Karoline Rivero Bernacki Wants to Push Her Limits

Updated: Mar 18, 2019

Karoline Rivero Bernacki is pursuing her Bachelor of Science from Melbourne University, majoring in Electrical Systems.

"Being surrounded by other students who were brighter than me, pushed me to strive to be on their level. I thought “If they can do it, so can I”. I guess it was the competitiveness that drove me. "

Q: You've come a long way to study in Australia; Tell us about your hometown in Norway and what makes it special in your eyes.

A: Stavanger, Norway, is, in my opinion, one of the small treasures in Europe. I am probably biased, but it just feels like home. I grew up in a suburb called Vardenes with lots of kids around me and a view straight to the sea, which are some of the things I miss the most. Stavanger itself is beautiful and has lots of history; the Stavanger Cathedral dates back to the 12th century! There is also “Old Stavanger”, which is a street in CBD where the houses are built from a long time ago. The main industries in the city were sardines and canned goods. After the discovering of oil, Stavanger became one of the richest cities in Norway – and Norway one of the richest countries in the world (per capita). The CBD is built around the old cathedral, the old fishing houses along the pier are now transformed into pubs, and the old lodging of the watchmen’s tower is still clearly shown in the middle of the plaza. Stavanger is very special to me because even if it has the wealth it has today, it still remembers its past.

Q: What’s a phrase or saying in your native language that you like and why is it important to you?

A: There is a saying that goes like this: “Den som intet våger, intet vinner”, which translates to “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”. As an adventurous person, I have always been up for a challenge; I have moved across continents twice, I have pushed my limits countless times and I have never been afraid to try something new. In my opinion, life is too short to live in one place – whether one place is a physical place or merely a state of mind.

Q: Building on that, you are involved in the Norwegian international students’ organisation, specifically here in Australia, how did you get involved with this organisation and what's it like being a part of the Norwegian student community here in Australia?

ANSA (Association of Norwegians Students Abroad) is a well-known organisation back home that works to actively promote the needs of Norwegians who study abroad. I first heard about them in high school when we had a college fair. They offered good deals with insurance, career advice and help for students overseas, so I decided to become a member before I left for Australia. Upon arrival, ANSA Melbourne started inviting me to their events, and my first thought was to be open to every opportunity presenting itself. I wanted to become a part of a community – especially since I was so far away from home. Since then, I have participated in their local and national events, and in September I became the Event Coordinator for ANSA Australia & New Zealand. My role now is to organise similar events for all Norwegian students studying in this region, and to develop an inclusive community to which all feel that they belong. Being so far away from everything you know can be pretty hard, so it is nice for many to have somewhere they can engage with people from their homeland.

"When it finally clicked in my head, it was as if I had conquered everything, and that was a feeling I wanted to experience more."

Q: What drew you to pursue academics in STEM? What do you envision yourself doing after UniMelb?

A: My interest in pursuing a career in STEM is relatively fresh. During my childhood I used to join my dad at work and colour-code some of his lab equipment. He is an electrician and is in charge of the labs at the university of my hometown. However, I was more into social sciences and dancing, and was thinking of becoming an actress. At the same time, I also loved math and found it both easy and fun.

In Norway, you decide which high school you want to go to depending on what you want to do later in life. Even if I wanted to become an actress, I did feel I wanted to become something more; to make sure that I kept all of my options open, I chose a school with a STEM-based class. Being surrounded by other students who were brighter than me, pushed me to strive to be on their level. I thought “If they can do it, so can I”. I guess it was the competitiveness that drove me. I went on exchange during high school to the US and struggled so much with physics I actually told my host family I would never go into any physics-related jobs. Well, look at me now. When it finally clicked in my head, it was as if I had conquered everything, and that was a feeling I wanted to experience more. I started loving the STEM subjects and decided to become an engineer. Looking back, I believe the interest in electrical circuits came from my exposure to electrical equipment as a child. Therefore, my next step after undergrad is to pursue a Master of Engineering in Electrical Systems – perhaps including Business, but we’ll see.

Q: Tell us about the best class you’ve taken so far at the University of Melbourne?

A: I have to include two subjects in this question. The first one is related to my major: “Foundations of Electrical Networks” lectured by Brian Krongold. He is an absolute legend. During his lectures, he would speak with an encouraging voice and help us understand how we should aim to think when solving problems. He was also very approachable and spent so much of his time consulting students about any issues they might have had.

The other subject was “Graphics and Interaction” lectured by Jorge Goncalves. This subject was as fun as it was challenging – and the lecturer used YouTube clips to help the students better understand the content. In the last assignment, we picked our own teams of 2-3 people and was given the task to create whatever game we wanted to – using some of the content we had learned throughout the semester. I loved this subject so much because it was applicable to real life as we had to use our own creativity and innovate a whole program from scratch.

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Q: You play with the Melbourne Uni Soccer club, what role does sport play in your life?

A: I honestly don’t know what I would do in Melbourne without Melbourne University Soccer Club. Obviously, I would study, but MUSC has helped me become a part of a community that cannot be explained. When I first came to Melbourne roughly 2 years ago, I decided I wanted to be involved in a sport. As a kid, I used to be very busy with my after-school hobbies such as dancing and soccer, so I decided to try out for the soccer team. It was the best decision I’ve made. Since then, the club has become my Aussie family and is 100% the main reason I am dreading leaving Australia after my studies. Playing sports have been a way to take a break from my studies – making me relax and enjoy myself while moving my body. Exercise is important, which can often be easy to forget when one has a lot going on.

Q: Think 5 years in to the future, where do you see yourself?

A: Wow, this is a hard one. In 5 years, I’ll be 28 years old. I might be thinking about children – if I don’t have any yet. I would probably be back in Norway, working as a developer of some sort. The dream would be to work with developing equipment for hospitals, camera technology or some kinds of robots.