Alumni story: A degree in English opens a lot of doors in Finland and worldwide

Interview with Social Service degree programme student Diana Lopez.

“When you study in English you feel like you have this international passport and you can just work anywhere”, notices Diana Lopez who graduated from Social Service degree programme in December 2018. If you combine that with the learning by doing approach, degree from Laurea gives you not only theoretical background, but also a lot of practical skills.

When Diana Lopez started her studies in Social Services she thought that she was going to be working with foreigners, help them adapt to Finland. But later on she found pedagogy and early childhood education a fascinating area. “I discovered that there is always something that you can learn more about”, she says. And so eventually she graduated in 2018 with a double degree in Social Services and a Kindergarten Teacher degree.

During her studies she had plenty of early childhood education courses, she had to work with kids and also her thesis had to be in connection with children. “My interest in pedagogy began after I had my daughter. Because she had a bit of speech delay, I started to use different sorts of developing games and exercises, and that interested me a lot” she recalls.

For Diana early childhood education is a fascinating area and you never can read too much and there is always something that you can still learn about. “In my opinion children are developing a bit different lately with all the technology available to them. Teachers now use lots of technology in a classroom and even in daycares”, she notices. That is why she wanted to develop a game to encourage children to be more active, to interact.

For her bachelor thesis she developed a game for 6 to 8 years old to teach them bilingual skills. In the game children take part in different activities, there is drama, music, and storytelling. As Diana points out there is still lots of place for further development of the game and she hopes to do that in the next couple of years. There was even a Finnish company interested it that.

Learning by doing, when you love working in a team

When asked about her feelings about studying in Laurea, Diana’s first thought was: “I really love the method of Learning by Developing!” Some people maybe learn best when they read tons of books, but she’s not one of them. “When I do cooking I need to be shown how to do it, I watch a YouTube video, instead of reading a cookbook”, she adds with a smile.

In Laurea students gain new knowledge by being involved in specific projects. They have teachers for guidance and support and they work in teams with their fellow students. “This way of work fits my personality, I love being in a team, I love this ‘we can do it’ attitude”, says Diana.

She recalls one project from the very beginning of her studies. It was The Homeless Night project. “My team was in charge of food to give to homeless, but we didn’t have neither money nor food. We had to become very creative. I had to call places, tried to get sponsors for us. Eventually we’ve got everything for free and it was a huge success. I was so proud of us”, she adds. And that was the moment she realized that was the right field and the right school for her. 

Before she came to study in Laurea she did many different kinds of things such as media and theater. She says that she found her path slightly later in life than other people, but she thinks it actually helped her, because she had more years of experience.

During her studies she became a tutor and was encouraging everyone to study in Laurea. Now she wishes she will be back in Laurea for her master’s degree, but first she has to work for three years. “If you enjoy doing group projects, working as a team, learning by doing, then that’s the best place for you”, Diana recommends the school.

A degree in English opens a lot of doors

Raised in a multicultural environment Diana chose English as a language of her studies. Her mother is Finnish-Swedish and her father is Nicaraguan. Diana speaks Finnish, but she has always studied in international schools, first in The English School in Helsinki and later in Mattlidens IB high school in Espoo. She has always enjoyed the international atmosphere. “In Laurea my classmates were from all over the world and I just felt more at home among them”, she smiles.

“When you study in English you feel like you have this international passport and you can just go anywhere”, she says. Diana’s friends from Laurea continue their studies in the US or the UK. Some are going down-under to Australia and New Zealand. It just opens a lot of doors. Even inside Finland.

Diana is not moving anywhere, but her employer in located on the other side of the globe – in China. Her office is in her home. She is amazed by the fact that she can carry her job with her, wherever she chooses to live. She’s going to be working with an international company with English as a working language. She will teach English to Chinese children on an online platform.

As Diana explains, it is sort of a game that you play with the children and your job is to get them to stay interested. She uses for example a lot of songs and puppets. There are different techniques and materials based on students’ needs. “I’m very excited to try this new way of work. There will be a lot of fun”, she adds.