Rachel Kerr

'Learning a language literally opens up an entire new world...'

  • Rachel Kerr

Studying towards a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, Linguistics and Japanese

With her inspiration understanding the world, Rachel wanted to study an Arts degree that would let her take on a variety of topics exploring culture and the humanities.

After trying out different subjects in her first year, Rachel decided on specialising in Japanese so she could one day becoming an English teacher in Japan or Korea.

‘Japanese is an intense language to learn at first due to the 3 alphabets, but Japan has such a rich culture it is well worth studying,’ she says. ‘Learning a language literally opens up an entire new world. I love seeing myself begin to be able to communicate with Japanese people more fluently and with more confidence over the years. It is awesome being able to track my progress and realise just how much I have grown in my understanding of Japanese.’

Studying Linguistics was a perfect way to understand the history and culture behind word-use, both in her new studies and in everyday English, which complements well with her teaching goals.

‘Linguistics is a fascinating subject,’ she says. ‘There are so many languages, and within each there are so many variations on how things are said. It is absolutely mind blowing to study in depth the complexity of language around the globe and understand the science behind the phenomenon that we dub speech.

‘Linguistics will cause you to look at your language and appreciate it to new levels, and it will also enable you to learn how to understand and make sense of foreign languages without having ever studied them previously.’

Anthropology was a new find from her first year that ended up becoming her third major. Rachel thoroughly enjoys the historical background focus, which ties in well with learning and analysing cultural language.

‘I really enjoyed looking at our culture in deeper and more meaningful ways, learning to look at the world with a different lens than the one that I have grown up viewing the world with.

‘I found it fascinating how many things anthropologists of the past had discovered about humans’ culture, which people of today just take to be common sense. In order to understand the world around us first we must understand the history behind how the assumptions we make of the world came to be.’

Being involved with UCNavigators, one of UC’s Christian student clubs, also helped Rachel to explore her understanding of the world. In 2015, Rachel was the President of UCNavs.

‘I absolutely love being a part of this club, I have made lifelong friends and memories at Navs,’ she says. ‘I have learnt so much during my time at Navs. It is an awesome community of people from all walks of life with a passion for God and a desire to come to know Him better.’

The biggest highlight of her studies, however, was a 10-month exchange experience to Nishinomiya, Japan, with the opportunity to study at Kwansei Gakuin University and also live with a host family. Rachel received both a UC Exchange Scholarship and a Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia to fund her travels.

‘It was a very good experience, both challenging and motivating. It is so important as a student to go and experience living in another culture that is different to our own. It opens your eyes to different ways of looking at the world and gives you an insight to a different culture that textbooks and readings can never do.

‘Going to a country where you are only beginning to learn the language is also another challenge. You will find that you will become very isolated quickly if you do not put yourself out there are challenge yourself to speak to people of all backgrounds. It is honestly the best thing you can do for your language ability.

‘I highly recommend the homestay experience. The daily use of your language and the connections you will make with your host family cannot be compared to living in a dorm filled with other international students. It will enable you to experience interactions with a local family in that culture that you would otherwise never get to experience.’

Rachel looks forward to either returning to Japan or heading to Korea after graduating, and hopes to also conduct anthropological research either on Christian culture in Korea, or the obsessive “saesung” fanbase of K-Pop idols.

After such an incredible experience living and studying overseas, Rachel cannot emphasise enough how fulfilling it is to learn a foreign language and highly recommends it to other students.

‘Learning a language is a fantastic way to begin to understand another culture and broaden your horizons,’ she says. ‘It will not be an experience that you will regret.’

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