In Their Words: Director of International Studies, Ms Susan Garson

When Director of International Studies, Ms Susan Garson participated in an exchange to Germany as a teenager, she never imagined the profound impact the program would have on her life and future career path.  

I grew up in Brisbane. My family lived in Sunnybank Hills and I attended Runcorn Primary School. I have a distinct memory of being in the playground when one of my friends asked me what I wanted to be when I was older. Without hesitation, I replied ‘I want to be a teacher’.

My mother and grandmother completed their secondary education at Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School and I was proud to carry on that tradition.

I had a very positive schooling experience. It was during this time that my passion for International Studies flourished. I tried the complete suite of languages available and fell in love with German and Japanese.

When I was in Year 11, I won a scholarship to participate in the Southern Cross Cultural Exchange to Germany. For eight weeks, I stayed with a host family near Heidelberg, attended classes and explored culturally significant sites. I met so many wonderful people, many of whom I am still in touch with today.

I studied Japanese and German until Year 12, and had the most inspiring German teacher, Mrs Maria Brownhall. She was a fantastic storyteller and exemplified the qualities that come from studying a language—empathy, acceptance and understanding. I was in awe of her, and can say quite confidently that it was her lessons that influenced me to study German at university.

I completed a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Education, majoring in German and History at The University of Queensland. From there, I went straight into teaching after finishing my degree.

I worked at a number of different schools early in my career, all of which were fulfilling roles. However, I wanted a position that allowed me to advocate for languages, so when the Director of International Studies position at Girls Grammar was advertised I didn’t hesitate to apply.

I have been working at Girls Grammar for seven years now and a component of my role is organising the School’s study tours. Grammar girls in Years 10, 11 and 12 have the opportunity to visit and study at our five International Affiliate Schools in France, China, Germany and Japan.

I enjoy this aspect of my role. It’s a real buzz seeing the connections students make through these programs and I know firsthand the benefits of studying abroad. After I returned from Germany, my friends and family noted that my personality had changed. I was more open-minded, mature and willing to take risks.

Personal growth is certainly a key benefit of studying abroad. Students become more responsible—they have to manage their own money, be security conscious, deal with confrontation, problem-solve issues that arise, communicate with people from around the world and understand different cultural behaviours.

Last week, we farewelled students from our German Affiliate School, Werner-Heisenberg Gymnasium, with a celebration at the School. It was overwhelming to hear students share their experiences and the impact their short time at our School has already had on their lives.

Girls Grammar is certainly the warmest community in which I have worked, and the Grammar spirit extends to our guests as we welcome them into our community. Our families are so generous to open their homes, and their hearts, for our girls and affiliates to practise life-wide learning while developing long-lasting friendships.