Marita went from reading about international politics and other languages in her spare time to studying both at the ANU.
“I’d been working in theatre for a while, doing stage and orchestral management. I’d reached a point in my career where I wasn’t really getting challenged that much, and the options were to go overseas or to do something else,” she says.
“I realised that over the past few years, I’d been reading a lot in my spare time about international politics, looking at languages and getting interested in the world.”
She decided then to stop pursuing these interests in her spare time and start thinking seriously about a career change.
That change involved studying Eastern Europe and learning Russian.
“I chose the ANU Bachelor of European Studies, and the language minor built into it was a big drawcard,” Marita says.
“The fact that Russian is offered here was a major consideration.”
While she had studied French and German in high school, those experiences weren’t like attempting Russian.
“This has been my first proper look at a language, for its grammar structure and translation.
“I’ve really enjoyed the Russian course, and every Tuesday we get stuck into ideas of grammar. It’s a good shock to the system to wake you up with a bit of bracing grammar,” she says, laughing.
Her teacher is Dr Elena Govor, a distinguished Russian translator and author, who gave Marita some handy phrases before Marita travelled to Ukraine in 2016.
“In class we’ve learned polite ways to ask things, but Elena also taught me colloquialisms for situations such as visiting a bar, and how to sound like a native-speaker.
“Kiev seems to be an effortlessly bilingual place, where people speak to you in either Russian or Ukrainian. Both languages use the Cyrillic alphabet.
“It was pretty cool to go over there and be able to read everything. Some things that were in Ukrainian I couldn’t quite understand, but I could figure out.
“Being able to read also gives you a better understanding of the culture, and because you know what’s happening in the news you can place things in their political context.”
Marita has gained another aspect of political contexts by being involved in activities at the ANU Centre for European Studies, which regularly hosts experts and officials from the European Union member states and the EU diplomatic mission in Canberra.
“It’s great to be among people who are interested in the same things,” Marita says.
“The Centre actively makes an effort to introduce you to the right people and get you talking.”
Marita studies full-time and works part-time in a communications and event management role.
“I’m really enjoying being back at uni as a mature-age student, and challenging myself.”