“I would like to integrate and work as a teacher.”

Diana Pashchenko started a marketing degree in Ukraine. She is now preparing to do an English degree at the University of Bern and would like to become a teacher.

“I've always been interested in languages. I taught myself English in my free time when I was a schoolgirl because I didn't enjoy learning languages at school. I did it by listening to music with English lyrics and watching TV shows and films in English. This helped me learn the language easily, and I started learning Spanish in the same way.

When I finished school, I graduated in Ukrainian, mathematics and English. This qualification is the same as the Swiss Matura. It is a shame that there are not many opportunities to work with philology and linguistics in Ukraine. You don't earn much money as a teacher there and the job is very hard, especially as they receive very little support. There isn't even support when a child needs psychological help. As a teacher in Ukraine, you are completely on your own, and the classes can have as many as 30 children. That's why I chose to study marketing rather than English in Ukraine. I liked this field of study because I was able to be creative, but it was not my passion.

Sumy, Kiev, Bern

I worked as an English tutor while I was studying. I taught online and they were mostly one-to-one classes with students aged between 5 and 33 years old, although most of them were children. I noticed that there are good opportunities to work as a teacher in Switzerland. That is why I'd like to start studying English at the University of Bern in the summer and then work as a teacher. I had actually planned to live in Ukraine. I moved from my hometown of Sumy to Kiev to do my marketing degree, and I really enjoyed living there.

“I have always been interested in languages, and I taught myself English in Ukraine through films, TV shows and music in English. I like living in Switzerland. I have the opportunity to work as an English teacher after my studies, and the working conditions are good. But Ukraine will always remain my home. My uncle and many of my friends are still there.”

Diana Pashchenko

I was visiting my hometown when everything began. I was at a party with my friends in the evening, but we woke up to see we were at war. A friend’s mum phoned us at 5am to wake us up. We couldn't escape for two weeks because there were no safe passages. I stayed with my parents in that period, but eventually we were able to flee Ukraine.

Friendly people

We met my auntie in central Ukraine, and she took us in her car. We weren't going anywhere in particular, we just wanted to leave Ukraine initially. We heard in the news that Switzerland was accepting refugees, so we decided to head here. We spent five days travelling through Romania and Austria to reach Switzerland. We spent one night in Basel and then traveled to Bern the next morning. Most of my friends stayed in Ukraine. Initially I wanted to continue travelling to Canada instead of staying here. But while I waited for my visa, I realized how good life was here. The people are friendly and there are good opportunities to study.

Learning German quickly

I didn't speak German at first, and I didn’t even realize there was Swiss German. I find the dialects very difficult. Luckily, a website was created for Ukrainian refugees. I registered for the newsletter on the website and have received emails with useful information since. This is also how I found out that there is a preparatory year at the University of Bern to be able to study there regularly. This program is called Compass. We learn German but also receive lessons on the basics of writing academic papers and time management, for example.

We all need to learn German up to level C1 very quickly. There is also a phone number on the Compass website. I remember my first phone call very clearly: Ann-Seline gave me answers to important questions I had, and then I applied for the preparatory year. But I had to submit a list of documents for this first. It was a lot of work to get all the documents together because my papers were in Ukraine and in Ukrainian. My dad was still living at home at that time, so he got my documents together and got them translated. I also contacted my university in Kiev as some of my certificates were still there.

Not alone

As I'm still young, it doesn't feel like I need much strength for my new start. I still hadn't finished my degree in Ukraine, and although I had career prospects in marketing, that career path didn't really suit me. One thing that helps me a lot is that I don't feel alone here. If I have any questions, the Compass team or my German teacher are always there to help. I like living in Switzerland, and the working conditions for my dream job as a teacher are very good here. I would like to integrate here and work as a teacher. I am still not sure what age of pupil I want to teach, but I like children in third and fourth grade. At that age, they're not that small anymore, can do a lot themselves but are still not teenagers.

Ukraine is my home and always will be. My uncle and lots of my friends still live there. I call or message them sometimes. I am still in contact with them, but I have also made friends here and my family is in Switzerland too. My mum, my brother, me and now my dad live in the same flat. And my auntie lives near Bern with both of her children and our grandmother.”

Compass UniBE

University Preparation for Refugee Students

is a two-semester university preparation program for refugees who are aiming to study at the University of Bern. Over the course of a year, participants can acquire academic skills and basic academic competencies while also preparing linguistically, professionally and organizationally for possible admission to a course of study. This means that they can compensate for country-specific admission criteria that cannot be fulfilled (or are very difficult to fulfil) due to the person's refugee situation by passing the preparatory year and qualifying for a degree.

Students from Turkey, Ukraine and Afghanistan are currently taking part in the program. In the initial pilot year, the number of participants was capped at 20, but this cap has been raised to 40 for the second year.

About Compass UniBE