More and more young people from other countries choose to study in Lithuania. Using the Erasmus+ opportunities they come to our country lead by curiosity and positive reviews of Lithuanian universities. For example, after coming here, Raphael Pelengaris, who had never heard about Lithuania before, has extended his studies at Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) for one more semester.
How did you choose Lithuania for your study exchange?
I have always wanted to go on study exchange. Erasmus+ gives the priceless opportunity to experience living abroad: to see different country, to get to know its culture, language, to communicate with people of different culture than your own.
Lithuania was the most remote of the countries I had considered, as I wanted to experience as much contrast as possible. I did not specifically look for more information on Lithuania, as I wanted to be surprised by what I saw. I wanted to form the opinion about the country and its people myself, first-hand.
You have decided to extent your studies. What influenced this decision?
After seeing the quality of studies at KTU, I decided to take an opportunity to extend my studies here for one more semester. Now I have much more opportunities to participate in various seminars, courses, and I wouldn’t have those opportunities in my native Cyprus. The greatest challenge when you are in Cyprus is the distance, and in Lithuania everything seems very close.
I have never doubted my choice – I believe I will expand my knowledge and experience, will see many new things. I have noticed, that I am not the only Erasmus+ student, who extended his studies at KTU, I know at least a couple of them.
What are your relationships with local students?
On the first day in the University, nobody spoke to me – they were just looking at me and trying to decide what my nationality is. Nobody approached me nor the other girl, international student, who came from Sweden. However, one student, who came to the lecture a little bit late, was a real ice-breaker. After seeing that we are having a friendly chat, the other students joined in.
This same student helped me to apply to seminars and competitions. He even invited me to celebrate Easter together. It was great to see how Easter is being celebrated in Lithuania, and most of all I enjoyed egg rolling.
Actually, local students are really friendly and they are willing to get to know more about me and my culture. They feel self-conscious when communicating in English, however, nobody is perfect.
How different are studies in Lithuania and Cyprus?
In Lithuania, you have quite strict rules and regulations. However, I have noticed that some teachers are trying to change this system little by little. I also like that you have many teachers from other countries at KTU – they bring new ideas and introduce new schools of thinking, relevant for today’s students.
In Cyprus students have different relationships with their teachers. For example, it is not uncommon to go together for a coffee or a beer after lectures with your teacher, and in such a way to build a closer relationship. I hope, this tradition will come to Lithuania soon.
What was your first impression on Lithuania?
It is beautiful here – you have forests, lakes, a lot of parks in your cities. I was surprised that there are so many soviet buildings, however, I agree that sometimes beauty can be seen in unexpected things.
People surprised me – I could not decide, if I should communicate with them or to keep distance. For example, people in public transport seem very unhappy, they try not to show their feelings, attempting to be “faceless”. However, after you talk to them, people seem sincere and open. Perhaps this is the consequence of your complicated history, and the younger generation is trying to be different. In my country everybody is smiling, therefore I am trying to conquer Lithuanians with my smile.
What do you like about Kaunas?
Architecture and urban landscape in Kaunas is very interesting, and I am particularly fascinated by baroque buildings. Life in Kaunas is beautiful because of its calmness. I am coming from the capital which is very busy with cars and people, so Kaunas is like an oasis for me. I have been to Vilnius, but Kaunas seems to me a better place for living – there is less chaos here. And, I can also see that Kaunas is changing, becoming more beautiful.
Have you visited other Lithuanian cities?
I have been to Vilnius, Panevėžys, Vilkaviškis, Marijampolė, Palanga, Klaipėda, Nida, Trakai. I remember, in Vilkaviškis people in streets were staring at me – I felt like under the magnifying glass, I think they were interested in my so called exotic dark complexion. Fortunately, these people were very polite and kind.
What do you do during your free time?
As I actively participate in Erasmus Student Network organisation, and I also do some work-related tasks for Cyprus, I do not have much free time. When I want to be alone, I just go for a walk to a city centre or to a park, or to the library. I also like meeting my study friends, to go for a beer and chat.
What are your plans after graduating?
One more year is left for finishing my undergraduate studies. Then I will need to serve in a military service, which is compulsory in Cyprus. After that I will aim to study master’s in archaeology and anthropology, which is my main interest and the field I am volunteering in.
Would you stay in Lithuania if you were offered such an opportunity?
Probably yes, because your country is in the middle of Europe, you can easily reach other countries from here. I believe, that being an architect, I would easily find a job here or in any neighbouring country.
What differences have you noticed between Lithuanians and Cyprians?
Lithuanians are honest, sincere and they look you straight in the eye when talking to you, which is not common in Cyprus. Lithuanian students always try to achieve more; they have a more serious outlook toward life. Most of them are managing their job and studies. For example, I know a student, who is going to another city to work as a basketball couch. Such a devotion seems a valuable asset to me, young Cyprians seem less motivated. I think that young people in Cyprus spend too much time sitting in cafes, just chatting and smoking.
Lithuanians are very protective of their country; they are not too open for people of other nationalities. I think they would benefit of visiting Cyprus, which is very multicultural and very integral. In 2022, when Kaunas will be a European Capital of Culture, I would love to come and see what has changed.
How do you like Lithuanian cuisine?
I love it! I have tried cepelinai, šaltibarščiai, kibinai, kugelis and other tasty meals. I think that Lithuanians eat less meat than us. In Cyprus we always are BBQing something, but maybe it is connected to better weather conditions. The only thing I miss here is seafood and good fish.
Is it not too cold here for you?
When I came here after Christmas holiday, it was –26. This was incredibly cold and a completely new experience for me! Every time I inhaled, I felt cold weather in my nose. For several days I stayed inside asking people to bring me food. In summer, weather in Lithuania is great – it is cool and refreshing. I would love to spend summers in Lithuania, as in Cyprus it gets too hot (+45-47) to be outside.