Finding art in Tasmanian architecture
For Ronja Scherer, an unexpected move to Hobart as a student was the first step in her building a new life in Australia.
Ronja found herself placed in Tasmania as part of an exchange program when she was in high school.
Both of her older brothers had previously done exchange programs as well, but they chose to visit America. Ronja was more interested in Australian culture and was keen to explore something different.
She lived with a host family and studied pre-tertiary subjects at Elizabeth College in Hobart. Because of the deal she had with her school back in Germany, there were certain subjects Ronja had to complete to ensure she met the requirements back home. She studied history, English, biology, mathematics and Spanish as her core subjects, but was also able to have a bit of fun.
“I did Introduction to Adventure, which was absolutely amazing, and Stage Band, where I was a part of a musical production,” she says.
A naturally social person, it was really important to Ronja that her life outside of study was as vibrant and interesting as possible. She created close bonds with her host family and the friends she made through school, and was very grateful for those connections.
“My host family would take me on trips around the island or to their holiday shack in Spring Beach. That’s when I learnt to appreciate the beautiful and raw landscape of Tasmania. I’m from northern Germany, where it’s not only pretty flat, it’s also not exactly wild! It always amazed me how in Tasmania you can drive 20 minutes out of the city and you’re already in the bush!” Ronja says.
Her friendship group was a mixture of international students and local Tasmanians, and she really enjoyed getting to share in their different life experiences.
After college, Ronja went back to Germany to complete her architectural studies. Her Tasmanian host family came to visit her twice while she was there. Eventually she was able to return the favour by coming back to visit them. It was on this trip that Ronja started to consider looking for work in Tasmania and moving back here full-time. During her research for her Master of Science (Architecture), she came across a mention of Glenorchy Art and Sculpture Park in an online magazine.
“I was surprised to see a Tassie project published in international magazines. That’s when I started doing some research, only to find that there had actually been a lot of exciting architectural projects coming out of Tassie in the last few years!” she says.
Ronja applied to several architecture firms in Hobart and ended up getting a job at Liminal Studio, where she worked for four years. In 2020 she moved to Cumulus Studio, where she’s still happily working today.
“Cumulus does both residential and commercial architecture, like tourism projects and cellar doors for distilleries and wineries, as well as educational projects ranging from childcare centres to University of Tasmania (UTAS) jobs,” she says.
Currently, Ronja is in the process of applying for dual citizenship in Germany and Australia so she can have the flexibility to move between countries. Her partner is a Tasmanian, and after living here for more than six years, she considers Tasmania as much her home as Germany.
“I do see myself living in Australia longer term, but at the same time my parents in Germany aren’t getting any younger. So at some point I’m going to move back for a while to be closer to them,” she says.
Advice for future students
Ronja’s best advice for anyone considering a move to Tasmania is to just jump in and do it. She is so happy that her student exchange journey took her all the way from Germany to a stunning island at the bottom of Australia.
“For me, Tasmania is all about nature and culture, so it’s a perfect place to visit short- or long-term. The people are all super friendly and open-minded, so it is easy to make friends and find your way around. And, as with any place you move to, find a hobby or join a club. That’s the easiest way to connect to the locals,” she says.