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News > Alumni Spotlight > Gaining Experience Through Uncharted Path

Gaining Experience Through Uncharted Path

From SJI International graduate to becoming a teacher in Sydney, Maximillian Cvetko's '13 journey embraced diverse interests like skateboarding and music. Finally, he found his calling as a teacher.

I graduated from SJI International in 2013; I had originally come to Singapore in 2008 when I first joined the school in Grade 7. I’ve been very fortunate to do a great amount in my short time on this green earth, and I am currently working as a teacher in Sydney, Australia. Since finishing school I continued to grow into the hobbies and interests I fostered while in Singapore; sharpening a sense of adventure in my travels through skateboarding, playing music and documenting the world around me in prose. I completed my Undergraduate studies at the University of Queensland in International Business Management (BBus) and English Literature (BA) with a minor in languages. I continued to explore and contest the legitimacy of art outside of the walls of a gallery in university and spent my time outside of studying playing music in Brisbane’s burgeoning music scene – finally having a chance to transpose my interest in the written word to a musical pursuit with friends. I have a lot of fond memories of the time I spent in Singapore and the freedom it afforded me to step outside of my comfort zone and begin to see all the world has to offer just off the beaten path. I have to give props to Mrs Higgins and Mr Ingram for believing in me with all the “street” art in IB! 

Something that stuck with me after my time in Singapore was my desire to do things a bit differently: the last thing I wanted was to end up stuck in an office job! After university, I bounced around a bit trying to figure out where it was that I could strike the happy medium between building up the community others had helped me build for myself, and working towards something I could genuinely be proud of. A bit of wandering across the continents of the earth later, a pandemic and some self-reflection would lead me to a career change and a shot at teaching in some of Sydney’s most prestigious schools – as well as their most vulnerable. While I now work within the catholic mission in the outer west (for those of you who know) of Sydney, it was the duality of these experiences and places that cemented my belief in the journey of teaching – and here I am. 

Even though I had returned home from overseas for university, it really felt like a second bout of culture shock: I was definitely not mentally prepared for the change of scenery that came with a new environment, and a radically different concept of city life and infrastructure to match. Brisbane now feels like a third home to me, but the earliest stages of studying there felt difficult to navigate: making friends all over again, re-acclimatising to Queensland slang (yes, it changes between states!) and relying on having a car to get anywhere outside of a 5km radius. I chose to undertake a double degree because it seemed like a happy medium between my interests and my career options – something I wanted to be able to balance and try to use to hopefully find a spot in an industry adjacent to my interests, rather than ending up working in something unrelated. 

University was a foundational experience for me in building independence and developing my social skills in a setting where I wasn’t expected to spend 8 hours of my day with my classmates – to develop bonds in university took a lot more proactive engagement. This worked out brilliantly in the end, and turned into an expansive network of close friends now scattered across the eastern coast of Australia who I am still able to collaborate with on creative projects, and that I am fortunate enough to be able to visit on a whim! 

Looking back on it now, the two hardest aspects of university to deal with were knowing my own limits, and developing realistic expectations of myself and others. It can be hard to not get caught up in the social media game of keeping up with the Jones’, but the minute you relinquish the need to be known and focus on your goals, it will all come into focus. 

Being realistic with yourself and not over-committing to social events, or to trying to cram too many courses into one semester will be a balancing act at first, but was an extremely worthwhile undertaking that I learned during my time at university. 

My advice to anyone about to head into university – soak up every second of it! Join clubs, make friends and spend time out on the college greens. Make it count! 

I played around with a few different career paths as I went through university: I started off with an internship at an advisory firm and joined two fintech startups in their earliest push towards a soft launch, as well as going overseas briefly to work on a craft beer proposal in Taiwan before deciding to roll the dice in the big city of Sydney with a travel firm, which unfortunately was not for me at all. I felt like I’d been sold a completely different job and a different career. 

What I did begin to notice though, was a common thread that ran through all of these jobs: whether directly, or through a product being developed, I wanted to find a way to make someone’s day better – or to share with them something they didn’t know before that would make their life easier, or even more interesting.  I skipped off to work in—again—an entirely different industry, dealing with highly-specialised software engineers in Sydney’s growing Silicon Basin. Again – it left me with the feeling that something wasn’t quite right, and even if I enjoyed being around my colleagues, this wasn’t what I pictured myself doing for the next 30 years. 

What would follow now feels like ancient history, but it was my fiancée who would push me to take the leap of faith and make a drastic career change that meant returning to university to complete a Master’s degree. When I spoke to my family about it, the answer was unanimous: you’d be crazy not to do it. I spoke with some close friends in confidence about the decision, who also shared the confidence of my family in making this decision. It sounds crazy, and I’m sure anyone from my class of ‘13 would probably spit out their drink at the idea – but I have never genuinely enjoyed a job the way I am able to enjoy teaching. My students tell me I’m cool, so I’ll take it without second-guessing it!  Looking back at it – I wouldn’t change a single thing. I’d say if anything, it was the teachers that stood out to me—two of whom I’ve already mentioned, props to Mrs Higgins and Mr Ingram!—like Mr. Nurney, and Mr. Scheelbeek who showed me a particularly human and caring aspect of teachers and their profession as I moved through high school that would eventually influence my decision to carry on the journey of teaching. 

To everyone currently in the IB program, or looking towards the program in the coming years at SJI International: know your own limits, and set realistic expectations of yourself and others. No point in sugar-coating it: It will be a difficult, but manageable, 2 years of your life. It will also be a time life where you will begin to figure out a lot of your own missions going forward. Be kind, and don’t hold grudges. Try something new at least once a week. Go out for a walk in the evening and forget you even have a phone - just enjoy being in the moment. Every summit leaves you with a new, greater mountain to conquer ahead.  Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help from those around you, and remember to extend that same kindness to others. Good luck and Godspeed! 

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