The food, culture, customs and weather all differ in Vilnius from what Egyptian student Rasha Geneid was accustomed to in her home town of Ismailia, about 115-kilometers from Cairo.
Egyptian student Rasha Geneid is pictured with knit cap and shawl that she knitted herself
Egyptian student Rasha Geneid is pictured with knit cap and shawl that she knitted herself
© Organizatoriai

While running an online wedding dress shop in Egypt (dresses came from China and Turkey), she decided that she needed to gain more business knowledge. She knew nothing about Lithuania, but it didn’t deter her from applying to study in the Master’s Electronic Business Management programme at Mykolas Romeris University.

Her father agreed to allow his daughter to travel to and study in a European country. Now she’s working on her Master’s thesis on Drones in e-Business.

- Why did you decide to come study in Vilnius?

- After completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce from Egypt’s Suez Canal University, I worked for several years. Then I decided that I wanted to study for my Master’s Degree. I did my research about universities online. I found out that there is an Electronic Business Management programme here in Vilnius. It was what I was looking for. I just applied. I found out it would be good for me.

- What did you know about Lithuania before coming?

- I didn’t know anything about Lithuania. I come from a city with the population of Lithuania. Ismailia has about 2,5-million people. When I told my friends and family back home in Egypt that I was coming here, they said, “What? Where is this country?” My brother, a medical doctor, lives in Finland. So the reaction was the same when he moved to Helsinki years ago. Except that people in Egypt had heard of Finland because of Nokia telephones.

- You were close to your family in Egypt, so it must be hard to live alone?

- Yes, I miss my family terribly. It’s very hard for me to live alone because I always lived with my family. I have a 13-year-old son. While I am pursuing my Master’s, my parents agreed to take care of him. So, I miss him as well.

- Have you met other Egyptians, while living in Vilnius?

- No, I haven’t met any Egyptians here. I rarely hear Arabic spoken in Vilnius. When I visit my brother in Finland, I notice that there are many Iraqis, Syrians, Egyptians there. It is more common there to hear Arabic spoken on the street.

- How do you like Vilnius?

- I like Vilnius because of all the trees here and it’s very calm. It’s also a very pretty city. It’s not like Cairo at all. In Egypt, with 130-million people, we live in crowded conditions. You will find people on the street at all hours of the day or night – even at 3 a.m.

- Is Egypt a safe country?

- It is not safe in Cairo, if you have to take a bus as a young, unaccompanied woman. I would say that it is even dangerous. There is petty crime and thieves, so you have to be careful. In my city of Ismailia, I don’t take the bus because I drive everywhere. I have a car. In Vilnius, I feel perfectly safe to take the bus everywhere and I have no problems getting around.

- What differences have you noticed between Lithuania and Egypt?

- The culture is very different. We are more friendly in Egypt. If I see a stranger – and I don’t know you and I feel that you are sick, I will ask you how you are. I will talk to you. In Vilnius, I noticed that locals don’t talk to each other or to strangers on the bus.

In Egypt, we are always talking to each other and I think we are much more friendly.

Also, in Egypt there are no taboos with playing or talking with children on the street. I can give a child I don’t know candy or even a balloon and the mother will not be upset. I guess you don’t do that in Lithuania.

I noticed that on the academic level, in Egypt lecturers and professors are more formal and official. Here I have the phone number of my supervisor and I can talk to my lecturers or ask for their advice, when I need it.

- When not studying, you are keeping busy knitting a winter shawl or other warm scarf. Where did you learn?

- My mother taught me to knit. She is very good. Recently, as the weather grew colder I bought some yarn here in a shop in Vilnius and knitted myself a shawl and cap. I wear them a lot.

- What about the weather in Vilnius in the winter?

- I did expect it to be much, much colder in Vilnius. I like the current temperatures – about 5 - 6 C degrees during the day. But, there is no snow in Egypt. Also during the summer months, it is very hot in Egypt – 35-40 C.

- Did anything surprise you while you have been here in Vilnius?

- Well, the Vilnius Old Town is very beautiful. The buildings in the Old Town are impressive. Also, the public transportation system is convenient and runs well. I like that.

- Have you learned any Lithuanian during your 4 months in Vilnius?

- Lithuanian language is very difficult. I know some words in Finnish because my brother loves in Helsinki. But Lithuanian is difficult. I took an online Beginner’s course and I think I will not be able to complete it because it's so difficult.

- What do you plan to do after graduation?

- I would like to study in a PhD programme related to e-Commerce somewhere in Europe. I have managed to make friends with many international students at the University already– from Bangladesh, Belarus and from Nigeria. I will miss them very much once I graduate.

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