Iuliia Ri, 27, Griffith University

She is passionate about nursing and dancing, and has excelled at both. Iuliia graduated from Griffith University’s Gold Coast campus with a Bachelor's Degree in Registered Nursing in 2015 and completed her Bachelor of Health Science this year. Heralding from Khabarovsk in south-eastern Russia, Iuliia (pronounced Julia) has made the Gold Coast her home, working at a Southport hospital and gaining her Australian citizenship.

Q. What was it like arriving in a new country as an 18 year old?

I had been overseas before but not to a Western country. But my family’s friends sent their kids here so my parents said, ‘Hey, at least you’ve got someone to go to if you need a hand’.

Q. Was the Gold Coast lifestyle challenging at first?

Yes, it was definitely a little bit of a cultural shock! There was the language barrier; customs and traditions; just the way things and systems run – but you adapt quickly. The Gold Coast is such an amazing place to live. It is a more relaxed lifestyle but it also has lots of opportunities because it is not a small town, it is a proper city.

Q. Can you tell us a little about your job?

I’m a registered nurse in the perioperative care area in recovery at the Gold Coast Private Hospital. I started there just after I graduated from my nursing degree in 2015. And I’ve just finished my Bachelor of Health Science degree from Griffith as well, so that I can get into medicine… and guess what? I got in!

Q. Congratulations! Will you be studying on the Gold Coast again, and why medicine?

Yes, Griffith University as well. It has been my dream to be an ophthalmologist. Ever since I was little I wanted to understand how people can have blurry vision, or not see, or have to wear glasses. It is a lifelong dream to be able to give people their vision back.

Q. You also have a passion for dance. Can you tell us about that?

I come from a ballroom dancing background. When I came to Australia I decided to try something different. A friend introduced me to salsa in about 2014 and I’ve been teaching, dancing and competing ever since. In 2017 my partner and I went to the US and represented Australia at the world championships. We came third in the professional division and first in the semi-professional division.

Q. How does the physicality of dance compare to your job as a nurse?

It is such a good work-life balance. Nursing is a giving profession, but also rewarding. But in dancing it is “me time”. It is kind of like meditation in a way.

Q. Did you form friendships through dance and during your studies on the Gold Coast?

I have made many international friendships, which I could not have dreamed about before. I still keep in touch with some of my nursing friends from university. It is amazing to see how people grow.

Q. And you have also grown as a person?

Oh, yes. I think I have achieved quite a bit. Coming from a different culture and learning the language, being successful at completing my degrees, getting a job, getting my permanent residency and becoming a citizen, and then getting into medicine – yes I have grown, definitely.

Q. What would you say to someone thinking about studying on the Gold Coast?

Do your research. It’s not just where you want to study, it’s about the university as well. Griffith Uni has excellent education facilities but also offers so many social activities from sport to academic, to arts and drama. It is a great balance that Griffith offers, in the most amazing destination – the Gold Coast. With its golden beaches, it is a perfect place to be.