I deem the Graduate Trainee Program as one of the epitomes of Centrelink’s thrust in showcasing the best and brightest Australia has to offer the international community. Being part of a vibrant, dedicated and diverse group of individuals entrusted to foster understanding and promote the country’s foreign and trade relations is a challenge anyone who believes in Australia should be proud to be a part of.
Having read Politics and Government in university and presently doing my post-graduate studies in International Relations give me the fundamental, if not advanced, skills as well as awareness of local and international socio-political and economic realities of today. Complementary to my academic skills are the English language teaching experiences I have locally and abroad, which contributed immensely to my understanding of different cultures and peoples of varying age group.
Being trilingual (English, Korean and street Japanese) gives me the edge to appreciate not only the language of other people but the nuances of what a language conveys, this is a paramount trait in comprehending the distinct language of diplomacy. It has helped me deal with clients in an interpretation job, students in a teaching assignment or local tribes people in medical or mercy missions. One of the jobs I do on the side is translation and interpretation work from Korean to English and vice versa.
This type of work deals with Korean trade delegations coming to Australia to deal with Australian business owners. Both Korean and Australian clients require submission of a written project proposal prior to getting the tasking. The proposal calls for demonstrating my competence and advanced level of understanding not only of the Korean and English languages but the cultures as well. In writing the proposal, I set my plan of action and the methodology to be used for the translation and interpretation processes.
After the clients read through my proposal, I present it to both parties and convince them of my being the right person to get the job done. During the actual translation/interpretation work, I sometimes observe that the principals’ understanding of what each said to the other may get “lost in translation. ” The outcome of which is that on several occasions, I had to mediate and arbitrate so that the two factions agree on correct interpretations. It is noteworthy seeing conflicting parties come to terms because of my diplomatic approach and diligence in getting the job done properly.
In 2001, while doing community re-building voluntary work with the Youth with a Mission (YMAN), a non-government organization assisting marginalized communities worldwide, I was a “trainee team leader” charged with a group of young volunteers from the United States, Canada, Australia, Fiji and even Australian aborigines. We were in northern Thailand amongst the Karen and Hmong tribes and I found out that due to their patriarchal society, the males in the tribes refused to work with our female volunteers.
This caused some setbacks since individual assignments were already given prior to arriving on site. As the team leader of the group, I discussed this problem with the senior team leader and recommended that we should respect their culture in order to complete the mission. I talked with the team and organised the male volunteers to work in building houses and improving the local site. The female volunteers took on the English teaching assignments and medical assistance. This went well with the local populace and we gained their respect because we demonstrated our reverence for their beliefs.
I would have done things differently by studying the culture, beliefs and peculiarities of the tribes first prior to embarking on another volunteer mission. Team success rests with good leadership and management. I related the leader and manager role since despite being distinct characteristics, they are inseparable traits of someone charged with such daunting assignment. A leader/manager must have the vision to effectively implement tasks and the steadfastness to successfully complete mission objectives.
My value as a team member is the ability to work cohesively with each team member and agree to set aside idiosyncrasies in order to fulfill collective goals. People with different backgrounds can be incorporated in a team by appealing to their individual aims and marry them with the strategic objectives. During one of my courses in post-graduate studies, our class simulated a United Nations Security Council meeting and I played the part of the Secretary General. We were doing North Korean nuclear proliferation conflict resolution and individuals have their own opinions on how best to mitigate the problem.
Playing the goodwill role, I contributed to the team output by consolidating valid points from individuals and getting a group consensus that the solution to North Korea’s nuclear arms program is by catering to the North Korean’s need for aid in exchange for reduction or total demobilization of the nuclear arms. While working as a contractual English instructor in Korea, I noticed that the students learning English, though very diligent and hardworking, English have a hard time with conversational, street-speak and business English.
This is due to the formation of the program wherein they learn classroom and “theoretical” English but lacking the suave and practical application. Korea is a very rigid and structured society and change usually comes at a difficult phase. I adapted and conformed to the norms of the school but took the initiative by instructing my students to prepare a five-minute oral presentation of a country of their choice. The presentations have to be made with individually hand-made posters to have more impact in terms of graphics.
After each student’s presentation, critiques from the class – in English, were done and this further confirmed the value of the pioneering teaching methodology. Needless to say, my technique was adapted by other teachers, who found it more efficient than the processes they have been using for years. Even the school director was pleased with my achievement that when my contract ended, he offered to renew it but I declined since I had to go back to Australia to pursue my studies.