BPE - Iceland

 Erasmus+ BABBAT 2019-1-IS01-KA204-51131      
Output 01: Best practice examples (Iceland)

Interview with Hafdísi Þórðardóttir

„ You are not strange even if you do something differently

Hafdís Þórðardóttir b. 1953, graduated from the University of Iceland in 2007, as a developmental therapist, when she was in her late fifties and has since then, worked on her main interest which is caring for disabled individuals.

Hafdís is married to Einar V. Björnsson and they have six grown up children. When she went to school, the youngest child was still in primary school. She had finished high school whilst also working full time, and she always wanted to go to college, but family conditions were difficult.

 "We moved a lot in our earlier years because of Einar's work, we had a lot of children, our home was hard to run, and we lived more or less in the countryside so access to education was difficult. I have always enjoyed working with people and especially with the disabled. My luck was getting a job in this field as a general employee. However, I found it difficult to have a much lower salary than the ones I was working with. I knew well that I knew a lot and I often thought, I'm not stupid, I can learn. My mother had always encouraged me to study but I was just not ready then"

"One day I was annoyed by this at home and my girls, who had just finished their studies, said, 'Mum, just go to developmental training, we will support you. My husband Einar had the same opinion, always ready to support and encourage. When I was deciding this, we were living in a service apartment in Svignaskarð where computer access was very difficult. I had to study at the University of Iceland, which is located in Reykjavík, almost 90 km away. Fortunately, batch studies and distance learning were offered because I was also working during the study period. "

Hafdís sighs when she is asked if this was not often difficult, as the study took her in total 4 years. “Yes, oh my goodness, sometimes I came home completely exhausted, just laid on the couch and stared at the TV. When my youngest daughter came home and saw the situation of her mother, she even sometimes rang her older sisters and told them to call me because I was completely knackered. Apart from that, there were mainly two things that I found difficult to deal with ".

"The first thing was the weather," says Hafdís and continues “We live almost 2 hour’s drive from Reykjavík and the weather is often very difficult on this route. I have to get back home after classes and it was difficult to stay overnight in other people houses, almost begging for a place to sleep in Reykjavík when I was in the batch studies, which could often be 3-4 days at a time. We could not afford to rent housing for myself in the city, much less could I afford to go to a hotel so I had to find other solutions. Other things were not exactly difficult, although I certainly sometimes needed help, such as using computers and other things, but I could always call my children and get the help I needed. And, of course, it helped that I was working with the disabled while I was studying, so I was often able to work on projects related to school projects."

"After going through all this, I am most proud of myself and my people. I feel that it has strengthened me infinitely more to have completed my studies and graduated. Of course, it's good to get a better pay, but the most important thing in the long run is more job security, better self-confidence and increased self-esteem. I feel good knowing that I can come to work and my knowledge and experience are taken seriously. I have found a place at the table that I am happy with and I am proud of that. "

"I have even often met people who say that because I could do this and then maybe they can too. That way, I've probably had some positive influence on others - maybe become a good role model. "

"I fully realize that I owe it to my spouse and children for the most part that everything went so well. If I had not had support at home, none of this could have gone well. Of course, it is also important that the University of Iceland offered batch sessions, so that I could pursue distance learning. "

"I think it dawned on me then that my mother is completely proud of me - she always knew that I could do what I wanted," Hafdís Þórðardóttir concludes. 

Icelandic version