From Nanny to Winner of an International Award: Because Dreams Come True


Stephania Rovira Ochoa, a graduate of the former bachelor’s degree in Basic Education with an emphasis on humanities: Spanish and foreign languages, decided to cross borders and take her knowledge to the classrooms of Luxembourg, a small country in northwestern Europe.

Before completing her bachelor’s degree, Stephania wanted to leave the country to explore other cultures. Considering her resources and possibilities, she determined that working as a nanny was the only viable option. So, she chose to go to France for a year to take care of children and improve her French.

Subsequently, she returned to Bogotá to complete her undergraduate studies. After obtaining her degree, she once again sought different life experiences abroad. This time, she chose Germany, where she lived in a host family’s house for a year. She had the opportunity to work in a special education school and learn the country’s language.

Her strong discipline and passion for academia led her to seek a master’s degree that would meet her expectations. This was not an easy process, as it required meeting certain financial and academic requirements that were not straightforward to fulfill. “Someone close to me suggested considering the University of Luxembourg as an option. I inquired and discovered the master’s degree in Learning and Communication in Multicultural and Multilingual Contexts, which was taught in three languages: English, French, and German. It combined education with language development, and it was perfect for me. It was a dream come true,” added Stephania.

Her master’s thesis focused on the practice of cooking or eating in groups as a tool to create socioemotional bonds with people with whom there are no blood ties. “My mom always cooked and invited neighbors and friends to our house as we were growing up, and this inspired me to write my thesis on this topic,” she explained.

Her proposal caught the attention of her professors, as there weren’t many initiatives in Luxembourg for collective cooking or eating with others. Furthermore, it was an unconventional topic, as research often focuses on linguistic aspects, language policies, cultural identity, among other subjects. They found it intriguing how this approach fosters a sense of belonging, which has an impact on community building and collective work. This accomplishment earned her the “Translating Culture Prize,” awarded by the University and the European Parliament for the best thesis in this postgraduate program.

Stephania emphasizes that socioeconomic background is not a limiting factor in achieving dreams. Despite coming from a family with limited financial resources in San Cristobal Sur, Bogota, she managed to study and explore other countries. “There were people who believed in me, especially my mother, for whom I am deeply grateful, as well as my professors, and I believed in myself. It’s simply a matter of breaking down mental barriers,” she commented.

In her view, the most important thing for a teacher is to believe in their students and express this support to them because it can change a person’s life. Just as her life was transformed a few years ago when her teachers at UPN assured her that there was no obstacle preventing her from achieving her goal of leaving Colombia.