When Joanna Tan first arrived at Sydney airport in 2016, she got an unexpected awakening when she lined up to catch the airport bus and could not understand a word that the bus driver said. Joanna had moved to Australia to study translation at Macquarie University and had spent 4 years learning English before her big move. Unexpectedly, she had to factor in the Australian accent into her study plans in this new and exciting country.
Since then, Joanna has completed a graduate diploma at Macquarie University and a master's degree at the Australian National University. Joanna graduated from the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2019 with a Master of Translation. Some of her fondest memories at ANU include getting to campus early to get a carpark and have a free breaky put on by the Postgraduate & Research Students Association (PARSA) for international students:” It was a great opportunity to talk about our lives,” she recalls.
Joanna chose to do postgraduate studies at ANU because she wanted to pursue a career in court interpreting in Canberra. Studying at ANU would allow her to be based in Australia’s capital. Joanna did her research and saw that there was a gap in the market for court interpreters in Canberra as opposed to Melbourne and Sydney where there was a surplus. She picked the Master of Translation based on her passion for language and research. The world class reputation and high ranking of ANU also influenced her decision to complete further studies whilst following her career goals.
Studying opened Joanna’s mind and she saw that she could do more than just court interpreting. There were opportunities to be realised in project management, marketing and starting her own business. The interpreting work she did for various parts of the ANU paved the way for Joanna to do just that. Backed by letters of recommendations from doing this work, Joanna was able to use her network connections through her tutors, lecturers, and court interpreting opportunities to build a successful entrepreneurial business.
“it is exciting and really enjoyable to create something of your own and to manage sideway if you’re studying,” Joanna says. “I was lucky that my study and my work complimented each other.”
Then the unexpected happened: COVID-19. Like everyone, Joanna was affected by the economic effects of the pandemic. One day, she was managing her own successful business after graduating. The next, all her contract work stopped, and she had to move back home to China. Joanna applied for many different jobs, and it was a period that made her discover her resilience in the face of these new challenges. Joanna also used this uncertain and stressful time to work on self-development and self-care. Besides applying for jobs, Joanna utilised this staying-at-home time to get trained and certified as a project management professional, and finally signed up for a swimming class and nailed freestyle!
One of the jobs Joanna went for was a student recruiter position with her alma mater. Again, Joanna was able to use her networks from her days studying at ANU. She was successful and started her new role as the Regional Manager for the ANU International Student Recruitment Team, based in the China Liaison Office, Beijing. Joanna’s daily responsibilities include communicating with ANU internal stakeholders based in Canberra, managing client relationships with ANU agents in China, planning and hosting recruitment events, implementing ANU tactics on student recruitment, partnership development and supporting overall ANU branding in China. Her interpreting skills have been invaluable in undertaking her new role.
“As a certified translator, I can do sight translation of difficult to understand terms that are in English when I am talking to prospective students and parents in China. These can be specialized terms for courses like optimisation, deep learning and HCI and Usability Engineering in computing for example... Parents and students really enjoy that part because they feel like they are already enrolled at ANU’ says Joanna. ‘Behind that is the cultural sensitivities and interpersonal relationships between people because you are transferring messages back and forth and you can see what people are saying without anything actually being said.”
Joanna Tan has had an exciting and unpredictable career journey since her move to Canberra for post grad study at ANU. She has shown tenacity, creativity, and resilience by thinking outside the box when it comes to career opportunities, combined with her passion for language. Joanna’s ability to network as a member of the ANU alumni community has allowed her to progress in her career and get the references needed to secure the position. Joanna encourages all of our alumni and current students to follow in her footsteps by keeping in touch with ANU alumni and staff after graduation.