I am very excited to welcome two Lithuanian girls, to this new interview session of EuroTribe. Sandra and Vilma will share with you some interesting tips and tales from their Erasmus experience in Croatia, the Balkans, people they have met, stereotypes, how living abroad changed them etc.
So enjoy reading these Erasmus tales!
Can you shortly introduce yourselves and tell us what you study?
Sandra: 21-year-old girl from Lithuania – country located up in the North near Baltic Sea. Usually I study Political Science, but during my Erasmus I was deepening my knowledge in Law. Also I am an active member of Erasmus Student Network for more than 2 years.
Vilma: I’m from Lithuania and I study at the SMK University of Applied Social Sciences in Vilnius. My study programme is Advertising development.
Why did you decide to go on Erasmus?
Sandra: I think it would be right to blame ESN Lithuania for motivating me to try this opportunity. Meeting people from all over the world while working for it, seeing how free, seeking for adventures they are, was quite a change for a girl from a small town. Since then it was always about meeting people like that and there is no better opportunity for that than Erasmus. And of course it was about trying out how independent I can be and a challenge to survive in a region I didn’t know pretty much anything before.
Vilma: Because I knew that I will get a lot of experience and I wanted to see differences between countries, cultures and study levels. That is why I have chosen exotic country, which is far away from Lithuania. I improved my English language and I thought, that probably I will have some time to travel which proved right.
Why did you choose Croatia as your host country?
Sandra: Haha, it’s a tricky question since it comes from Serbian ) Well, it was all about nature – mountains, deep blue sea, palm trees – everything we do not have at the home country. Also Croatia is perfectly located – between exotic Balkans and EU. It is not a secret that during Erasmus usually students try to explore countries around. So did we, if not Croatia, I would have never reached Serbia.
Vilma: Because of amazing nature, nice weather, hospitable people. It was interesting to see how everything is in the country which is far away from Lithuania.
How similar/different are Croatia and Lithuania?
Sandra: Well we don’t drink THAT much coffee there! To be more serious I can say that we are more closed to people. Croats are more relaxed, managing to take things easier, just to stop and enjoy the moment. Lithuanians don’t. We are always in a hurry, trying to do more of everything, because it is never enough. Here in Balkans you are smiling more to each other and I will really miss that. On the other hand we are not that different since even I was thought to be a Croat for a few times
Vilma: Different. We are not drinking so much coffee, hahahaha. People are more relaxed, it seems that everything is done at slower pace. In Lithuania people are more in rush and they don’t have so much free time.
What is one stereotype you had before going to Croatia, that later proved wrong? And have you heard any stereotypes about Lithuania?
Sandra: Well, actually the worst stereotype I heard was told by British boys here, in Belgrade. It was about Lithuanians stealing your clothes once you leave them somewhere. Wonder where it comes from! Anyway, we are usually known for good basketball players and it’s not a stereotype, it’s totally true. And about Croatia… That it is a cheap country. The sad truth was that I wasn’t able to afford as much as I thought I would.
Vilma: Croatia is not very popular destination in my country, so I didn’t know a lot and I didn’t hear any stereotype, just that people are relaxed, which is true. About Lithuania, people think that we are dissatisfied about something and sad, but it is not true. People are different everywhere.
Was there any kind of leisure activities offered by your host university?
Sandra: It was ESN Zagreb which was taking care of us. They were working so hard to keep us busy while organizing trips through entire Croatia, various parties from karaoke to language learning, visiting museums, various sport activities. I didn’t even manage to attend all of that! They really did a great job, thank you guys if any of you are reading!
Vilma: Yes, we went to one very nice city – Rovinj. Also cinema and we attended one show on local television.
What is your opinion of education in Croatia? What could be improved?
