Victoria Rodriguero Yamauti Suzuki, 29, Southern Cross University

Born in Brazil, Victoria (Vicki) moved to Japan when she was 18. It was an opportunity to study art and specialise in her discipline of oil pastel portraits, but it also meant she had to work in a factory as a machine operator to get by. In 2016, she moved to Australia to study for a career in information technology. While the first few months were a bit bumpy, Vicki quickly found her feet, and excelled in her classes at Southern Cross University (SCU) at Coolangatta on the Gold Coast. She was named SCU College Alumnus of the Year (2018) and now works as a developer for Coding Labs, a firm based in Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast.

Q. Why did you choose to study on the Gold Coast?

It was always a dream of mine to study overseas, and I considered Australia when I was in Japan because, well, it is close to Japan, it is quite similar to Brazil because of the climate, and people here seemed to be very open to foreigners.

Q. What were your first impressions of the Gold Coast?

Culture-wise and people-wise, it was pretty welcoming. I was really afraid to start studying again but I chose a Pathways Program at SCU, which helped me get ready for the actual degree and the transition from there was pretty smooth.

Q. You completed a Diploma of Business and then a Bachelor of IT, and along the way had time to be an SCU Student Ambassador. What did that entail?

It was really interesting and I really liked it. You help new students get used to uni life – give them tips, show them around the uni, take them on orientation days and check in on them. Our role was to make sure the students felt comfortable, and just to offer support on their level that was relatable.

Q. What do you enjoy about living on the Gold Coast?

It’s funny but I am not actually much of a beach person, although I really like the lifestyle here. I like that people take their time to be with their families and that they value you having balance in your life and work. And I was never a sports person, but now I’m playing tennis and I’m doing yoga, so I really changed! It is a lifestyle I am comfortable with now. That’s what I like most about the Gold Coast – just that vibe of “you have to enjoy your life”.

Q. Can you tell us about your job?

I am a developer at Coding Labs, which is a company located in the heart of Burleigh Heads that builds web applications for a lot of different businesses, from games to e-commerce websites. I have been a developer there for about a year and a half, and I absolutely love my job. I get the chance to use my passion for art in project design and I even got the chance to design a mural for the office. The team is awesome, the workplace culture is amazing and I also like it because I am always learning new things. Once a year we deliver a bootcamp project that helps students and people who have an interest in starting a junior developer career. It also offers them an opportunity to learn the technology that we, and many other companies use, while developing the skills necessary to work in the industry. I was also part of the bootcamp before I started working here, and it really helped my transition from uni to the workplace.

Q. What would you tell someone who was thinking about studying on the Gold Coast?

It is a great place to get to know other people from different backgrounds. I think it is very open for everyone here. I felt like part of the community and I never had any issues, although of course we all felt a bit homesick at times. When you come to the Gold Coast to study, it is about being open to a new stage of your life and open to opportunities. That was crucial for me to get used to this new challenge, this new uni life, and just enjoy and try to be part of the community. It was also a chance to do some volunteer work. I did some volunteering [at Supanova Gold Coast and Bleach Festival] and that was really good for me to get to know other people outside of uni. It is a really good way of networking for people who are just starting out.