Xenia Kaldy

When and how did you realize that you want to pursue a STEM career?

One day I came home from work, and I felt really exhausted. It wasn’t really because it was an extremely busy day, or particularly bad, I just felt that I must do more, because I’m capable of doing more. Not using my brain in its full capacity became increasingly difficult to justify, and I found no excuse to start studying the one thing I was always interested in: environmental science. I am now a second-year student, and I already feel like I made the best decision, because I have a purpose. Our future is based on the assumption that we have a future. As a scientist however, I would say, this is not set in stone and we have a lot of work to do so that we earn that future.

How does the Open University help you achieve your goals?

The Open University exceeded my expectations, and it has changed my life in many ways. We didn’t just find friends but became a team. We all have a passion, and an incredible drive that keeps you up at night while others sleep tight. I have never experienced anything like this, but I believe the challenge of the work-life-university balance brought us together, as we are all in the same boat. This is motivating and extremely inspiring. I always received the support I needed from both Student Support, tutors, and fellow students, and I am grateful for this. Distance learning can be a very lonely battle to fight, luckily, I didn’t have to experience this.

What would you say to someone who thinks that maths is hard or that maths is pointless?

I would say that 10 years ago, maybe even 2 years ago I would have agreed.  Since then I had a real eye-opener science module, with an exceptional tutor. I realised that I love Maths, for a very simple reason. There is a solution! It is not like an essay (which also has its advantages), where it is completely up to the reader whether it is good or bad. It has one good answer, and you either find it or not, but you always know what you’re looking for. It  is black and white.

Have you ever been the victim of a gender stereotype?

​Yes. I’ve often experienced this in my family, where whatever I did or achieved could not be good enough, and my father always used my brothers as examples. He idolised them. It was exhausting and I frequently felt underrated. When I grew up, I became a dental technician, a traditionally manly job. It is dirty, it is hard work and it has virtually no work-life balance. When I started as an apprentice I knew from the beginning, that I want to work with metal. It was sort of magical for me, how wax turns into crowns, bridges and implants. My boss said when I started in his laboratory, that he can’t really see me working in the metal department with the guys, it is just not a very womanly job. It took me two years to prove myself worthy, but eventually I did become a metal worker designing implants, and later non-metal implants with an in-house CAD/CAM milling system. Technically I defied odds, and I to be perfectly honest, I would do it again. These experiences affected my journey to become the woman I am today.