February 5, 2015

KTU Graduate from India Najeeb Hasan: ‘I Could not Adapt Back Home’

To retrieve his Masters degree certificate Najeeb Hasan arrived to Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) all the way from Budapest where he is an intern at one the United Nations (UN). ‘I am an Indian, who studied both in Lithuania and Hungary, now working with people from 21 different countries’, 29 year old Najeeb finds a nice way to sum up his international experience.

Lithuania is the first foreign country Hasan visited and KTU Strategic Leadership Studies became his start to a new life. Although he misses Indian colours, food and holiday spirit, Najeeb admits that he is not thinking about coming back to live to his home country as Europe offers more possibilities.

What was your first impression of our country?

Lithuania was the first foreign country that I have visited so it will always remain my ‘first love’. I was fascinated by the roads, infrastructure and the order. Also, the professors and international office staff were very helpful: I got a lot of advice on educational and personal issues.
In Lithuania there is wireless and 3G everywhere, but in India we have no high-speed internet or wireless connections. While traveling you have to solely rely on your memory in order to remember the road and the names of the streets. Because of the density of the population we do not have maps. Even „Google Maps” is not much of a help.

After just one semester at KTU you left to study in Budapest. Was it an easy decision?

I wouldn’t have dared to sign up for study exchange myself – moving to Lithuania already was a big challenge to me. However, the coordinator of the International Relations at my faculty encouraged me to check out the Erasmus programme. I knew that I only had one semester for exchange because of the duration of studies in Kaunas. That’s how I ended up in Budapest.

For many students the paid UN internship seems like a distant dream. How did you manage to achieve it?

Budapest is a very cosmopolitan city and I was lucky to get there in spring, as it’s the time when most companies hire new employees. During the Career Days at my university I filed an application for an 11 months trainee position in the UN office in Budapest. I later learned that I was chosen from 200 candidates!
I was told that I had been selected because I was Indian who travelled to Lithuania for studies, and was in Budapest on exchange programme. My employers realised that traveling and changing the environment is not difficult for me. Our UN office maintains nearly 12 thousand employees around the world. I communicate with people from 21 countries.

You received the internship position because you were well-travelled, but prior your departure to Lithuania you have only travelled around India.

That’s right, but remember – India has 29 states, with different cultures, languages and even cooking traditions. I was born in Delhi (North India), grew up in Bangalore (South), I have relatives all over the country. Therefore, I consider myself as a quite flexible person.

How do your parents react to the fact that you’re studying abroad and even changing countries?

In the beginning my parents were worried, as they thought that once I left India I would go to parties at to night clubs and forget all about the Indian rituals and traditions.
When I arrived to Lithuania, my mother was calling me every day just to make sure I wasn’t drinking and hanging out with the girls (and they are very beautiful in Lithuania). She used to tell me: ‘We are losing you, Najeeb, you have changed a lot.’

So you never went to any of the night clubs while living in Lithuania?

Actually, for the first time in my life I went to a night club on my first day here, as KTU organised a party for international students there. I really enjoyed it. However, I know my goals – came to Lithuania to gain knowledge, studying is my true passion. I always remember that no one else is responsible for my success, therefore I had to learn to control myself.

In India you completed your undergraduate studies. Is education in Europe very different from education in your home country?

In India we have lectures from 9 am to 6 pm with a half-hour lunch break, with about 60 students in a class. We study all kinds of subjects during the day: for example, from 9 am to 10 am we have Organisational Leadership, from 10 am to 11 am – Human Resource Management, from 11 am to 12 pm – Marketing Management, from 12 pm to 1 pm – Statistics, from 1 pm to 2 pm – Accounting and so on. One professor changes the other, you barely have time to catch a breath. The pace remains the same throughout all undergraduate years of the studies.
It seemed to me that KTU system is too liberal, so I kept asking the professors whether they thought I was doing well at my studies.

And how about the cultural differences?

People from India are more social, while Lithuanians, like other Western cultures, tend to be more individual. Actually, a research published in an articles in ‘Harvard Business Review’ showed that when an Indian leader talks about his team’s achievements, he says: ‘we did it’. Whereas, European leaders tend to say ‘I did it’.
Another big difference is the power distance. For example, when a teacher enters a classroom in India, everyone must stand up. You can sit down again when the teacher allows to. The same applies to the university students. Those who ignore this rule can be send out of the auditorium.
Here, in KTU, I still tried to stand up when the professor walked in. One of them was very surprised when she saw this and asked me why I as doing this.

What shocked you most in Lithuania?

I had a difficulty to accept public displays of affection. In India, you cannot kiss on the street. If the police catch you, they will inform your parents and you can be punished as well. Holding hands is allowed but not in dark areas or in parks.
I’m not sure that I like public affection. Some of my friends joke that, you don’t even have to go to the movies, you can see everything on the street. In India even films are subject to a strict censorship and kisses are rarely seen on the screen.

How has this international experience changed you?

I have become more tolerant and now I understand people who are living in this part of the world more. All my life I was educated that sex before wedding was a terrible sin and that you must strictly follow the rituals and traditions. When I came here, I saw that people were living differently and nothing bad happened to them.
Some of my Indian acquaintances, even the ones living in foreign countries, try to stick to their beliefs. They only eat certain food, do not go anywhere. They can spend many years abroad but they do not change one bit. They don’t become more open, they don’t take any risks. To me this is not acceptable. While living in another country you have to adapt to its customs.

Are you thinking about going back to India?

Probably not. I would like to pursue a PhD degree in the Netherlands or in another European country. I will also try to achieve a permanent position at the UN.
According to our traditions, you must live with your family all your life. My parents live in a 12 room house, for me and all my brothers together with their families could have enough space. After all my international experiences I wouldn’t be able to adjust to such a lifestyle. Even if I and my parents reached an understanding, all other relatives would condemn me. I would be considered as the most ungrateful son in the world. It’s a different situation if you lived in another country. In that case, everyone understands that you are doing it for the purpose – work or studies.

Do you miss home?

Very much. I miss colours of India the most of all. We like to wear colourful clothes, our homes and food are full of colours. I also miss festive spirit: in India we always have one or other festival going on.

You have met people from many different cultures. Can you compare Lithuanians to other Europeans?

I could compare Hungarians and Lithuanians, because I have lived in both countries. Hungarians are awful pessimists. If you ask a Hungarian person: ‘Hi, how are you?’, he will definitely answer: ‘Well, it could be better.’ Also, it’s a bad luck to wish them success. For example, before an important job interview, it’s appropriate to say: ‘Go to the devil’.
If you approach a Hungarian with a work related question, at first he will talk to you about his problems – how nothing works and nothing can be done. Lithuanians, in my opinion, are more optimistic.

KTU information