Applied Linguistics is the study of how language is used and learned, and Monash graduate, Rikki Campbell, has always been fascinated by the possibilities in this field. We caught up with Rikki to talk about her Masters degree experiences, and what led her to exploring the value of exchange program study in language learning, and ultimately to her current job.
Rikki Campbell grew up in a small rural town in New South Wales: “a town of 2000 people, very beautiful, but very monolingual”. She remembers the time a girl from an East Asian background joined her year 11 class and she realised she'd never met someone from a different country, or who spoke another language.
With a curiosity for language and different cultural experiences Rikki did an undergraduate degree majoring in Japanese language and culture, and a year of study exchange in Japan. This got her interested in teaching Japanese, and seeking to further her knowledge of practical frameworks for language teaching, she chose the Masters in Japanese Applied Linguistics at Monash (now the Master of Applied Linguistics).
Opportunities for in-course internships help clarify your career path
Rikki knew that Monash was renowned for its Japanese language education, and her undergraduate teachers had also recommended the Monash Applied Linguistics Masters degree.
“I really wanted to become a Japanese language teacher and the course taught me a lot about the theories behind language acquisition, and about the different ways students might learn languages … another great thing about the course was that it offered internships.”
During her course Rikki took an internship teaching 1st year students Japanese. With over 500 students to teach it was a steep learning curve, but it gave her the chance to put her learning into practice, and helped her consider whether the teaching pathway was the one she really wanted to follow.
Exposure to new ideas and teachers who mentor you
The chance to do a research project during her Masters course allowed Rikki to see that there were other career possibilities beyond teaching.
“The course gives you a chance to become exposed to so many more ideas you might not have considered yourself – and when other students are presenting their research proposals you think, wow, that’s really interesting!”
Rikki also found the course teachers were good at giving her a friendly reality check when she needed it. She laughed at the memory of telling her teachers she wanted to do research into ‘dreaming in a second language’: “They said to me: ‘Well Rikki, how exactly would you do that?!’ ”
Her teachers helped her understand the practical side of research, especially within a limited time frame, steering her towards a more achievable project.
In-course Research projects – gain new skills and explore something in depth
Rikki’s prior exchange student experience in Japan was the spark for her chosen Masters research topic: looking at how the Study Abroad experience affects Japanese language learners, their social networks, friendship patterns and language use outside of class.
“I fell in love with research, finding a topic that you're really passionate about and following it, it just makes it so much more enjoyable.”
During her Masters course Rikki learnt new skills in presentation and public speaking. Although daunting at first, she found having to present her research project to peers and outsiders built her confidence and was a great introduction to the wider academic community.
“As an undergraduate I was so nervous about presenting and I’d never think to do it for fun, but now I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked to present, and that all started here with my Masters peers.”
She achieved a high distinction for her Masters research project, and her teachers told her that with so much data and so much more to explore, they’d love to have her as a Higher Research student.
“Doing a PhD wasn’t something I’d considered until I came to Monash, and I think because of my really positive experience – the great connection to my supervisors and fantastic mentorship – then I thought: there’s no place I’d rather do it than here.”
Rikki completed her PhD, and with her dual passion for language teaching and study exchange, she currently works for Monash Abroad as an International Education Coordinator. In this job Rikki gets to advise students going down the same path she herself took, and she enjoys the chance to give back.
“Learning language is great and I had such a good exchange experience, I wanted to share that with people.”
Japan is one of the exchange partner countries Rikki works with, so she is back full circle using her Japanese language, but with the new insights and knowledge she developed through her Masters course and her PhD research.