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Beate von der Osten - Germany

Beate von der Osten was well established in a linguistic career at the German Embassy in Tokyo when she decided she needed to take some time out.

Course: Master of Arts in Japanese Interpreting and Translation (MAJIT)
Year: 2003-2004
Institution: University of Queensland (UQ)
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Current position: Head of Language Service, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Tokyo, Japan

Beate von der Osten was well established in a linguistic career at the German Embassy in Tokyo when she decided she needed to take some time out, explaining that she had “hit a wall”.

Already a fluent Japanese speaker, having completed an MA in Japanese Studies at the Free University of Berlin, von der Osten felt that she was lacking something. “Although my work also involved a lot of interpreting, I had never had the opportunity to undergo formal academic training and to learn the proper techniques for consecutive and simultaneous interpreting for the language combination of German and Japanese,” she says. There were no such courses in Germany or in Japan when she joined the German Foreign Office. They were confident she would pick up the skills on the job, which she did.

“After a couple of years, however, and with an increased demand for time-saving simultaneous interpretation in this ever faster spinning world,“ she says, “I deeply sensed the need to receive proper academic training.”

So she began scouring the Internet for English-Japanese interpreting courses and came across the MAJIT program at the University of Queensland (UQ). The moment she clicked on the UQ webpage she says she was “captivated”.

“Since I was, and still am, very much into sports, UQ looked like nothing short of a paradise to me: state-of-the-art sports facilities like a 50m outdoor pool, a great running track, a well-equipped gym, and best of all a beautifully winding river right at the doorstep, perfect for a kayak workout at sunrise or sunset,” she says.

Fortuitously, too, the interpreting and translation training at UQ was world class, with the MAJIT program ranked as one of the best of its kind in the world.

To be absolutely sure, von der Osten flew into Brisbane for three days to look over UQ and talk to the professors. “I was just blown away,” she says, “It was so much more than I expected. I just had to go there!”

Taking a two-year leave of absence from her job, she traded Tokyo for the tropics. The course, she admits, was exacting. “Being German, working between two foreign languages presented a real challenge for me,” says von der Osten. But her efforts paid off. Not only did she hone her interpreting techniques, she improved her English to the point where interpreting and translating to and from English is an integral part of her work now at the German Embassy.

“Not a single day goes by where I am not thankful for having had the opportunity to study in Australia, to take part in the MAJIT program and acquire all the skills necessary to work as a professional interpreter and translator,” she says.

There was personal reward as well. “Those years in Australia taught me a lot about not taking myself, my work or my problems too seriously - like we Germans or the Japanese respectively have a tendency to do,” laughs von der Osten. “It had a life changing effect on me”.

She says she espouses the “it’s all good” mentality wherever she can. “Having adopted a much more relaxed outlook on life in general has benefited me in many ways – be it work-related or on a private level.”

Von der Osten also achieved one of her greatest sporting ambitions while at UQ. A marathon runner, she was inspired by the “amazing facilities and support” at the university and began training for a triathlon, getting up at 4 or 5 am to put in a couple of hours of cycling, swimming and running before breakfast, then settling down to study for the rest of the day. Just before leaving in 2004, she crossed the finish line of the Inaugural Ironman Triathlon Western Australia in 13 hours and 27 minutes, in what she describes as “one of my greatest sporting ambitions and the one I am still proudest of.”

She says her time in Australia “felt like being in a dream”. “Seriously, every single morning I woke up in Brisbane, overlooking the gorgeous Brisbane River flowing just below my bedroom window, I was filled with gratitude. “Sitting studying on my terrace with rainbow lorikeets nearby, didn't feel at all like work,” she laughs adding that “the decision to go to Queensland to study was probably the best thing I ever did in my life.”

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