At a time where entrepreneurship and the pursuit of a career in the creative industry is at an all time high; it’s not often you come across someone who actually adores their 9-5 job as well as enjoys their creative passion on the side! Her journey to becoming the great professional she is today was not easy and straightforward. Instead her story shows the importance of listening to your body and allowing yourself to take a break when needed but never giving up!
This volume’s feature on 'Badass Young Women Doing Great Things' is an amazing woman named Nyasha Kunaka! She is in her 4th year of practice a full time physiotherapist, a Miss Africa Perth coach/ mentor, model, and an inspiration to many young people including myself!
P.S: This article is split up into 3 sections: Physiotherapy, Modelling and Life as Nyasha Kunaka. Feel free to scroll down to the section(s) you're keen to know more about!
1. When did you know you wanted to be a physiotherapist?
For as long as I can remember I‘ve always wanted to be a physiotherapist. My aunt was wheelchair bound because of rheumatoid arthritis and I was always fascinated when I’d watch her go to therapy sessions. I then decided to pursue a career in it.
2. How did you become a physiotherapist and how did you find that experience?
I completed a 4 year Bachelor of Health Sciences degree at Curtin University. I had to do a 1 year transition course at Curtin International College prior to that because they require everyone to be at the same starting level of education since I completed my high school in Zimbabwe.
I was the only person of colour in my cohort which I found to be a little bit daunting. Thankfully, I was not discriminated against because of my skin colour but I definitely noticed that I was different from everyone else. It was my 2nd year in Australia and so I had to find ways to transition and fit in.
The course was quite involving and not exactly a walk in the park, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and loved what I was learning. I remember that for 3 years straight, I would go to uni from Monday to Friday and then Saturday and Sunday I would go to work. I got to a point where I was feeling burnt out. I was starting to dislike the course and that is not how I wanted to feel about my future career thus I decided to stop, take a break and then come back to it.
Just to make sure I’d made the right decision, I attended the first day of my 4th year, but upon entering the class, I knew that a break was what I needed if I was going to perform at my utmost best. I took a year off and then came back to finish it afterwards.
My parents were so supportive of this decision because they know me to be a workaholic and go getter. They understood that I wasn’t being lazy but really burnt out and so they were there behind me every step of the way!
3. What did you do during your gap year and how did you reboot?
I didn’t do anything too special, I just needed time away from study to prevent me from resenting the course. With Physiotherapy, it is full on; you need to attend uni from Monday to Friday, attend labs, complete assignments and so forth.
4. Usually parents of migrant children are not advocates of gap years due to the fear that one might not get back to their studies. Did you get any criticism from the wider community when you took the gap year?
Not to my knowledge. To be honest, my friends and family were all supportive because they know the kind of person that I am!
One of my friends thought that I was depressed and suggested I see a doctor to get medication but I was not depressed! I was just burnt out. There is a difference!
People tried to encourage me to keep going but I knew in my heart that a break was what was best for me. It was not an impulsive decision, I had actually taken time to think about it and pushed myself to the limits to make sure it was what I need for myself.
5. How did you find the transition from working full time to studying full time after the gap year?
I absolutely loved it and enjoyed physiotherapy more! I felt refreshed and knew what I needed to do to get my degree! My brain was ready to start again and get on with it! I had missed it and was ready to learn as much as I could!
Now that you graduated, How is life as a Physiotherapist?
I really love my job because it is rewarding. Being at work puts things into perspective for me. Most of my patients are people who’ve just had surgeries, may have come from ICU and those with difficulty of speech etc. It makes me stop whinging and instead look at the bigger picture.
What I like most about my work is that I am not stuck in one area; there are so many different pathways that one take! There is so much variety thus you can change when you need to change.
6. What qualities would you say a physiotherapists needs to acquire in order to provide the best possible care for their patients?
I can only speak for the fields that I have worked in (orthopaedics, cardiorespiratory, rehabilitation, intensive care, oncology and gerontology).
