Donna Chan considers herself a languages person. The Hong Kong native earned her first bachelor’s degree in translation, and she deployed those skills free of charge for friends; translating written materials between Cantonese and English while working in marketing. When she moved to Australia 15 years ago, however, Donna started studying accounting because she thought she’d have a better chance of landing a job in that field.
“So I study accounting and then I become an accountant,” Donna says. “However my passion is actually looking at languages, and culture and language.”
She worked for a spell at the University of Canberra, then moved to Taiwan with her husband where he spent four years on a posting. She’s since been working at the ANU with the National Computational Infrastructure as a senior finance officer.
This semester, she reconnected with her love of languages and began her Graduate Certificate of General and Applied Linguistics.
“When I settled down now, I think I can afford the time to study for interest. So I study.”
Her return to studying, she says, was prompted by one of the ANU Vice-Chancellor’s online updates, which encouraged “staff who have considered a postgraduate qualification to consider one of the many options we have available”.
“Then I looked around and saw that this is actually Commonwealth supported,” Donna says. “So it won't cost much and I think oh, why not. That would actually help me to do what I want [to do] later.”
What Donna wants to do later is research Cantonese and Hong Kong culture.
“I really think Cantonese, especially Hong Kong Cantonese is full of characters, and Hong Kong cultures is quite special too, kind of like East meets West,” she says. “And I just want to study it in a more scientific, more academic way, because I can't find much about people really studying it and looking into it. So out of my own interest I just want to do that.”
Studying linguistics through the Graduate Certificate of General and Applied Linguistics, Donna believes, will give her the skills she needs to undertake this project.
“I don't have the tools to know how to look at it or how to study it,” she says. “So I'm getting the knowledge of how to look at this language and the culture behind it. I think this is a very good starting point.”
Donna is a few months in to the Graduate Certificate, and so far, she’s greatly enjoying it. One reason is that she doesn’t feel the pressure to perform because she’s doing this for her own interest.
“I don't need high marks. What I want to do is just find something interesting, look into it, and know a bit more about linguistics. So for me it's fun, no pressure.”
She adds: “And actually, my lecturer is so nice. She's really, really great – Dr Rosey Billington.”
Studying can be quite mentally taxing. However Donna has been finding it energizing doing the Graduate Certificate of General and Applied Linguistics.
“I think it is quite a good option for me to do something else other than work,” Donna says. “Actually it give me the energy to do more because every day I have a plan about I'm going to work these hours, and then later on I've got my own thing to do.”
“That gives me the energy to go on every day.”
Donna recommends that others also do a Graduate Certificate or any of the other micro-credential and professional development courses the ANU offers, and thinks they would fit well around work.
“If you are doing a full-time job, actually, it is not too difficult to study a course a semester,” Donna says. “It just gives you something more interesting to add to your daily life, I would say.”
“I encourage people to do it.”
Words and image by: Evana Ho/ANU