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“Studying at Diak has changed me”

Vanessa Daniel, 28, Bachelor of Social Services student (Finnish-taught degree programme)

“Even as a small child I knew that I wanted to work helping other people. My grandmother remembers us watching an old film in which a woman dramatically jumps into rapids. According to grandmother, I wondered why she did it – next day things could be better.

For some reason, Bachelor of Social Services education was not on my radar when I was at school. After I completed upper secondary education, I worked in hospitality and marketing. I learned sales and people skills and made good money, but something was missing.

When friends who had graduated from the Bachelor of Social Services programme started their first jobs, I became interested. They were helping the most vulnerable members of society. Had I known that these kinds of jobs existed, I would have entered the programme at a younger age.

I applied to the Bachelor of Social Services programme at Diak in spring 2014. I chose Diak because it had a good reputation and a long history as a social work education provider.

When I received my offer letter, a weight fell off my shoulders: I had found my calling! I was bursting with motivation, and still am.

I get on well with my fellow students because all of us have the same core values, such as equality and caring for others.

The Christian values of Diak bring an added dimension, even though I am not studying for a qualification in church community work. Diak’s values are highly regarded by employers: we are taught to become empathetic professionals who are genuinely interested in guiding and supporting people and able to work with intrinsically vulnerable groups. I believe that each and every person should be respected regardless of his or or her personal circumstances or background.

Our studies include a lot of practical training, and I have found the work placement periods to be the most beneficial to me. Before I started, I knew that I’m not someone who enjoys memorising things from books. I am more of a practical person who analyses things in everyday settings.

I have had practical training at a supported residential unit for substance abusers and mental health patients, at a child protection crisis response unit and at the Tyttöjen Talo organisation for young women in Helsinki.

Studying at Diak has changed me. A person evolves throughout his or her life, and I certainly feel that I have grown as a person during my time at Diak.

The work placement at Tyttöjen Talo left a great impression on me: it strengthened the resolve of my feminist beliefs, and I value myself and my womanhood even more than before.

Equality promotion as part of work with customers requires us to take into account the co-effects of factors such as social status, age, ethnicity and sexual orientation. I will try to promote this approach in my workplace community.

For example, in work with seniors, activities designed around Finnish culture are not necessarily beneficial or enjoyable to all senior citizens.

In the near future, individuals who first came to Finland as immigrants will be using the same services for elderly as native-born Finns, and they may not necessarily find inspiration from old Finnish movies, Christian holidays or popular national pastimes. Every person is an individual, which is something that should be taken into account proactively and in all areas.

I will graduate in the near future. It’s great to be able to feel optimistic about job prospects. I am interested in working with young people in the mental health sector, perhaps even in another country. The Finnish Bachelor of Social Services qualification is also eligible for social worker roles in some countries.

I am grateful that I have found what I want to do in life. It won’t make me rich, but the work itself is valuable and rewarding. It’s the best decision of my life.”

Interview: Hanna Jensen
Photo: Riku Isohella

Read more about the English-taught Bachelor of Social Services programme.

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