Story: Erika Vanessa Moreno Ascencio
October 2010: Erika enrols for a civic integration programme at bon. January 2014: Erika calls bon to tell us that she just graduated as ‘polyvalent care expert’. It is the result of the perseverance she showed from day one. What happened in those four years time?
"Life is always hard, but there is always a solution"
Who? Erika Vanessa Moreno Ascencio
In Belgium since: 2010
Civic integration programme at bon: 2010
Congratulations on your degree, Erika!
Thank you. I received it yesterday. If I study for another month, I can get the degree ‘Nursing auxiliary’, which would allow me to work in a hospital.
Is that your goal?
Yes, but as a nurse. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a nurse, just like my sister. When I was 17, she sometimes took me along to help take care of people. I immediately loved it!
But you didn’t go to college right away?
No. When I was 18, I was already on my own. I really like to be independent. I also needed privacy, which isn’t always easy with seven brothers and sisters. That is why I studied for quality inspector for clothing. Studying is hard in Peru, and requires a lot of money. So I chose a short training, with a degree that would enable me to find a job right away.
That’s very different from nursing.
Yes it is. Over the years, I did several jobs. In Spain I worked as a dental assistant, which was already closer to my dream. Unfortunately, the working hours were so fickle that I couldn’t combine them with my studies to be a nurse. When I came to Belgium, I first worked as a cashier in a supermarket for a month. My trial period wasn’t extended because I did not speak Dutch. I realised that speaking the language and having a degree would be crucial to getting a good job. I decided to continue to go for my dream and enrolled for an integration course at bon.
How was that?
You really learn a lot, which is necessary to be able to become independent. You get a lot of support at bon, as well as objective information, which is very important. People say a lot of different things, but at bon, you can rest assured that you’ll be well informed. The fact that I could always count on my programme counsellor was also very valuable for me. Together, we applied for the recognition of my Spanish degree as a dental assistant. Unfortunately, the diploma wasn’t recognised here. You also meet a lot of people during the integration course. I’m still in contact with some of them: we often feel supported knowing each other.
How did your Dutch lessons go?
They were very hard. When I just started my Dutch levels 1.1, the teacher said it might be too hard for me. She asked if I wouldn’t be better off continuing in French. That was very demotivating. But, with the help of a speech therapist, I continued to work hard. I even had to do the Dutch levels 1.2 twice, but it was worth it.
Where did you get the motivation to continue?
I always assumed that I could do it, that I would succeed. That’s how I drew strength. After level 2.2, I started the course ‘Intensive Dutch’. It was indeed very intensive to study Dutch the whole day, but my Dutch really improved considerably. After that course, I did another exam, and I had to pass the selections for my training as ‘polyvalent care expert’. That was very stressful: there were 45 candidates for only 25 places. Luckily, I passed!
Yesterday, you received your degree after a one-year course. What’s next?
Next week, I’m starting the follow-up course of ‘nursing auxiliary’. Then, I can finally get to work. I would like to start at my trainee post, ‘Solidarity for the family’. They put a lot of faith in me during my internship and were always happy with my work. It’s a very diverse job. Patience and trust are crucial. Another benefit is that I can combine the work with an evening course to eventually become a nurse… still my final goal and ultimate dream!
Any tips for other students who are only at the start of their journey?
The thing that really helped me is to keep thinking about the future. I keep my goal in mind and work towards it, step by step. Even when I was failing my Dutch course or when my relationship was having problems, I always kept focussing on my one goal: becoming a nurse. There will always be difficulties along the way, but you have to find solutions for them. For me, it was very important to keep practicing my Dutch as much as possible. I even had a deal with a lady in the nursing home: I visited her and we would talk Dutch together. She was happy with the visit, I was happy with the opportunity to practice. Life is hard, but everything has a solution, you just have to be creative. (smiles)