One must understand that because you are dealing with people’s lives and serious situations; you need to really know your stuff! It is vital to have the drive and ambition to continue working your skills and knowledge so that you’re constantly on top of your game. It is an autonomous profession therefore you need to be able to make decisions on the go.
7. Any advice for those who want to pursue physiotherapy?
You actually need to like physiotherapy you can’t go just go in and hope to make it happen if you have no interest in it. Choose it because you like it not because of the title/status and pedestal you’re put on. Those who are studying need to be real about the amount of workload involved with physiotherapy! Don’t aim to just pass but aim to learn as much as you can so that you can provide the best care possible for your future patients. It is all worth it in the end because you will be empowered to help relieve other people’s pain.
8. Graduated from modelling school in 2008 from Elite Model management as top model. Tell me about your experience at the modelling school. How has your experience as modelling school graduate shaped your career as a model?
I started my modelling career doing pageants at school. I would also train people to do it for a fashion show. I was voted face of 2007 which made me want to pursue modelling even more. At Elite Model management we were taught how to catwalk, deportment skills, etiquette and all things modelling. This course did help me in my modelling career as it was an introduction to the professional side of modelling. To be honest anything that you can learn whether it’s a course, exposure or help from others, all of that contributes to bettering your skill, you can’t really pinpoint it to one thing.
Miss Africa Perth Winner 2014
9. What are the top things you love most about your experience in MAP as a contestant and as a coach.
Meeting the other girls! Those 12 weeks prior to the final show were the best! I made so many new friends from other countries who otherwise would not have been in my social circle.
I had the opportunity to start an online campaign via redcross where we raised a lot of money for people affected by Ebola.
As the coach, I enjoy the 12 weeks more than the final showcase because that is were you see the girls blossom and flourish into confident young women! It’s very rewarding because I know I would have been a part of the process.
Life as Nyasha Kunaka
10. What are you most proud of about your whole career?
As a physio I’ve acquired a lot of skills under my belt which makes it easier to find employment.
The highest achievement in MAP was winning MAP, I was just doing it for fun and not really for the crown. When you do something just for enjoyment and passion, you end up doing really well because you’re not constantly over thinking things.
I haven’t reached my peak yet as a MAP mentor, but every year it feels better and I feel that I’ve given more to these girls. I always feel like a proud mother when watching them on the night of each show !
11. As an African badass young woman who has completed her education, is now working and following her passions; you are also now at the age where most of your friends are getting married and starting families. I Imagine there to be some pressure from aunties and society for you get married too. What is your take on this and how do you deal with the pressure? Any advice for ladies in a similar position to you?
I feel that a lot of women once they get to the age of 25, feel pressure to get married from society and family; which I don’t agree with. Marriage is a lifetime decision and it’s important to take your time and find a partner who you are compatible with because you’re stuck with that person for life (well hopefully). Don’t rush because of your age! People should get into these things when they’re ready and not because of pressure.
I’m turning 29 soon and I don’t even have a boyfriend! I am quite okay with that ahaha I am famously single! Once you’re okay with who you are, what you’re doing and you know the reasons you’re not with someone and you’re okay with that internal situation, anything that society throws at you will not affect you. I don’t have pressure from friends and family because they know that I will not settle for something just to meet societal standards. I am genuinely happy about where I am in this season of singleness right now. I do look forward to marriage and settling down in the future, but I am definitely happy with where I am currently. I keep myself busy by doing what I love! Pressure may come from society but if you concentrate on what you’re doing and what you’re happy with doing, you won’t really feel it because you’re comfortable in being who you are! Don’t get into a relationship just because all of your friends are in them too!
Life is short! You don’t want to wake up with regrets of what you could have done! If you’re passionate about something; go for it! You don’t want to live with what ifs’. Have fun while you’re doing whatever it is you love; that’s how you stay sane!
Until next time: Be Bold, Be Confident, Be Unique!