To say Daria’s path to the Gold Coast was a whirlwind is underselling it – cyclonic would be more apt. The Russian entrepreneur and educator studied for her Diploma of Workplace Wellness Leadership with ASWA on the Gold Coast, where she now runs the start-up venture Focus Energy Hub while teaching business, tourism and other related courses for Prestige Service Training at Southport. But it took some ingenuity to get there when her original career was blown off course a few years ago.

Q. Can you tell us about your journey from Russia to Australia?

I left Russia at the age of 19 after one year of uni and moved to Switzerland where I studied tourism and hospitality for four years. I was at the hotel management school (in Neuchâtel) where I completed a Bachelor of Hotel Management and Design. It was a very exciting program and I was working with luxury brands and with students from all around the world. When I finished that course, I was put in contact with Hayman Island Resort (in Far North Queensland) which was run at the time by the luxury brand One&Only.

Q. I believe it was Cyclone Debbie which ultimately shaped your new career?

I came in 2015 and then we had Cyclone Debbie in March 2017, which destroyed the resort. My choices were to find another employer, leave Australia or continue working for Hayman under unusual conditions. I chose to stay on Hayman, and there I was, working on the island for two years basically as a representative of hotel management during the construction. It was great to participate in the rebuild of the hotel. I wouldn’t wish it for the world, but it happened and I made the most of it. I truly believe sometimes life gives us unexpected growth opportunities, we just need to notice and take them.

Q. Why did you decide to go to the Gold Coast to study?

I was thinking at the time about some kind of mainland job. Hayman Island was a great experience, but it is a small island and that has its own challenges. I had learnt so much about how important wellbeing is in the workplace. I certainly went through struggles and depression myself, and I could see how it was for others. I was hearing stories from people in other parts of the hotel industry right across Australia and some of their stories were quite heartbreaking. I saw a massive gap in management in the hotel industry where customers were being taken care of, but employees were commonly being forgotten. And that’s when I started aiming for a career in learning and development. I got connected with Angela (Derks) who is the founder of the ASWA program and then moved to the Gold Coast to study.

Q. Can you tell us a little about your start-up venture the Focus Energy Hub?

The Gold Coast has everything to offer students. We have the beach, the mountains, scuba diving, competitive sailing, four-wheel driving. So much. But we are told a lot of the time that we have to work and then come home, sit and chill and watch a movie. What I want to show students with Focus Energy Hub is that they would benefit from doing the outdoor activities the Gold Coast offers. It is just encouraging them to do that and balance it with still having good grades and still progressing their degree. Focus Energy Hub is an online platform that provides tools and education for ambitious adolescents to live a fulfilling and successful life. I believe it is possible, I’ve done it myself.

Q. What advice would you give someone who is considering studying on the Gold Coast?

The Gold Coast is very different from other cities. You can build really exciting professional connections and relationships with employers as you’re going surfing! I met more people who were important in my personal development when I was sailing or scuba diving. The Gold Coast and generally all of Australia is so inspiring with so many opportunities, which is what I like about this country.