This month's edition of 'Where are they now?' comes to us from Singapore. James Watson has been living between there and neighbouring Malaysia raising his family for several years now. But, rewind 20 years and he was a student at Macleod College in Melbourne's north, learning German and plucking up the courage to apply for a SAGSE scholarship. He had so much fun and developed so much as a young, independent adult on his exchange in a small East German town, that it became inevitable that travel and life abroad were going to be important part of James' adult life
Year of Exchange: 2005/06
Group Leader: Stacey Curtis
School: Macleod College
Town / city of exchange in Germany: Donndorf, Thüringen
Despite living in the countryside at least 2 hours away from a large city, I was so fortunate to live with a beautiful host family (German / Dutch mixed) who brought me all over both Germany and the Netherlands during my time staying with them.
I vividly remember travelling out to watch the infamous FC St. Pauli (standing with the travelling St. Pauli fans!), spending my first white Christmas and New Year across Northern Germany and the Netherlands, lapping up the free travel post our Winter Camp to see Stuttgart, Wertheim and München, the legal (!) fireworks during Silvester, and most of all, the camaraderie, late nights, parties and friendships made with my fellow Stipis / Gassies!
I studied a Bachelor of Commerce (Finance and Economics) and a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in German!) at the University of Melbourne. I ended up staying on an extra year to complete an Honours Year in Finance, which was by far the best year of studies where I made many lifelong friends. I also met my now wife in the last 3 months of my 6-year degree!
I started my career in hometown Melbourne in Investment Banking, and moved 2.5 years later to Singapore to continue my banking career, but more importantly move closer to my now wife, as she was (and still is!) based in neighbouring Malaysia. I have worked across the consumer tech space (doing corporate development and fundraising for Southeast Asia’s answer to Uber in Grab), tech investment banking, and tech investing for a family office in Malaysia.
I find myself matching my passion for media and entertainment, my affinity for Southeast Asia, and my experience in advisory and investing by working as Vice-President of The Raine Group, a US-headquartered merchant bank specializing in media, entertainment, sports and gaming advisory and investing. We just opened our office in Singapore, and we are building out the franchise in Southeast Asia!
I now spend my time between Malaysia and Singapore, with my wife of 7 years (and counting) and our three beautiful kids (all under 5!). We all have a passion for travelling, food, sports and spending quality time with each other.
I love to come back to Australia to see family and friends when I can, and also balance this travel with a wanderlust to visit as many places as I can afford / have the time to visit!
The SAGSE exchange truly opened up my eyes to the world, and how vast and wonderful it can be. It taught me how to live independently, learn to adapt to new cultures, and ultimately set me on the path of living and working overseas as I still do to this day!
In July we will return to Melbourne for the first time in a while. We will chat with an alumnus from the 70's who taught German in schools for many years, has trained many language teachers, and who in his spare time likes to tread the boards.