Sandra: It is hard to answer since all the lectures I was attending were usually only with exchange students in the groups between few to 15 people. These were quite personal hours when you were able to ask everything, to discuss a lot, so I cannot say that I was not satisfied. One thing, which should really be improved it’s bureaucracy they are having. Collecting every single signature in to the INDEX really could be changed to the online system of grades and schedules. So from the experience I had I can say I have quite positive opinion.
Vilma: I really like it. Maybe, because it was my first Erasmus experience. But university is very cozy, near the city center, with very nice administration and friendly professors. They help a lot and want to explain things many times, if you don’t understand something.
Your favorite place in Croatia?
Sandra: Swimming in the Adriatic Sea with the view to the old town of Dubrovnik or Riva in Split. Or Slastičarnica Amelie in Zagreb. It depends. I’ve enjoyed too many places to pick just one.
Vilma: Near the Sava river, especially in the evening. It’s so peaceful place. Quiet and calm.
Your favorite dish?
Sandra: Burek sa sirom! And yogurt.
Vilma: Burek sa sirom
Erasmus brings together students from different countries, how many of them you had a chance to meet?
Sandra: There were about 300 of us in Zagreb, so maybe I’ve seen half of them and personally met tens of. It is hard to tell how much exactly. But it is about quality, not quantity, right? There were amazing people from France, Poland, Germany, Austria, even Brazil, US or Canada. We had the entire world in one University.
Vilma: I didn’t account, but many of them and from very exotic countries (Spain, Portugal, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Sweden, USA). A lot of them are my really good friends now. It was so sad to leave them.
Also many students tend to travel to nearby countries. Where have you been and is there any place that you particularly liked?
Sandra: After counting I am happy to say that I’ve visited 6 countries, including Croatia, all of its neighbors and Austria. I loved Sarajevo for their diversity of religions living under the same sun. I was impressed by Budapest and their breathtaking Austro-Hungarian heritage. I fell in love with Croatia for too many reasons and of course Serbia, especially for such nice people I’ve met there!
Vilma: Yes, I was in Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia. I cannot pick just one country, because all of them I like a lot, just because of different things. In one of them I saw a beautiful city, in another awesome people, but in all of them I had very nice time and I experienced something special.
How did Erasmus change you and why would you recommend it to other students?
Sandra: My friends told me that I became more southerner, seeing the world through brighter colors. Maybe, it’s more obvious from outside. What do I feel that after all the adventures we had while travelling, meeting such different people I am more self-confident, cherishing my Lithuanian identity more, but at the same time I’m more citizen of the world than I’ve ever been. And now I drink more coffee. Much more.
Vilma: I think, that I become a bit similar to people from Croatia. More relaxed, I don’t wonder about many things as I did before, everything seems easier somehow I also improved my English and got used to other cultures very fast. I learned some history, I saw beautiful countries and I have a lot of friends, who invited me to their countries and who are planning to visit me in Lithuania.
If you could, what changes would you bring to the Erasmus programme?
Sandra: Changes are already coming with the new Erasmus+ program. I am still not sure how much it will change, but I hope that it will deepen integration of the non-EU countries, offer more opportunities for the people who are afraid of financial pressure which they fear of in the other country. I think there is also lack of experience-sharing, because still too many don’t know what is it exactly, why is it worth to go somewhere far away from your comfort zone. So I would exploit more those, who have been on Erasmus exchange.
Vilma: It would be nice if they would organize some leisure activities when the weather is warm and leave museums for colder weather.
How do you see Erasmus in the future?
Sandra: Still existing. With far more than 3 million students, who already used the opportunity to take part. With more funding, better compatibility of credits, maybe bigger accountability after finishing period. Also I would love to see how the program gets rid of the common rumor that it is only vacation. Would love to see it as a program, where you really get some professional knowledge of your subject from respectable lecturers, but at the same time having time and opportunity to go deeper to the local culture, meeting more locals – explore more the place you visit, because opportunities like that do not occur often.
Vilma: I hope, that it will not change a lot, because everything is really great. Everyone loves Erasmus, it means that it’s good.
Anything else you wish to add?