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Alejandra Lopez Vazquez

MA Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Cultural Studies

A few years after finishing her BA in Spanish and Latin American Studies at King’s College London, Alejandra Lopez Vazquez began to feel the thirst for learning once more.

She hadn’t found it easy to combine her BA studies while working – also at King’s as a Spanish lecturer – but the Argentina-born teacher felt Birkbeck could offer her a more comfortable work-study-life balance when she began looking into part-time postgraduate courses.

She had first become aware of Birkbeck and its evening education mode of study when she initially moved to the UK from Buenos Aires in 2000.

‘I started to look at Master’s in my area of interest,’ the 52-year-old said.

‘Birkbeck was accessible fees-wise, and in terms of the teachers I found our interests were a close fit. I then finally decided to do it because I could fit my work around it.’

She felt well supported during her studies at Birkbeck, both from the academic staff, as well as her fellow students.

‘The classes were quite small so we had the chance to ask lots of questions and to talk freely,’ she said.

‘I find it quite difficult to talk in public, but in smaller groups it’s easier, so I felt comfortable to talk in class. It gave me confidence. The tutors are very good in that way. They have a beautiful balance between not being patronising, but at the same time pushing you and compelling you to achieve your best.’

Working full-time as a lecturer by day, you would think Alejandra would be sick and tired of the classroom, but on the contrary she loved being a student. Not only did it help her delve into a topic of particular interest to her – Latin American cinema – but helped her refine her life skills in general, from problem-solving to attention-focusing.

But to get the full benefit of the Master’s experience, she noted, it takes commitment.

‘Motivation is important. Having a postgraduate helps you find jobs, so it’s important in that sense, but in my case it was more of a personal interest that I was pursuing. But the course has helped me in many senses, beyond academics and my job; it enriches your life. It makes you think in different ways. You feel inspired and motivated to do other things.’

When it comes to finding that motivation, Alejandra said that it helps when the “tutors and classes are good”.

‘It’s important because, when you come here at 6pm, when you have started your day at 7am and you’ve been working all day, you don’t really want to go to class at all.

‘But then you get to your class with your cup of coffee and the lecture is interesting, and you wake up to something that you know is going to be really good for you. So if you ever think about skipping, the thought disappears quickly because you think, “no, I want to hear what the lecturer has to say”.’

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'The course has helped me in many senses, beyond academics and my job; it enriches your life.'