I chose the Bristol Masters in Special and Inclusive Education because it reflected my interests in the educational progress of children, especially those who are experiencing barriers to learning and participation. Before enrolling at the Graduate School of Education, I had qualified from the University of Ionnina, Greece, with a Bsc in Psychology.
I decided to study at Bristol because of its reputation as one of the top universities in Europe and because it was recommended by a friend of mine. Although I come from a beautiful and traditional country, I miss Bristol very much now that I am no longer there. It is a beautiful city, with a wonderful architectural tradition and plenty to see and do. Its churches and buildings and very striking, its people are friendly and the shopping is very good. The biggest influence on me during my time there was my friend and colleague Niki Kousta, with whom I also shared a flat. We became excellent friends and I think we will be for ever! If that’s not good fortune, what is?
The MEd in Special and Inclusive Education opened doorways to jobs that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Because of the special nature of the subject, applicants really need to prove their dedication and the MEd is a perfect way to show employers that they can trust your skills and commitment, especially in the private sector in Greece. The tutors at the Graduate School of Education were really helpful and seemed genuinely interested in my future. I can only wish that everybody starting out on a similar academic route has such a good time! Every single day at the Graduate School, and every module I followed, was significant to me. I was particularly impressed by the Education Library and the university’s online resources, which meant that I didn’t have to look far or pay extra for important books and articles.
The Greek economic crisis has meant that it is very difficult to find jobs at the moment, but I currently work as a volunteer tutor at ‘The Smile of the Child’ and as a special educator in a counselling centre, called ‘Stirizo’ (the verb ‘Stirizo’ means ‘support’ in Greek). ‘The Smile of the Child’ is a non-profit voluntary organisation, which deals mainly with the daily problems children encounter. Its main concern is defending children’s rights, in practice as well as on paper – it is open on a twenty four-hour, seven days a week, 365 days a year-basis, working for children’s physical, mental and psychological stability. It cooperates closely with state authorities (including the Police, General Attorney’s Office and hospitals) and individuals wishing to help alleviate children’s problems. At the counselling centre ‘Stirizo’, I am responsible for groups of parents and their young children or infants – I organize creative activities to improve communication between the child and parent, using creative games, dramatized fairy tales and music. I am also responsible for intervention programs for children with learning difficulties and dyslexia and for the psychological support of pre-school and school children and adolescents, including those with special needs.
If I can’t find the right job here, I might return to the UK or even look for employment outside Europe. I hope in the future to apply for a job as a secondary school teacher (working with children with learning difficulties), a special needs teacher or a special educator. I am very proud of my time at Bristol. Making the effort to study abroad alone, without knowing anyone and having to face the difficulties thrown up by the language barrier, was a great achievement.
Although I was only in Bristol for ten months, I have the most beautiful memories of my time there. Academic life was difficult at first because it was all so new to me, but I soon became accustomed to it. I met a lot of very nice people including the tutors and university staff and many special friends from all across the world. I wish I could close my eyes and just go back for a little while!