October 4, 2015

Studies abroad – a way to go out of your comfort zone and to see the world from a different perspective

Elnara Huseynova, came to Lithuania in September 2010. After five years she‘s back to Baku, Azerbaijan, carrying Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree diplomas of Mykolas Romeris University (MRU), Lithuania. “I am very glad for my choice and had never regretted”, says Elnara, who recommends each young person to study abroad.

Elnara, how did you decide to study in Vilnius?
I passed examinations and entered state university in Baku in summer 2010. Then, I saw advertisement on the website of The State Students Admission Commission Of The Republic Of Azerbaijan, which stated that there is a chance to study in Lithuania. 
Since education in one of the European countries have always been my dream, I decided to take this opportunity and take part in the competition. A large number of students were interested in this programme. I was so happy when I passed all the stages of the interviews and examination and got a scholarship. That was one of the most exciting and happiest days ever.
Did you have enough information about Lithuania before coming here?
I have had some historical and geographical information about Lithuania from my school years. I knew that Lithuania was one of the first countries,which gained its independence from former USSR. There were some similarities in history of 90’s between Lithuania and Azerbaijan as well, e.g. people who were fighting for the Independence of their Motherland.
You probably knew some myths about the country as well. What they were? Did they proved out to be true or not?
I knew some stereotypes about Lithuania and Lithuanians before I went there. They were like: “Lithuanians are very cold” and “unfriendly”, and “they do not like foreigners”, “it’s always cold and rainy in Lithuania and all Lithuanians are depressed and introverts”, “food in Lithuania is not delicious at all”, “Lithuanians do not speak any other language except Lithuanian which is almost impossible to learn” and etc.At that time, I was only 18 and it was scary to change my usual environment in sunny Azerbaijan. 
However, when I moved to Vilnius everything has changed. University provide international students with very nice and helpful mentors. My mentor helped me a lot with documents, new friends, sightseeing and other general university issues from the whole first year of my studies. 
After moving to Lithuania, I realized that Lithuanians are very helpful and openhearted people even if they seem unfriendly at the first sight for some people from Eastern cultures. If you ask for a help they are always ready to help. Now both of my best life friends and soul mates are Lithuanians.
Lithuania has a cold snowy winter, warm spring, hot summer and colourful autumn – every season at its place. I liked Lithuanian food as well, especially food made of fish. Most Lithuanians do speak foreign languages, like English, Russian, some other languages are quite popular as well. Therefore, all aforementioned scary stereotypes were broken.
What about the University? Did it meet your expectations?
I remember the first day when I went to the university. Mrs Audra Burokiene (currently – the head of International Students Office) was very nice and friendly; she introducedthe university to me, helped with some necessary advices.
I was very impressed by the Library, which works from early morning until 5 a.m. every day. Facilities were excellent, many interesting books for any topic related to the studies as well as for personal development. I liked to spend my spare time in cosy reading room with many interesting books from different countries and on different topics. 
Once I urgently needed a book for my research, and library provided me with this book from Norwegian University’s library within 1 week. Thanks to them, I could complete my research and defend my Bachelor’s thesis with the highest grade.
Can you tell more about your study programme and study process?
Study programme (Bachelor of Social Work) was very interesting, lectures/seminars helped to gain much knowledge in various spheres, which helped me in different stages of my personal and professional life. 
I was very impressed by the lecturers and professors of MRU. They were very professional, liked their job, their field of research. All were very helpful, tolerant towards international students and they played an important role in my adaptation as well. What is important to note, during the lectures all international students were making presentations about their home countries as well, as about current social problems in them. We were studying abroad, having European level of education, but at the same time, we did a research on our own countries seeking for ideas and possible solutions of the problems. 
During my studies at Mykolas Romeris University, I had a chance to participate in IP SOS programme (Erasmus project, intensive study programme “IP SOS! Social Work and Sustainability”) in Belgium, as well as be an Erasmus exchange student in Hungary.
And how was life on Campus?
The dormitory was good, with all the necessary things needed for a student. Life there helped me to find new friends and to adapt to multi-national surrounding. There were many students from various counties and cultures – this really helped to broaden my world-view, to develop tolerance and empathy towards my surrounding.
Social life of student was very colourful as well – we had many interesting events, trips and competitions. This made the overall atmosphere very warm and all the Lithuanian and foreign students became a big, multinational and loving family, which is impossible to forget.
Did you have favourite places to hang out with friends in Vilnius and around it?
While my stay in Lithuania during 5 years, I travelled a lot. I had been to almost all Lithuanian cities as well as in other EU countries. However, my favourite places were Vilnius Old Town, Vingis Park, Bernardinai Garden, Green Lakes and Trakai.
Vilnius is very nice and diverse city with many beautiful and peaceful places to visit. There you can find a place to visit for each mood and preference.
Back to Azerbaijan, was your Lithuanian diploma useful while looking for job?
My education in Lithuania gave me high-qualified knowledge, awareness of current situation in general and a valuable life experience as well. It is always useful to go out of your comfort zone and to see the world from a different perspective. EU diploma helped me to find a good job in Azerbaijan in a very short time and to gain a professional experience as well. 
How would you evaluate studies abroad and what would you recommend for those, who are still looking for study possibilities?
I am very happy to have this experience in Lithuania, in MRU. I believe that this helped to know myself better, to find out my strong and weak sides and to realize that personal development and life-long education is the ruling power of our lives. I am very thankful to each lecturer who helped me to develop and to become a good professional in the field I work now. 
I found many friends from different parts of the world and what is the most important – I have many warm memories, which will stay in my heart forever. 
I do recommend each young person, who wants to have unforgettable life experience to study abroad, and MRU as one of the best universities for that, which will provide you with support, necessary advice and knowledge.