The 21-year-old Bachelor's Degree student is at home in many different cultures and has spent close to a decade in Delhi, India where he learned spoken Hindi. Now he calls Vilnius home after spending almost three years here. If I am away abroad and I return to Vilnius and hear the #53 bus driver announcing “kita stotelė Jovaro” (next stop Jovaro), I get excited that I am finally home, he said. Selim agreed to share his impressions about Lithuania, life in Vilnius and how he came here for studies instead of Italy.
- So how does a 21-year-old living in Tanzania decide to come to Vilnius?
- I was looking for Psychology programs in English and found two programs that seemed suitable. One was in Padua, Italy and the other at Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) in Vilnius. This was during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. I knew that the pandemic had seriously affected Italy and many Italians had fallen sick. I had some help and advice from a local university consultant who had heard about Mykolas Romeris University and suggested I go to Lithuania. He gave me a lot of information about the University. I decided to come here. I applied and the rest is history. I will be graduating in 2024.
- What did you know about Lithuania before coming here?
- Well, almost nothing. My father didn’t know much as well, so we turned to the Internet and started a search for Lithuania. At first, we confused it with your Baltic neighbor, Latvia.
- How do you find life in Vilnius after 3 years here?
- I like Lithuania because it’s peaceful, calm and safe. The crime rate is low too. I also like the nature, the trees all around. Right here, next to my Vilnius apartment is a forest and I can take a walk, when I wish. Regarding food here, I love potatoes. I spend a lot of time preparing my own meals. I know 10 different recipes for potatoes. I also enjoy the red beet (borscht) soup.
- What are some of the unusual experiences you’ve had in Lithuania?
- The first time that I saw snow, was in Lithuania - in 2020. It was an amazing experience. Touching the snow is something that I’ve only experienced in my dreams. I did see snowflakes in my dreams, but I couldn’t touch them.
- What are some of the differences that you noticed between Dar es Salaam and Vilnius?
- I will probably be repeating what many others have said before me, but I find that people - Lithuanians, don’t have so much body language and facial reactions. It’s hard to see, if they are being friendly or angry by looking at their faces. It’s normal not to smile in Lithuania. However, when you get to know Lithuanians, you find they are warm and friendly people. In Tanzania the situation is different. People talk to each other and greet each other on the street, when they meet. You can go out in the city and in 2 minutes you’d be talking to a stranger about family issues and become good friends. People are as warm as the weather in Tanzania. In Vilnius I see the remains of an old country with ancient traditions blended with a modern country. In Dar es Salaam, you see an old city trying to be a modern city. It’s a village trying to be in essence a modern city. One side of Dar es Salaam is full of villages and the other is full of tall buildings and skyscrapers.
- Do you miss Tanzania and family?
- Of course, I miss Tanzania a lot. I feel at home in Tanzania, when I go back there. When I hear people speaking Swahili let’s say in the airport, I get tears in my eyes. My father, of course, taught me the Turkish language, and all about Turkish culture, although I have lived away from Turkey. I’m in contact with my extended family.
- What else do you miss?
- Well, I have been attending schools teaching subjects and courses only in English. I would be curious about the schools in Turkey, where everything is taught in Turkish. That would be very interesting for me because I have studied only in English. That is why I was drawn to study Psychology at Mykolas Romeris University where I am close to completing my Bachelor’s Degree. I am only disappointed that I was not able to take more classes in Lithuanian language, which I would really like to learn. Unfortunately, there are not many opportunities for free to learn Lithuanian in Vilnius. That is a disappointment for me.
- Anything surprise you about life in Vilnius?
- It’s far too cloudy in Lithuania. My favorite days in Tanzania, where the temperature reaches 35-36 C in the summer, are the cloudy days. Now, I would prefer sunnier days in Vilnius. I think the statistics for January were that if you calculated the number of hours the sun shone in Vilnius during January, it would be less than one day.
- What do you plan to do after you graduate?
- I plan to stay in Lithuania and would like to pursue my Master’s Degree here. I’m also planning to work here for a while. Eventually I would like to pursue PhD studies and then teach as a lecturer in Psychology. That is my goal. Now I am working on my thesis, “The Effect of Emojis on Emotions from the Social Media Posts.”
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