Sunday, November 30, 2014

Studying in Lithuania: elaborating on the + and - list I drew up before it all started

Going through some old paper work, I found back a little list with + and - points on studying in Lithuania. I drew up this list a couple of months before I decided to apply for a scholarship to finance my Master degree in Lithuania with. In my eyes there were thus more positive points than negative ones to be found, and hindsight I can say that I absolutely didn't regret my choice. My considerations on whether to go or not are of course highly personal, but prospective students with similar doubts might find my reflections useful. Therefore, I'd like to randomly share some of them with you.

+ Chance to see more of the world

Hesitating to study abroad for a while or to stick within your trusted environment? Well, a big fat GO would be my answer here. Studying abroad opens up a whole new world and, moreover, how cheesy it may sound, you get to know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses so much better.

+ Unique

Standing out from the crowd, following your own path; that's what a decision to study abroad brings along, especially when going to an out of the ordinary destination! 

Learning about the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries, a valuable and well needed addition to what can be found within the Germany focused history books in Western-Europe.

+ A Master degree

A Master title doesn't guarantee you a job, yet, it surely doesn't harm either.

+ Only chance on obtaining the Dutch VSB scholarship

This VSB scholarship is only available for students with the desire to study abroad, outside of the Netherlands. Studying journalism in my own country would in this case only be an option if I'd take a loan, something which didn't sound too appealing.

+ My third Baltic country to inhabit

After several successful study periods and internships in both Estonia and Latvia, studying in Lithuania would be an outstanding opportunity to also discover the third and south most Baltic country.

+ No culture shock

Adding up to the above + point: being used to live my life in Estonia and Latvia already, it wasn't much of a problem to get accustomed to being around in Lithuania.

+ Lithuania is affordable

Whereas a student room in the Netherlands would easily cost 300 euro's a month, a shared dorm room in Lithuania would only be around 60 euro's per month. When not wanting the best culinary quality, you can go out for dinner in Lithuania, ordering a pizza and a beer for not more than 3 euro's. Also groceries, mainly the ones produced in Poland, are highly affordable. Especially West-European students will notice that their money is worth a lot on the other side of Europe, for now at least.  

+ Opportunity to fulfill another internship

Within my study program Journalism and Media Analysis I got the opportunity to get some more work practice. I worked at the communication department of a housing cooperative where I was occupied with writing (newspaper, intranet, digital newsletter, magazine, press releases), thinking along (planning personnel day), advising (letter content and style), interviewing and photographing.

Internships are highly valuable, as they provide you with work experience (which is often desired or even required when applying for a paid job), and insights within your own interests. In a short period of time, one can discover if a particular work field suits the desires for later employment, or if some more research is needed on discovering where the passion flourishes at its best.

+ Wider range of job possibilities

I fulfilled a Bachelor degree in European Studies, but noticed that a career in Brussels wouldn't really fit to me after all. I did discover a passion for writing, realizing that journalism would be so much more of a typical Nienke-thing.

+ New friends

Friends for life, from all over the world. Even though you hardly ever see them, you just feel that they're always there for you. Below a small selection of lovely and intelligent people I met during my master studies in Kaunas and bilateral exchange in Tallinn:

Jun Hyup from South Korea and Astrid from Denmark, my roommate during the first semester in Kaunas.

Melissa from Germany; we celebrated Christmas and the start of 2014 in Sweden, while we'll spend upcoming New Year together in the Netherlands. We met during the first semester.

Yi from China, my roommate during the second and fourth semester in Kaunas.

Estonian balloon pilot Kalev from Tallinn; always up for some extraordinary sightseeing, often from the sky.

Arthur from Russia; I guess we walked all the streets of Tallinn, and Viimsi!

Besides the + points, I also wrote down some issues that made me hesitate about wanting to study in Lithuania.

- Expensive programme

The tuition fee of my full Master degree was around 5000 euro's. Actually, it could have been way worse, but somehow at the time of drawing up my + and- list I considered it to be a lot, probably because this is half of the scholarship money. Without any scholarships this is quite a sum.

- No one positive about Kaunas

The thought about continuing my education in Lithuania saw its life light in both Estonia and Latvia. I remember well how no one really seemed to be supporting my idea of fulfilling a Master degree in Lithuania. My colleagues and friends told me that Kaunas is a boring place, and that Lithuania is not such an appealing country to live in. I'm so glad I listened to my heart instead of all these negative remarks from people that never even tried it themselves. Yes, I can imagine not everyone would feel at home in Lithuania when not being used to it, but this time brought so many insights and adventures that I surely didn't want to have missed out on. 

This matter makes me think back of my first trip to Poland. Because of many Dutch negative prejudices about Polish people and their country, I decided to discover it by myself by spending a long weekend in Warsaw, all alone. I must admit that I surely didn't fall in love with Warsaw, but that my experiences didn't match the prejudices either, just like the negative remarks about my study plans in Lithuania. Later travels to Poland, visiting Bialystok during the winter of 2013 and Krakow and Zakopane during the summer of 2014 only confirmed that others can be rather narrow-minded.

- Too much theory

I was a bit afraid by all the heaps of texts that had to be read, as my rather hardcore study experience in Latvia's capital Riga was still vividly present in my mind. The readings turned out to be a lot, and yes, some of the material was rather dry, intensely confusing and highly academic. Yet, it belonged to the whole study experience and with some proper planning it was all to be overseen. 

- Loneliness

I somehow expected to feel lonely during my study time in Lithuania. I also considered two years there to be a pretty long time. Hindsight I can say I had the time of my life, having created a wonderful balance between having people around me and undertaking little adventures all by myself. I did face some start-up problems though, but knowing myself, that's just part of starting such an exciting phase of life (once again). The first few weeks were characterized by overwhelmingness; so many new people, so much study work to do, getting accustomed to a new room/city/country (and its people), etc... This feeling disappeared after a while, and got replaced by satisfaction and a proper dose of study work.

Something that crossed my mind when elaborating upon each of the considerations is that the choice to study abroad should be based on your very own future. I've seen couples breaking up because of one's study choices, but also witnessed couples/individuals only getting stronger. Don't let a relationship be the reason for not getting a degree (whether it be at the university next door or in another country), as regrets are the high price to pay.


No comments:

Post a Comment