Cameroonian student Collette Lukong spent more than a decade living and working as an event planner and business development manager in Dubai, which she calls her second home. Collette said that she realized she wanted to pursue Master’s Degree studies and started looking for a university where affordability would be merged with the right studies programme.
Collette Lukong
Collette Lukong
© Asmeninio albumo nuotr.

It’s never too late to study and learn, she said adding that education equals wealth. Although she was accepted into the several U.K. and German universities, the high cost of tuition and living expenses prevented her from studying there. She applied to Mykolas Romeris University due to the quality of studies, affordable living costs and what she calls the green, attractive environment in Lithuania. She discusses life in Lithuania and how studying abroad changed her life.

- What kind of job did you have in Dubai? How long did you work there?

- After completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism & Mass Communication with Public Relations and Advertising from Cameroon’s Anglo-Saxon University of Buea, I moved to Dubai in 2010 to pursue my dreams and shape my own destiny.

I started off my career in an events management company in Dubai as a Business Development Manager and Editor of the Company’s Magazines (Airport Cities, Consignments & Green Middle East).

This first job was a stepping stone for me as I had the chance to perfect my journalism skills as well as learn how to organize and manage events. One example was the representation of my company at the 20th World Petroleum Congress-Doha-Qatar 2011 and the biannual World Energy Summit in UAE. After 7 years in the Events Industry, I moved into real estate development as Senior Property Adviser and Tele-Marketer. In this role, I equally perfected my skills in Telemarketing & Sales Training techniques.

- How did you find out about Vilnius?

- When I began to consider universities and where to pursue Master’s Degree studies, it was a huge project for me. I did not sleep much until I got the right answer. I weighed all the pros and cons and carefully considered the costs. I did research online on universities through their websites and social media platforms comparing tuition fees at various universities. At the same time, I was applying for admission to universities in Europe and asking about scholarships.

Although I was admitted at 3 U.K. universities and two in Germany, tuition there was too high. Then I got admitted to MRU. The tuition for my Logistics programme matched my budget. Affordability was an important factor for me. Vilnius had fairly low costs of living compared to other European capitals. It is also green, attractive and has conducive weather.

- What differences did you notice between Dubai, Vilnius and Cameroon - cultural, social, other?

- Dubai is a world business center and everything related to tourism and business flourishes. It is also a cosmopolitan country with people from all over the world and varied cultures.

However, when it comes to education and further studies, it’s a bit challenging because over 90% of education is provided by private schools (some of which offer American, British, French or other curricula, such as the French Baccalaureate). Public education and scholarships are free for citizens only. So as an international student, there are hardly any benefits to studying in Dubai.

Vilnius is known for its baroque architecture evident in the medieval Old Town and very cozy. It is easy to get around and Vilnius has the buzz of a contemporary European capital. International students, such as myself, can benefit from the many opportunities offered by higher education institutions in Lithuania including the EU programme, “Erasmus+” allowing for studies abroad.

Cameroon is endowed with natural resources, including oil and gas, minerals and high – value timber and agricultural products such as coffee, cotton, cocoa, maize and cassava. It is often known as “Africa in Miniature” because of its geographical and cultural diversity. Sadly, it is a country economically plagued by high poverty rates, struggling education and health care systems, paralyzing corruption and various internal rights that threaten national security and prospects of a vibrant youth. Crime and armed robberies, as well as carjackings, are common throughout Cameroon. That is why some of us study here in Europe – Lithuania and other countries.

- What activities encourage you to improve yourself professionally and achieve goals?

- I really believed in myself as someone who never gives up without trying and took the bull by the horns. I was determined to make it, by not just passing, but passing with flying colours. So it is. When I learned of the Erasmus+ exchange program, I did not fully understand the concept. However, I told myself that as long as this would be a learning experience for me, I would apply to spend a semester abroad. I was granted a place at Turkey’s Yeditepe University in Istanbul. I must say that this is one of those great experiences in my life that I will never forget. Thanks to the Erasmus Exchange Program team at MRU for assisting me in making this dream come true. Their encouragement added to my zeal and determination to keep going and reach higher.

- What motivated you to participate in the Erasmus+ program?

- As I said before, I’m not the kind of person who waits to be spoon-fed. I’m a go-getter and believe that in life if you want something, you must go get it yourself. Despite all the challenges and complications that seemed to discourage me such as visa application, expensive flight tickets, Corona tests, COVID-19 pandemic restrictions as well as discouraging voices from friends wondering how I could travel for exchange all alone, I kept going and was not discouraged. This rather moved me to pack my bags and go to Istanbul, Turkey for an exchange semester. That’s what we call “experience & discovery”. If you’re afraid to fail, you’ll never win.

- What challenges, successes and failures did you face before leaving for Turkey?

- A lot more than you can imagine including the language barrier, inconsiderate attitude from some people you expected help from as well as loneliness. But you know what? Go-getters always have a way out. I told myself that it was my Erasmus+ and I was going to make the most of it.

I decided to be very happy about everything, going to classes every day to ensure my Add-n-Drop was done, going to Emigration and following up my own visa process. I joined the International Student Erasmus+ Group and before I knew it, I had the ball rolling. It’s a very successful and exciting experience for me. It’s a chance to learn, to seek solutions for yourself without always waiting for someone to help, making new friends, learning new languages and trying new cuisines and foods.

- What do you plan to do after graduating from MRU’s Master’s Degree programme?

- I have two things in mind. Perhaps, I will set up and establish a small Events and Logistics business for myself, which is an old dream of mine. The other is to pursue doctoral studies. This seems more likely – 60% and as I like to say, “Education is Wealth. One can always pursue many other dreams while studying and learning.

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