Oh Mia, Oh My...Macleay International Student

Meet Mihaila Stefanova, aka Mia. Bulgarian-born and current Macleay Bachelor of Digital Media student. 

Russel Lewis, Macleay's International Student Services Support Officer sat down with Mia to learn a little bit more about her, how different Australia is from her native Bulgaria, and what she loves about Australia and studying abroad. 

Given name? My name is Mihaila Stefanova, everyone calls me Mia.  

Tell me about your hometown.

I grew up in a town called Plovdiv in Bulgaria, south east part of Europe. Thinking about it, I can't describe it with many words. I can describe my hometown in just one word though, "aylyak", which roughly translated means doing everything at a relaxed pace, not worrying at all. The word originates from Plovdiv and if you want to experience its meaning just go visit, buy yourself an ice cream from the Kapana creative district and head to the hills of the Old City and the rest will take care of itself. 


Mia's favourite thing about living in Australia is the mix of nature and great community. 


What’s the best thing about living in Australia?

Living in Australia is a beautiful mixture of everything I love in life: nature and great community. I grew up surrounded by nature and warm, welcoming people so it became a priority to seek out those things no matter where I end up living. Living abroad for me was and still is a tough journey sometimes, but feeling connected with the surrounding environment makes it easier as well as an enjoyable experience. 


What do you miss most about home?

Rarely I think about missing home as the memories live within me no matter where I live. Technology makes it easier to stay in touch with the people I love. However there is one thing, which is still irreplaceable - the warmth of their everyday presence in my life. 


Tell me, why do/did you want to study in the Australia?

Studying in Australia was not my main goal. I moved here because of a personal decision rather than professional. I came to Australia as a fresh university graduate, who just finished her four-year bachelor’s degree in media and communications. Even though on paper I was considered eligible to start my career in the creative industry, I knew I didn't get enough of a satisfying practical education or enough skills during my time at university. Deep inside I knew I wanted to develop them further but more so, I knew that without having them on a professional level, I wouldn't stand a chance in the industry. After discovering the gap between reality and expectation, I knew I had to do something about it and further education was my only option. 

What is one difference between education in your home country and education in Australia?

Bulgaria has undergone a lot of political changes in the last 50 years, leaving a lot of scars on the economic and social system. Unfortunately, education and its development were not a topic of urgency, which meant its quality was lower than what I was satisfied with. The creative industry, in which I wanted to develop my skills, was a field and area of study in which few providers were offering courses. The ones that were offering courses in the field would often teach in old-fashioned and more theoretical ways, too removed from the practical skills needed in the industry. In Australia however, as I've experienced it so far, education is built on the principles of the modern world, meaning it is fast-paced, thought-provoking and relatable.

What is one / what was one part of Australian culture that you are/were excited to experience?

For a few years prior to moving to Australia, I lived in a country in the western part of Europe, where social stigma around so many topics still exists. I didn't like living in an environment where I could rarely openly speak my mind or share how I felt. That's why I was looking forward to experiencing the Australian culture and how open-minded it is. I can say It exceeded my expectations! 

What is one part of your country’s culture that you would like to share with Australians?

The greatest component of Bulgarian culture is the people. Their kindness and deep happiness in the simple life is maybe what I value the most and would want to share. 

What was the inspiration for choosing your course?

I was not sure if I wanted to continue studying. What convinced me was the practical education that Macleay offers. As I already knew that is what was lacking at home, there was no doubt that I wanted to continue my education once I discovered Macleay. 


What has your experience at Macleay been like so far?

Going into my third trimester, I am going back with an open and curious mind as my previous two trimesters proved to be great experiences. So far, I have had the best teachers and a fair few challenges, not only intellectually and creatively but as well as on a personal level. However these have taught me a lot about real life work environments. 

In what way do you want to use your degree in the future? What’s your ideal career/job?Cracking the code to people's minds is something humanity has already achieved and uses often and in different ways. My personal goal is to use the knowledge I have gained through my degree to reach people through storytelling and provoke thoughts and emotions for good causes, such as the environment and education. As I believe in the principles of quality over quantity, I hope that in the future my creative work would offer pieces of digital content that will leave a mark. 

bulgaria image

Plovdiv, Bulgaria 
Do you have a mentor or someone you look up to? If so, who? Why?
I have had such good luck at Macleay so far, meeting wonderful people and professional mentors. One of them who has made an impression on me and has since inspired me, is Simon Macrae. His talent for compelling storytelling and his passion for filmmaking is a set of skills I aspire to have on my own future career path. I greatly appreciate his mentorship on my projects and professional interests, as it continues to provide me with valuable knowledge and inspiration to follow my creative senses. 

What do you want to do after graduation? 

As I mentioned earlier I look forward to having opportunities to connect to as many people as possible, through my work. I feel very passionate about creating visual content particularly films that have educational purposes. I am also drawn to the topic of nature and climate, so I hope I can bind these two into a career that offers educational content about the astonishing world in which we live.

Where do you see yourself in next 5 years? 

When asked this question I always envision two paths that I walk simultaneously: personal and professional. Mainly for my professional one I wish in 5 years from now that I have a career that allows me to keep my never-ending thirst for knowledge and progression, while letting me discover the world around and inside us. 


Mia on a Macleay excursion at Sydney's Taronga Zoo.

If you were to describe Australia to someone who's never been, what five words would you use? 

Australia in five worlds: Nature. Humanity. Diversity. Equality. Wombats.  

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