Ioana Petrescu studied for her BA (Hons) at the University of Cluj, Romania. In 1983, as an undergraduate, she had a three-month scholarship to take a course in German linguistics at Humboldt Universität, Berlin. She became a lecturer and later a Senior Lecturer at the Transilvania University of Brasov. In 1991 she took a course in Technical German for Engineers at the Technische Universität, Dresden and one on English language teaching methodics at the Edinburgh University. In 1993 she studied English for Special Purposes at Lancaster University. Before coming to Australia she had a number of poems published, including 'Veacuri' (her first published poem, 1975), 'Puncte Cardinale' (1986) and 'Horoscop' (1992). She also translated poetry by Woolf, Roethke, Hawthorne and Drew into Romanian, as well as poetry by Mazilescu into English.
Petrescu came to South Australia in 1996 to do a PhD at Flinders University. Her thesis was titled 'The Thrills of the Pharmakon : A Postmodern Approach to Contemporary Thrillers in English'. Later she became a lecturer in Professional Writing at the School of Communication, Information and New Media, University of South Australia, teaching courses in professional writing (editing, publishing, document design etc), creative writing (poetry, short story) and communication. In November 2006 she set up the Poetry and Poetics Centre at the University of South Australia and became its founding Director.
Ioana had begun writing poems in her mother tongue at the age of six, although not many of her poems were published before 1989. After the revolution, when newspapers became more open and less élitist, she published some of her translations, articles and poems in Romanian magazines. Petrescu began writing poetry directly in English when she came to Australia. Working on a PhD and being a stranger in a new place she required some sort of recreation, and this she found in poetry. She was invited to attend Friendly Street open readings and after that performed regularly at the Friendly Street venues. She became a member of the creative writing group, 'A Passion of Poets' in January 1998, and has also had poems published in newspapers and magazines in Australia, New Zealand and Romania. She has been guest reader at several venues including Friendly Street (December 1996, July 1998) and at the Gawler library (2000), has read on Radio National's PoeticA and has provided information and translations for PoeticA on C20th Romanian poetry, 'The Delicate Ladder (25 July, 1998).