Connected Conversations | Shrutika Mane

On top of being a second-year health and medical sciences student, Shrutika Mane juggles a range of other roles, including being an entrepreneurial dance teacher, TEDx presenter, Headspace Youth Ambassador, and Miss India Australia – just to name a few. Add all this to majoring in public health during a global pandemic and you could say Shrutika has her hands pretty full. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

Shrutika Mane

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hey, I am Shrutika! A bit about me — I am a second-year Bachelor of Health and Medical Sciences (Advanced) student at the University of Adelaide. I was born in the UK and brought up in India and Australia. I’ve been a classical Indian (Kathak) dancer for over 12 years, under the guidance of my Gurumaa Smt. Sarita Kalele ji in Mumbai. I initiated my first small business in 2019 — Apsara Dance Class. Along with teaching dance, my aim was to guide my students towards finding a connection between the mind and the body through the movement of dance. 

Over the years of my schooling, I found my passion in public speaking and debating, following which I went on to win the Frank Anthony Memorial All-India Inter-School Debate in 2015, along with being a news presenter for the Indian national ZeeQ Channel at the tender age of 15. 

In Adelaide, I am currently a Youth Ambassador at Headspace, where we aim to de-stigmatise conversations around mental health issues in young adolescents. I have been training in screen acting for over two years now and I recently won the title of Raj Suri Miss India Australia 2020 and will go on to represent Australia at Miss India Worldwide in October 2021 in Mumbai, India. I also spoke about the art of 'Conscious Living’ back in March at TEDx, organised by the University of Adelaide.

I decided to study the Bachelor of Health and Medical Sciences (Advanced) for a few different reasons. One, of course, was my keen interest in majoring in public health but also because I have always tossed up between science and business. In this degree, I didn’t have to choose one over the other with all the space in the outline of the degree to study open electives (subjects from other fields that may interest you). That way, I can study international business, commercial law, and economics on the side, while pursuing public health, which I thought was extremely unique. 

I was most excited to learn about the fact that you get to do a work placement or research component in the final semester of the degree. To be able to gain work experience in the field as part of the degree is an amazing opportunity. I have heard from alumni that they were able to even secure a full-time position at their placement after graduating so, in that way, the final semester acts a huge career boost by saving you months of job searching. The degree is all about hands-on and practical experience, which I believe is the best way to learn. 

What has been your journey to get where you are today? 

I was born in the UK to Indian parents, moved to India at the age of six and then to Australia at the age of 15. Growing up, I have moved around a lot and consider myself lucky enough to have explored different cultures, communities, and backgrounds across the globe. Even after moving to Australia, we moved every year and shifted between rented houses–from Sydney to Port Macquarie to Perth to Adelaide. I completed high school in three different schools–changed friends, subjects, went from HSC to WACE, from public co-ed to private all-girls and each experience taught me something different and made me who I am today. 

I have been raised by a single mother, but I never felt as though our family was incomplete. My mother has been rock solid through every single challenge we have faced over the years. Whether it was the separation of my parents when I was very young, moves across countries or cities, her jobs, our income, running the house, she made sure we didn’t just survive but thrived through every experience. I believe it was my parents’ separation and the moving around that taught me how to handle responsibilities at a very young age.  

Having moved to Australia at the age of 15 as a young Indian female, the change in accent, friends, lifestyle, schools was a lot to take in. I remember for the first year after moving, I constantly wanted to move back to India–the place I called home. But the warmth and love in Australia for diversity, multiculturalism and generosity won me over. Today, after six years, I feel at home in Australia; the opportunities, the people and beauty of this land are unmissable.

Shrutika Mane

Why did you choose the University of Adelaide for your studies? 

My family lives in Sydney and, of course, as most of us are, I was extremely comfortable at home. I didn’t feel the need or urge to push myself to explore new things. So, the decision to move interstate to Adelaide meant independent living and that is exactly how I wanted to spend my time at university — living by myself, exploring who I am, earning on the side, and meeting new people in a new city, moving out of my comfort zone — ‘hustling’.

At the time of applying for university, I was considering moving to either medicine or dentistry from health and medical sciences. But once I started the degree, I enjoyed the structure of it so much that I was inclined on finishing the full degree to the very end. My interest in public health and management has grown tremendously over this past year and I know that lots of incredible opportunities can emerge out of this combination of the two fields. 

Adelaide in itself is a beautifully warm city. I find that it’s perfect for students–meeting new people, networking with industry professionals, so many new start-ups are on the rise in SA and, on top of that, a quick weekend getaway is so easily possible. It is so well-connected; it seems as though everyone knows everyone, and I enjoy having that sense of familiarity. 

What do you love most about studying at the University of Adelaide? 

