Starting in 2021, Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) has entered into very important cooperation with Indonesian International Student Mobility Awards (IISMA) programme. In 2023 IISMA has 67 partners in 25 countries with 1150 Awardees. VMU is the only university in Lithuania that has entered this unique cooperation framework.
IISMA is a scholarship scheme by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology of the Republic of Indonesia to fund Indonesian students for a one-semester-mobility program at top universities and reputable industries overseas. IISMA aims to expose best Indonesian students to international academic and cultural diversity by offering two schemes for undergraduate and vocational students.
Since 2021, VMU has hosted 13 students (5 in 2021 and 8 in 2022). For the academic year 2023-2024 the university has accepted 49 new applicants from over 120 candidates who selected VMU. It is the biggest IISMA group in Europe. During the first two weeks in Kaunas, awardees are learning the basics of Lithuanian language and will soon start the studies of selected courses across different faculties and study areas. Recently arrived students are very active and eager to engage in local social life. Several students have already participated in the Ukraine Solidarity Run that took place on the 26th of August at the VMU Botanical Garden.
When asked why they chose VMU as their hosting institution, Indonesian students were unanimous – “because of the courses”. According to Adzkia Avisena Maghfiroh, one of the IISMA awardees, “VMU offers the most interesting courses among all of the universities of IISMA partner institutions.” The variety of interesting, creative, highly relevant courses in English offered by VMU seems to be the major motivating factor for attracting so many Indonesians to Kaunas. For instance, Hizkia Pandya Bagaswara Ardhya, a business student from Bogor Agricultural University, indicated that a big advantage of coming here is to have an opportunity to extend the education beyond the scope of their specific study area at home. He notes, “Here I try to embrace another approach: […] I take two courses outside my business focused education: creative writing and media art.” Similarly, a French literature student Aurelia Rizky Ediana appreciates the opportunity to study courses that are not offered at home: “For example, I take journalism, media, British literature, sociolinguistics – courses that are not offered at my home university.”
In addition, many guests mentioned Lithuania’s history, rich cultural heritage and strong connection to ancient traditions that are interesting and worth studying. According to a Public Health student, Az-Zahra Helmi Putri Rahayu, there are “some unique superstitions and folklore that immediately caught my attention.” A Sport Science student, Ghassan Tadya Faraz, smilingly admitted that one of the reasons he chose Lithuania was the country’s proficiency in and obsession with basketball. Ghassan, who is specializing in Basketball Sport Coaching Education, said: “I really love basketball. I see that the first sport or the second religion in Lithuania is basketball. I really want to study and practice this sport while I’m here.”
Sharing their first impressions about Lithuania, IISMA awardees expressed their amazement with the beauty of this “underrated country” (Adzkia Avisena Maghfiroh). Students praised Lithuanian nature, clean air, calm and respectful atmosphere. A student of visual communication design Sanny Aftaluna Ziemann shared that his first impressions of Kaunas city are very positive. After exploring some central neighborhoods on foot, he says: “Kaunas is a very beautiful city full of art, and I can’t wait to explore it more”. One student from Bali, N. Trikuriosi Damiari, shared her impression about unique dressing style of Lithuanian people. Being a student of industrial product design, she especially appreciates the unique style of young Lithuanian girls, who “have a specific taste on their outfit and are really confident about themselves […]. When I see them so confident it encourages me to be more confident too.”
When talking about their plans during the study period in Lithuania, IISMA awardees shared their plans to get involved in volunteering activities, visit local schools, organise and participate in the events and engage in other social and cultural activities with local communities. Networking and mutual learning is of highest importance to these talented young people from Indonesia. Coming from the country with a notable communal engagement and civic participation, students plan to share their valuable knowledge and experience with the local and international students, as well as the staff of VMU. The students are not only the best ambassadors from Indonesia to promote their culture, but also the best intermediaries that will help bringing different cultural experiences together.