Having the support of a union gives Viviana Daza Ramos peace of mind – and helps to fuel her passion.
“I joined Forskerforbundet right after I signed my contract with the university”, Leidy Viviana Daza Ramos, a teacher education specialist from Colombia, reveals.
Viviana first came to Norway to pursue a master’s degree in comparative and international education, before transitioning to a PhD at the University of Oslo.
Union membership wasn’t something she was familiar with – back home in Colombia there is nowhere near as much trust in unions as in Norway – but she quickly realised she could, with some institutional backup, navigate the social, cultural and legal environment in her new country.
“Right away, I started looking for relevant organizations to join. I was looking for something that I felt could support me as an international researcher in Norway. I saw Forskerforbundet posters, read about their profile and found that I really liked the type of activities they offered. I asked my supervisor, and she wholeheartedly recommended it.”
Employee, not just researcher
Her research concerns strengthening the link between theory and professional practice. She explains that pre-service teachers (still in school) often struggle to apply insights from pedagogical theories and research in their professional practice.
“It can be challenging for them to unpack the theoretical concepts they learn on campus and make connections to the activities they develop in the classroom. I hope my research will contribute to strengthening teacher education and increasing our understanding on how to balance the tensions between academic knowledge and knowledge from the practice field.”
With a teaching background herself, Viviana’s passionate for teacher education is no surprise. She finds that Forskerforbundet helps fuel her passion.
“It’s an organisation that shares a genuine passion for what you do. This is reflected in the seminars and courses they offer. I’ve joined a few of the seminars and found them really interesting and helpful.”
But she’s also mindful about the fact that you can’t build a research career on passion alone.
“Forskerforbundet has made me more aware of what my rights are: I’ve started to see myself as an employee, and not just a doctoral student in a field I care about. That has given me the confidence to speak up if I ever feel my rights are in question.”
Help to thrive in a foreign culture
The support from a union is a reassuring presence in Viviana’s life.
“My membership makes me feel more comfortable and secure. I know that if things start to get difficult, I have someone I can go to for support. To know that they can facilitate conversation with the university, and grant legal help if needed – that gives me peace of mind.”
She thinks it’s especially important that international researchers actively seek out a support network.
“For me, the cultural differences and language barriers were difficult. It took a long time to be acquainted with the working and social codes. Therefore, I think it’s important for us to be organized in a union that can help and guide us – it’s vital to have that support when you’re also struggling to learn the language and culture.”
For Viviana, these initial road bumps are now far in the rear mirror, and she’s happily enjoying life as a researcher in Norway.
“These challenges can be hard. But my message is that it’s possible to conquer them. It’s taken a little while, but now I feel like I’m truly thriving here in Norway”, she concludes.