“I am ignorant about winter and I want to prepare,” said the 25-year-old Master’s Degree student at Mykolas Romeris University.

- What brings you to Vilnius, and to Lithuania?

- I had the opportunity to study in an international joint Master Social Work programme and decided to apply. Our professors and academics in the Philippines know about the Erasmus+ studies opportunity and inform students about possibilities to study in Europe. Now I am privileged to study in a programme that allows students to spend time not only studying at MRU in Vilnius but also in Portugal, in Latvia and in Slovakia. When I was accepted at Mykolas Romeris University for the fall semester, I had to pack my bags and leave Cebu, Philippines. It is a 20-hour flight from Manila to Istanbul and then about 3 hours more until you reach Vilnius.

- This is the first time that you are in Europe?

- Yes, it is my first time in Europe. Lithuania is a very memorable country for me because it’s the first European country I’ve visited. My whole life I had dreamed to come to Europe and studying here, so it is my dream that I am now living. I plan to visit other countries in the region while I am here. I have plans to go to Denmark soon.

- What did you know about Lithuania before coming here?

- Honestly, I didn’t know anything about Lithuania. But, when I was awarded the scholarship, I had to check the map to see where exactly Lithuania is located.

- How do you like Vilnius now that you have spent your first month here?

- People are very warm and friendly here. I was afraid of the weather. It is a very different climate here. Recently I went to the shopping mall and had to ask a Lithuanian sales lady to help me find a pair of warm shoes. She did and now I am ready for the cold winter that I am told is not far off.

- Anything that surprises you here?

- I am surprised by how well organized and how inexpensive public transport is in Vilnius. It is a great way to get around at an affordable price. Also, the Vilnius airport surprised me because it is located in a green, forested area. You have many forests. Vilnius and especially the airport are very clean. Already I have gotten so accustomed to Vilnius and the rhythm of life here that I can say that I feel at home here. Vilnius has become my second home.

- So Lithuania has surpassed your expectations?

- Yes, it has exceeded my expectations. I am a person that wants to see Lithuania and how people have preserved their identity over the last several decades. When I go to the Vilnius Old Town, I feel like history, like the past, comes alive. In the Philippines, you can’t see such old, well-preserved buildings, cobblestone streets. We don’t have any old buildings. It is all new buildings with a style of Japanese, American architecture.

-Y ou have accumulated vast knowledge in the Social Work area and teach the subject in the Philippines. Why did you decide to become a student again?

- We have a saying in the Philippines that in order to escape poverty, one must work hard and you have to get an education. When I began studies, my family could not afford to send me to university. I did odd jobs including washing clothes and helping students write term papers in order to get money for studies. Now I have an Erasmus+ scholarship and this allows me to devote all my time to studies here in Vilnius. I’m ambitious and crave to learn as much as I can about the area of Social Work. I can then pass on my knowledge to students in the Philippines.

- What are your plans after completing your Master’s Degree?

- I would like to study in a doctoral programme relating to Social Work that is offered in Lisbon, Portugal. That would be my plan. I will also continue teaching at the University of Southern Philippines Foundation, where I am lecturing in the field of Social Work.

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