At the age of 13, Japan was already a focal point of the decisions Estelle McCabe was making about her future career.
These ambitions remain on track for the 20-year-old Griffith University Asian Studies student who has just been awarded a 2015 New Colombo Plan scholarship which will take her to Saitama University, near Tokyo.
“Even then I thought I should be thinking about my future,” Estelle recalls a discussion with her mother while she was in Year 8 at All Hallows’ School in Brisbane.
She wrestled with a choice between dance and drama or Japanese and music, and also had to decide between Japanese, Italian and French as her language to study. Estelle had learned her first words of Japanese at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Beaudesert and was keen to build on this.
“I didn’t know where I was going with it, but I liked the different sounds and accents,” she says.
“I remember talking (to her mother) about Asia being our neighbour and the need to engage with that region.”
Her first visit to Japan was as part of a 10-day school trip during Year 12. “I loved the people; I found them so hospitable and kind and caring.”
She would return for a gap year in 2013 after completing high school, a 12-month stay when she lived with five host families as part of a Rotary Youth Exchange program. A 17-year-old Estelle immersed herself in the culture and gained rewarding exposure to business and community leaders.
“I was also honoured to deliver a speech in Japanese at the 2013 Rotary World Peace Conference in Hiroshima where I represented Australian youth in an address to Rotarians and delegates from around the world.”
Now, armed with a prestigious New Colombo Plan scholarship, she will build on this groundwork, starting at Saitama University, 30km outside Tokyo
“My aim is to take on a number of intensive language courses and to supplement these with electives in Japanese business and culture. I’m also very interested in Japan’s history. I understand how history affects the current affairs of a country.”
These studies will also gain credits for her Bachelor of Asian Studies at Griffith Business School.
After a semester at university, Estelle plans to do an internship that can help progress her ambition to work as a communications specialist fostering Japanese-Australian relations.
“The expanding Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry is of particular interest to me. Japan takes about 90% of Australia’s LNG.
“I’m confident that living, learning and working in Japan will improve and develop not only my Japanese language but also my negotiation skills by improving fluency and understanding of the spoken word.”
Estelle, who moves into her third year at Griffith University in 2016, was initially alerted to the possibilities of the New Colombo Plan at an LNP convention at Brisbane’s Hilton Hotel some years ago when Julie Bishop highlighted its rewards in her address to delegates.
The scholarship comes at the second time of asking for Estelle after she missed out with her 2014 application. She says she learned from last year’s process, especially in terms of her preparations.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that stage.
“The experience also really helped me when it came around to applying again. It spurred me on and I worked really had to improve my CV and develop my credentials.
She joined Rotary and the Australian Institute for International Affairs where she attended regular lectures. She also took part in a number of events hosted by the Griffith Asia Institute
“I learned the art of networking. This increased my knowledge as well as my contacts.”