’t know yet would you like to speak?
I would love to learn Burmese – it is that mother tongue of my paternal grandparents and to be able to talk with them in their own language would be incredible – but it involves learning an entirely new alphabet and I find that a little daunting.
What is your advice for current students?
DO A LANGUAGE. I don’t even think it really matters which one you do. Just pick one that you’re interested in, or that you like the sound of and go from there. There is honestly nothing like the satisfaction of being able to communicate adequately in a different language.
Posted By , 05 Jun 2023