Melita Brežnik on her studies and new life in Southern hemisphere

You arrived in Australia only recently. First of all, why did you decide to leave Slovenia and what guided you in your decision to move to Australia?

I arrived in Australia in 2009, first to travel and explore but quite soon I realized I really liked it here and did not mind staying longer. I haven't planned moving to Australia at the start but the longer I stayed the more I liked it. And the only way to stay longer was studying.
Slovenia at this point is not a very promising country for a young person who is seeking opportunities. And in my case I really wanted to experience living in a different country and therefore learn more.

How did you find living in Melbourne where you completed your masters degree in International Community Development?

I liked Melbourne since I first arrived in Australia. It is a great place to study, meet people from all walks of life and engage in several activities it has to offer. What I like about it the most is its cultural diversity which gives Melbourne that great lively atmosphere, from world cuisine, several festivals, arts scene to alternative ways of living, etc. 

You came to Australia with a law degree from Slovenia. In what ways is studying in Australia different from studying in Slovenia?

Talking only about law, it is very different due to different legal systems in Slovenia/EU and Commonwealth countries. However, there are differences in education systems in general. I think studies in Slovenia are more rigid and do not encourage ''thinking outside of the box'', meanwhile in Australia they seem to be more flexible and creative. Of course, it all depends on what you study but in a very generalized overview I would say that the Australian education system is friendlier to the student than Slovenian.

How did you support yourself during your studies?

As an international student in Australia I was entitled to work for 20 hours per week. I worked in several student jobs, one of them was working at the Victoria University as a student mentor, helping students with their queries around the library and other university facilities.  

Why did you recently move to New Zealand and how do you find living in New Zealand different from living in Slovenia and Australia?

I have finished my studies in Melbourne and my student visa there has expired. For that and for personal reasons I have just recently moved to New Zealand. I would say New Zealand and Australia are alike in several ways; however, Australia still has more to offer in terms of employment, social life, etc. Standard of living is higher in Australia, therefore many Kiwis look for jobs in Australia. However, New Zealand has some of the most amazing landscapes I have ever seen and Kiwis tend to be more connected to nature. It's rare to meet someone who isn't involved with some kind of outdoor activities here on South Island. And it that sense New Zealand is similar to Slovenia. They both are rich in its natural beauty, the mountains, the lakes, diverse landscape.

What is the main advantage of living so far away from home and what is the main disadvantage?

I think living far away from home definitely widens your horizons and gives you a completely different perspective of the world. For me, the personal growth, new experiences and challenges I come across every day give me that 'informal' education that no university can. On the other hand, I also look at my country with different eyes and I appreciate it more for what it is.
The main disadvantage is of course not being able to see my family and friends whenever or as much as I would like. Luckily with all the available technology nowadays we have the ability to stay in touch despite the distance.

How do you view your chances of finding work in New Zealand or Australia and what were your career prospects in Slovenia?

In New Zealand there are smaller chances for work in my field (International Community Development); however, I am always open to opportunities. Just this week I am starting to work on a project with a not-for-profit organisation SAFE that protects the rights of animals, which is another interest and passion of mine. 
I would be interested in living and working in Australia in the future if the opportunity arose.
I left Slovenia after my graduation and haven't planned my career there. Knowing that quite a number of my colleagues there are looking for work, I don't see a bright future in terms of career opportunities there. Sadly, I also know of a number of people looking for work overseas because of the current crisis in Slovenia. 

Do you know any fellow Slovenians in Australia and New Zealand? If yes, how did you find them?

Being new to New Zealand, I have not meet any Slovenians yet. But in Australia, I did meet them, of course. I volunteered as a broadcaster on 3ZZZ, Ethnic Community Radio in Melbourne since 2010 and have had an opportunity to meet with the Slovenian community, mostly the first generation. That is also how I met our former honorary consul general Mr. Alfred Breznik with whom we share the same surname. And we quickly realized that our ancestors come from the same village!  

What are your plans for the future? 

I am open to different opportunities; however, I would like to use my knowledge from my recently finished studies and work in international community development. Be it in grass roots organisations in developing countries or in Australia.
I am also contemplating options of further studying, PhD, looking at the subject of mediation in a multicultural society (Australia). 


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