In this WITWAT#6 we hear from Rebecca Jee (1993), Samson Sternhell (2016) and Yuki Kono (2015).
Rebecca Jee (1993)
Nothing makes you feel so old as reading the WITWATs of super accomplished IGSers who weren’t even born when I graduated! But I do have to say, it makes me feel proud to be one of the earlier alumni and to see how the school has grown and established such a strong identity.
My naturally curious, bower-bird brain has meant that since I left school I have always had a desire to keep learning. The problem is it was never clear to me exactly what I should be doing. The word ‘career’ didn’t really mean much to me, as I had so many diverse interests: I did a BA in English and Theatre Studies, an MA in Creative Writing, a Diploma of Bible and Youth Ministry, a Cert IV in massage therapy, and am about to embark upon a Certificate in Sustainable Living at UTAS. I have considered getting a tattoo on my wrist that says, “No, you do NOT need a PhD.
Funnily enough, despite all those formal qualifications, I ended up earning a living as an entirely self-taught creative. I ran my own freelance business for around 15 years doing pretty much anything creative I could think of, including graphic design, photography, videography, copywriting, editing, book publishing, and social media management (with the occasional stint back in traditional employment when chasing invoices and hustling for clients became too soul-crushing).
It took me a long time to realise that being a polymath or (as Clare Bowditch would put it) a ‘multi-passionate’ is not a bad thing! Rather than a career defining my trajectory through life, I’ve realised that I am driven more by a pursuit of creative fulfilment, which can take many forms.
As for where in the world I actually am now, seven years ago (almost to the week, in fact) after a rant about traffic and cost of living and stress in Sydney, a friend living in Tassie suggested that I might enjoy the pace of life there and invited me to visit. As soon as I got off the plane, I knew it was home, and within a couple of months, had uprooted everything and moved to Launceston – one of the benefits of freelancing is its portability!
My mum Rachel and I were able to pool our resources and buy a big house together, and we live about 20 minutes out of town surrounded by greenery, pademelons and quiet. I live with some significant health concerns, including depression and ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome), and being much more connected to nature here has had a profound effect on my mental health and wellbeing.
Launceston has also proven to be just where I needed to be for creative nourishment too. Tasmania is full of creative souls and the smaller size of the population means it is easier to connect with people and to find wonderful opportunities to get involved in creative pursuits. After years of not really having an outlet, I am now playing flute and performing again in local ensembles, singing and acting in musical theatre, writing fiction and am part of a rich creative community.
Work-wise, I’m now at the University of Tasmania in the social media team. I get to use all my creative skills to tell stories about the life changing nature of education, which is especially important in this state where literacy levels are low and engagement with higher education has not always been seen as something available to everyone. Given a constant appetite for learning has been such a vital part of my story, how could I not be a passionate advocate for it?
Samson Sternhell (2016)
After five long years in the slog of a chemical engineering degree at UNSW I submitted my thesis in the targeted delivery of anti cancer therapeutics utilising protein based nanoparticles joined together with PEG technology under the venerable Peter Wich in December 2021. This was at a similar time to the rolling out of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines which utilised fat based nanoparticle technology with PEG in the delivery of the highly delicate payloads of the COVID mRNA samples developed over the 2020-21 period.
I maintained a wide range of connections with different scamps and loveable mischief makers from IGS and those who went to other schools after Primary school.
Such connections and many I made at uni with involvement in religion, politics and debate societies gave me a real sense of where I was in the world while battling grief after my Dad passed away and the major culture shock of the university engineering environment.
I was not able to do a gap year so I spent three months living in an English country pub at my own initiative in my first year Summer break over the Christmas period of 2017-18. In that time I was baptised into the fire of the English hospitality industry in a highly chaotic environment of a Romanian kitchen staff being managed by manager spending a lot of time upstairs in his underwear while he was meant to be on shift. I had saved enough in that time to travel Central Europe for two weeks and spend some time with my exchange friend Camilla’s family and reconnect with an old Slovenian friend I had met at uni, who had just returned from Australia.
My mother had moved down the coast to Austinmer just as my brother finished High School in 2019 and she signed us both up to the local Rural Fire Service, where I earned my Bushfire Fighter Certificate in August 2020. I have performed 7 Hazard Reduction burn tours to date, raised funds and performed community outreach events. This when I wasn’t roughnecking it at my internship in robotics manufacturing in Glebe, working in various hospitality capacities at Merivale, Palace Cinemas, the Marrickville Golf Club or Engineers Australia conferences.
My exposure to volunteering at the Youth Nuclear Congress 2020 hosted by ANSTO and sponsored my the Russians before we knew what they were up to last year in Ukraine inspired me to pursue a long term career in heavily regulated industry. This path has led me from Construction Project Delivery Forensic Time Claims, Food and Beverage Processing Plant Commissioning and now to a happy fit in Fire Safety Engineering for residential developments.
It’s been an interesting time!
Yuki Kono (2015)
After I left school I decided, on my mum’s advice, to go Sophia University in Tokyo for four years. It was good. I am now living near Chiba and working in Tokyo for a hotel company in sales. I mainly work in Japanese but my English often comes in handy when working with foreign customers. I am still in touch with my IGS mates like John, Dom, Ali etc and my mum and sister still live in Sydney so I am hoping to visit some time soon.