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Mihriban Usta from Turkey’s Black Sea city of Trabzon bubbles with enthusiasm, despite the pandemic that has engulfed Vilnius and Lithuania.
Mihriban Usta
Mihriban Usta
© Asmeninio albumo nuotr.

Now she loves working and living in Vilnius. Ever smiling, the 22-year-old Turkish Erasmus intern is spending several months working at Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) in the International Office.

She plans to pursue graduate studies in the fall at MRU and wants to live in Vilnius after graduation. Before Easter she even visited the Vilnius Kalvarijų turgus (market) where she bought colourful hand-painted Easter eggs.

- When did you come to Vilnius?

- I first came in 2018. I was an Erasmus exchange student at MRU in 2018-2019. I really enjoyed my time and learned so much. The Erasmus exchange programme changed my life due to all the different students I met here.

When I got on a plane in Turkey in 2018 to fly to Vilnius, it was not only my first flight abroad ever, but it was the first time that I left Turkey. It was a unique experience.

At MRU, my horizons were broadened as I met students from many different countries and made friends with Italians, Belgians, Germans and French students. I guess that is the true spirit of the Erasmus programme. It brings together students from all over Europe and the world.

We study, we learn from each other and often cook for one another. Until May, I am undertaking an Erasmus internship at MRU.

- Why did you come to Vilnius?

- My university, Karadeniz Technical University in Trabzon, has an agreement with MRU, so I decided to undertake my semester abroad at MRU. Many of my classmates chose to go to Italy and Germany instead, bigger countries.

I wanted to start this adventure in a far-away country by myself and leave my comfort zone. I wanted to go alone as this would allow me to meet more people and students from different parts of the world. I had studied some Russian language in Turkey and hoped to learn more, while here in Vilnius.

I forgot much because I haven’t been conversing in Russian lately. Also, I have a huge interest in the Soviet era.

Here, I wanted to not read books about the Soviet era and the Cold War, but see up close for myself the monuments, buildings built during this period, visit museums, meet people and hear about their experiences. I thought being here in Vilnius would allow me to do this.

- Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you during this internship in Vilnius?

- No, not really. When the pandemic started, I was focusing on my studies. You can‘t travel anywhere, so it was good to concentrate on studies and read. There is a positive side to the pandemic. It has brought us students in the dormitory closer together, although we know that we need to keep a distance, be careful and take all safety precautions due to the virus. Sometimes I feel like we are one big family. In fact, I feel like these students are my second family.

- Before you ever came here, what did you know about Lithuania?

- I knew that there was such a country, but learned more after coming here. Unfortunatley, most Turkish people don’t know much about Vilnius or Lithuania.

- Have you learned any Lithuanian?

- Yes, but I want to learn more. In the fall, when I begin Master’s Degree studies at MRU, I plan to take Lithuanian language lessons.

- You have studied and now plan to pursue graduate studies at MRU. How do studies differ here from Turkey?

- At MRU, the professors want to hear a student’s thoughts and opinions. We need to take part in discussions, make presentations and share our opinions about topics. In Turkey we sit in a lecture hall and listen to professors lecture. We aren’t doing any presentations in Turkey.

Also, there are so many more international students here than at my university in Trabzon. I think at my university we had two Slovak students during a semester. At MRU, the numerous international students are part of the multi-cultural, international experience this university offers. In fact, because I knew I was coming to the European Union (EU), I expected to see so many more international students than in my university in Turkey. Also, everyone is very friendly in Vilnius.

- What are the biggest differences between Vilnius and your home city Trabzon?

- Taking the bus in Vilnius is like going to a Library – it is very, very quiet. People in Lithuania are so calm. Overall, everything is so calm here. In Trabzon people are so energetic and talkative and really talk fast. If they’re angry, they show it.

Here people, once they start talking to you, they will talk, but remain calm nevertheless. Of course, it is colder in Vilnius and the sub-zero temperatures during the winter are really difficult for us accustomed to warmer climates. Trabzon is close to the Black Sea. We are only 290-kilometers from Sochi, Russia’s largest resort city.

- What do you plan to do after your internship ends in May?

- My dream is to pursue Master’s Degree studies in Electronic Business Management at MRU. I am in the process of applying now. I want to remain in Vilnius after graduation and get a job here. Like I said, I really love Lithuania. It feels very peaceful here. I want to live in Vilnius and stay here.

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