“With a child, you have to be efficient”

Elodie Siffert, master's student in Specialized Education, mother of a 18-month-old daughter

Elodie is in her final year of a master’s degree in specialized education at the University of Fribourg. She has a 18-month-old daughter. She lives near Bern with her partner who works full-time.

After her bachelor’s studies, Elodie started working. Two years later, when she got pregnant, she decided to start a master’s degree because she felt it was the last time to do so.

Her daughter goes to the University of Fribourg’s nursery two days a week and her grandparents look after her one day a week. Therefore, this arrangement allows Elodie to concentrate fully on her studies three days a week.

The student counsellor passed on the information about the University’s nursery to her. She was very willing to answer all her questions. In particular, she presented the various existing measures: postponing her studies by one semester, the use of a breastfeeding room, etc. She also told her that it was possible to postpone her studies by one semester. She also explained that, in principle, it is possible to bring one's baby to classes, but one must first obtain the agreement of each professor. Elodie thinks that there should be a general rule allowing her to bring her baby to class, as she was dependent on the goodwill of each teacher. She also found it difficult to have to contact every professor to ask for their agreement.

The online courses, because of the covid-19 pandemic, were a great advantage for Elodie that allowed her to follow the courses more easily with her newborn. She finds that hybrid courses would be a good model for more flexibility during studies.

Studying with a child is very rare. When Elodie tells other students that she has a child, the typical reaction is "you are brave". She does not know many other parent-students and she does not know if there are any informal groups.

For Elodie, the biggest challenge to her studies is the lack of time and flexibility. She is very grateful to have three days a week dedicated to her studies but cannot devote more time to them. She no longer experiences student life as she did during her bachelor studies. Seeing other students in her free time or even going out in the evening is not even an option. She enjoys some sport activities but has no time to attend cultural events. She sees her studies as a job. She ends her testimony by summarizing, “With a child, you have to be efficient.”