What I love the most about studying at the University of Adelaide is the sense of community that we have on campus. Through student clubs, events or networking opportunities, you get to meet so many new people and connect with them instantly–you can easily find people that would have the same interests as you through student clubs and, before you know it, they become your closest friends. I randomly met a few people at a bus stop outside uni while going home from Skullduggery at O’Week last year, and today, almost a year later, they are some of my closest friends.

There is a huge sense of belonging, warmth and comfort that I feel when I am on campus. Every semester, with changing classes, I get to meet different people, explore different parts of the campus, push myself just as I start to feel too comfortable again. That keeps me motivated and driven throughout the course of the degree. The breaks are so generous that each time you come back, you feel fresh and ready to hit play on the hustle again. 

How would you describe the student experience in your degree to a future student?

I would say opportunities and possibilities in this degree are endless. You will get what you make out of the degree, if that makes sense. If you are proactive, and make sure you’re on top of your study plan and are constantly engaging in conversations with your mentors, senior students, lecturers, and professionals, eventually you will find a path that clicks for you. 

What inspired you to pursue a career in health?

I belong to a family of doctors, so I have grown up listening to conversations around health and medicine in the house. I studied all the sciences at school all the way up to Year 12 and it was evident that health was an area that I understood well. Over time, however, when I delved into the different sub-fields of health, I realised that the need of today is preventive medicine more than curative and that’s what drew me towards majoring in public health

There could not have been a better time to study public health than now— in a world with a pandemic like COVID-19. Up until a few years ago, a career in health would have meant studying to be a doctor, nurse or a dentist and then specialising but today, health means so much more than that. We are more aware of mental health conditions, we are focusing on research, we are developing innovative instruments to improve patient experiences in hospitals, we have telehealth becoming more popular. Australia has an ageing population; we need better doctor-patient communication for senior citizens so that follow up becomes easier. 

Especially during a pandemic like COVID-19, we learn to look at the larger picture rather than just what’s in front of us. We have learnt to think about hospital staff management, resources available, protocols in place for safety and hygiene in shopping centres, restaurants, schools, emergency protocols for health crises, more importantly government funding for public health research. The combination of public health strategies and management is needed today more than ever. Yes, we are luckier than most other countries in terms of COVID-19, but we cannot let that make us complacent. Public health management is a constant, round-the-clock job.

Today, health has become such a vast field — there is so much more to consider than medicine and dentistry. We are talking about mental health, nutritional health, sexual health and these are important conversations to start having in society. Innovation in this field has taken specialities like IVF to another level, using artificial intelligence to identify the quality of embryos and what not! Like I said… the possibilities are endless! 

Shrutika Mane

What are the top three most defining moments of the past year for you?

2020 was a rollercoaster year but for me I would say these three moments… 

  • Being selected to speak at TEDx UniAdelaide
  • Being able to spend time at home with my family during the lockdown
  • Winning the title of Miss India Australia 2020

What you looking forward to most this year?

Representing Australia at Miss India Worldwide 2021 in Mumbai, India and working on my physical and mental health through exercising and meditation.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

  • Kathak (Indian classical dance) – learn from my Guru or practise by myself 
  • Watch Netflix… you’ll find me binge-watching ‘Suits’ for the thousandth time (not sorry!)

Which destination is at the top of your list of places to go when international travel returns to normal?

Mumbai, India! The feeling of landing in Mumbai is inexplicable. I am going to have the widest smile on my face when I reach Mumbai. That place to me is magical. The people, the streets, the food, my home… everything is surreal. My father lives in Mumbai too, and it’s been more than a year since I have seen him. My Kathak (dance) Gurumaa is also in Mumbai; visiting her and learning from her in person is almost like meditation to me. Never going to take that for granted again! 

And of course, Miss India Worldwide has been organised to be in Mumbai too this October! Fingers crossed we can travel by then.

What do you hope to achieve in the next 10 years? 

I’m a dreamer so I could go on endlessly about my goals for the next 10 years! It’s daunting to put these goals out there for everyone to see but I guess it reminds you of the goals you had set for yourself once upon a time. 

To sum it up:

  • I am constantly in search of new start-up ideas and I have always wanted to build a business from scratch, perhaps once I have completed my masters.
  • Continue acting and dancing, hopefully land a few roles for either television or film, perform Kathak with my Gurumaa.
  • Create a social impact with the title of Miss India Australia (hopefully Miss India Worldwide too!)– I am passionate about driving education in underprivileged countries, spreading mental health awareness, and empowering young women to find comfort in their own body and skin.
  • Give a few more TEDx talks in different parts of the world. Basically, I want to give back to society in every action I take and help others find their inner strength… find what makes them truly happy and inspire them to chase it!

On the personal front, I imagine a beautiful home with three kids and two dogs named Coco and Jerry (This might change down the line… who knows!). 

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