Mario says "yes" to risk and lifelong education!
Mario was living an incredibly affluent and successful life in Santiago, Chile. As a telecommunications Key Account Manager he was flying everywhere, managing 150 people, hiring people, staying in hotel rooms – he even had his own housemaid! However one morning, exhausted, Mario saw his reflection in the mirror and said to himself, “What are you doing? Are you really happy?” He knew he wasn’t. He wasn’t smiling. Something was missing…
Despite coming from a large yet very close family and being told by his manager (as he was resigning), “I do not understand – you have a brain – why are you doing this?” Mario and his mother knew quitting his job was the right thing to do. His mum, upon his telling of his plans to resign, move to Australia, and study English smiled and said, “I’ve been waiting for so long to have this conversation with you. This is about you now!” (Mario shares his story via an interview on the podcast My Study Journey).
So Mario spoke with a student agency, who put him in touch with TAFE Queensland. “TAFE – I didn’t know much about TAFE back then. But the day after I arrived in Australia, I was walking around Brisbane, and I felt goosebumps. I had never felt like this before – I realised it (Australia) was my place,” shared Mario.
“Since then – I’ve had so much happiness in my life. I haven’t stopped smiling; I haven’t stopped laughing. I’m gay – I came out when I came out (to Australia) and for the very first time I can be myself. I can show my soul… I’ve met amazing, amazing people,” Mario continued.
Mario is 47 and a huge advocate of lifelong learning. To support himself whilst studying English (and his subsequent Diploma of Interior Design (MSF50218) joined the hospitality industry for the very first time. “It was so fun because I had no idea what to do. Everyone was laughing with me. I was working in a fine dining restaurant – and the Aussie accent – I really struggled with it! Someone was once ordering a ‘vodka lime soda’ and I had to ask them to repeat it 10 times, and then still get my manager to explain what they were saying to me! So, I started listening to podcasts and movies all the time to learn it and understand it better.”
Following a relationship breakup, Mario then moved to the Gold Coast, and began working at Nineteen, at the renowned Star Casino. “Back in Chile I felt like I was in a cage. Now, here I was a waiter, for three years, and I’ve had just so much joy doing this. It’s not about labels or positions, it’s about you and me. Interacting, listening to people, talking with people. It was challenging and fun and it helped me develop other skills too,” Mario shared.
Once his English course was finished – there was a semester to fill before his newly selected Diploma of Interior Design commenced – so he signed up for Certificate III in Business (BSB30120). “Oh that course was so great. My teacher was so fun and so cheeky! I have always been a TAFE student – the campuses are amazing; people make me feel like I belong here. They are my family – I know everyone – teachers, people from the cafeteria, housekeepers – so approachable, so friendly to me. Even in covid times, they helped me a lot – they were like my family, checking if you’re well, if you’re feeling okay,” said Mario.
He continued, “I then started my Interior Design diploma, and had another beautiful teacher. She was so knowledgeable, running her own business. She opened my mind. I had always liked interior design – I used to style my home myself, but I had no idea if I had the skills to be a designer. When you do things right though – money comes naturally. Just be worried about doing things right – the right thing for you.”
STAYING ON IN AUSTRALIA
On completion of his Diploma of Interior Design (MSF50218) Mario then spoke with his immigration lawyer to see how he could continue to stay in Australia. The option of going to university to complete a Bachelor of Interior Design did not appeal however, as Mario wanted free time to enjoy himself – not working three jobs to pay for another qualification, he explained.
However, education is everything in Mario’s family; “It gives you the power to make decisions about your life. But it’s such beautiful weather here – you do need the free time to enjoy this place.”
So Mario enrolled and went on to complete TAFE Queensland’s Certificate III in Cabinet Making (MSF31113). “Again, this was so much fun. It aligned with my career – if you go into the interior design industry you need something extra. The best thing you can do is have a new skillset.”
And the rest, as they say, is career trajectory history…
“At Nineteen (the restaurant) I soon had the opportunity to present my idea for a sommelier’s station… I had to first send a sketch, then a technical drawing, and then do the specifications. Some time afterwards I got a text message with a photo saying: “This is your project, and it’s already here, it’s arrived.” I absolutely LOVED it. It was like my first-born baby – it looked gorgeous.
“From that point onwards Nineteen shared my details with people who liked my design. I got this new client and I’m ordering their furniture, doing their interiors. I want to create uniqueness, to reflect the owner, their personality. Honestly: I love it, I love design so much,” beamed Mario.
“My goal – is to stay permanently here. I absolutely love this country. And my advice to others is to take the risk. Because we are so scared about taking risks – we always see the bad about taking risks. But if you do something and it goes well – or not well – you will learn something. That’s what life is about – learning. Take the risk and start living your life!
And now, every time now I look at my reflection – I love myself. I feel happy. I love who I am. I love how I act. Honesty, loyalty, love are the values that rule my life,” finished Mario.