Japanese student Chisato Takahashi had never been to Lithuania, when she decided to apply to study in a Bachelor’s Degree programme at Mykolas Romeris University. But, her 80-year-old grandmother had visited Lithuania twice over the years. Most recently, she was in Vilnius in March right before the COVID-19 pandemic lock-down.
Chisato Takahashi
Chisato Takahashi
© Asmeninio albumo nuotr.

She approved of Chisato’s choice saying Lithuania is a great country. Her grandmother is now planning a 3rd trip to visit her granddaughter next year in Vilnius. “I love Lithuania. I am happy here,” said the 19-year-old student from Saitama, just outside of Tokyo. She has gone mushroom-picking, a favourite Lithuanian past time, but says Japanese eat, but do not pick mushrooms. Excited to spend the next 4 years in Vilnius studying Communication and Digital Marketing, she agreed to share some of her impressions.

- So you decided to come to Lithuania for studies. Why not study in Japan?

- I wanted to study in English to improve my English language skills. In Japan, if I study English at the university – one year of studies costs about 11,000 Euros or more than completing a 4-year Bachelor’s Degree in Vilnius. Also, there are few native speakers teaching English in Japan in a university setting. Often a native speaker teaches in English and a Japanese translator stands nearby to translate the lessons into Japanese. If you speak English, you will have the opportunity to find a better-paying job in Japan. Also, for us, Japanese, it is cheap to live in Vilnius. The cost of accommodation, the price of food and public transport is several times lower than in Japan.

- Just like your grandmother, you enjoy traveling and have visited several European countries. Which ones?

- Germany-Munich, Spain and Italy. I also took some English language courses in Auckland, New Zealand. I think I will be visiting many nearby European countries, while I am here in Vilnius. I also have friends in Germany and they invite me to visit. At Mykolas Romeris University, there are students from all over the world, so I am looking forward to meeting and becoming friends with them.

- You speak English fluently. Are you planning to study another language while you are here?

- Yes, I want to study Korean at the King Sejong Institute at Mykolas Romeris University. I also want to study and learn Lithuanian language. I am surprised that many language classes at the university – such as Korean, are free. In Japan, it is difficult to study a foreign language and very expensive. I will take advantage of this here. Lithuania is a really good country for students. There are many choices here.

- How does Japan differ from Lithuania?

-I think people are more friendly in Vilnius. In Japan, we are more closed and we don’t talk to strangers.

- What surprised you the most here?

- That it is so difficult to find Japanese food – the ingredients. I did find an Asian food store in Vilnius, but the Shimaya HonDashi fish stock powder that we use in Japan, costs 30 Euros here. In Japan, it’s only 7 Euros. I was surprised that the rice and even avocados are cheap here and that pork is not so expensive. I like the black bread and the Lithuanian gira drink.

- Anything else that you find different from Japan?

- People here are not as polite as in Japan. Also, I noticed that when I go out that water is not free in restaurants. In Japan water is free and there is no charge. Also, I am surprised that the city transport by bus for students is so cheap. I am delighted that there are so many discounts for students.

- How has Japan managed to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic?

- Japan managed to control the coronavirus crisis. Earlier this month there were only 60 cases in Tokyo. We were used to wearing face masks even before the coronavirus crisis. Many women choose to wear the face masks, when they go out, especially if they have not applied make up that day.

- Anything that you miss now that you are in Vilnius?

- Yes, I miss Japanese food. I would like to go back to Japan to eat some nabe soup with sweet sauce, sukiyaki. Also, I miss rice noodles, ramen, sushi.

- What do you plan to do after you complete studies?

- I will go back to Japan and look for a job in a multinational company. I want to put my language skills to use.

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