International Exchange – A Gateway to New Career Opportunities

  • 2024-07-11

“The opportunity to study abroad for a semester in the country of my choice through the Erasmus+ international exchange programme, even while enrolled in an online study programme, was the main reason I chose to study at Vytautas Magnus University,” says Alisa Rūta Stravinskaitė, an alumna of the Comparative Cultural Studies programme at Vytautas Magnus University (VMU).

According to Alisa, a semester of studies at the University of Turin in Italy not only allowed her to deepen her understanding of the country and enhance her Italian language skills but also opened up new career opportunities.

In an interview with VMU students and alumni, we discuss why it is worthwhile to take advantage of the university’s mobility opportunities and go for a semester of Erasmus+ studies or internships.

Italian language – a challenge that shaped career prospects 

Alisa Rūta recounts that a semester spent at the Rome University of the Arts during her bachelor’s studies left a profound impression, prompting her to continue her acquaintance with Italy during her master’s studies. Her desire to get to know the Northern Italian region led her to the University of Turin.

“Although I never viewed Erasmus+ studies as a break from my studies, the pace and workload in Italy were significantly greater than in Lithuania. Lectures here were attended by countless students. Despite speaking Italian upon arrival, it took a while before I could understand everything freely – preparation for lectures involved reading academic articles in Italian and learning specialised terminology,” recalls Alisa, reflecting on the integration challenges.

The VMU alumna also highlights the daunting oral exams conducted in Italian. “It was indeed challenging to stand in front of the classroom and respond to questions posed by the lecturer. At that moment, not only are you trying to think of the correct answers, but you also realise that the local Italian students hear not just your responses but every grammatical mistake. This certainly caused a lot of stress. Nevertheless, mastering Italian also opened up opportunities to better understand this country, its people, and culture,” shares Alisa Rūta, asserting that while the primary goal of these Erasmus+ studies was to gain additional knowledge and get to know the country better, it was ultimately the Italian language that opened new career prospects for her. This summer, she toured Turin and Venice with a theatre troupe from Lithuania.

Studying abroad instilled a love for Lithuania

Viktoriia Piatnytska, who is studying Sociology and Anthropology at VMU’s Faculty of Social Sciences, asserts that she chose her Erasmus+ exchange country on practical grounds. Having developed an interest in German during her childhood, and later studying English and German philology in her native city of Kyiv, Ukraine, she opted for TU Dortmund University in Germany for her study exchange.

“I believe that Erasmus+ studies are a great opportunity to put your foreign language skills into practice and to ‘try out’ the country you are going to. I’ve been interested in Germany since I was a child and visited the country several times as a tourist. However, I wanted to see the country from a different perspective, to see how I would manage integrating into German society. As our university had only recently signed an exchange agreement with this university, I was the first exchange student from VMU,” she explains.

Viktoriia says that living and studying in Germany’s ninth-largest city was memorable not only because of the rainy climate but also because of the wide range of activities available to exchange students. “Dortmund itself reminded me of Kaunas in terms of size, and the university where I studied offered many activities for exchange students, including trips to other cities and countries and board game nights,” says the VMU student, who also managed to visit neighbouring countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg during her Erasmus+ studies.

She also points out that, before going to Germany, she was convinced that knowing the local language would help her integrate faster, but this expectation was not met.

“At VMU, we take great care of incoming international students, constantly striving to help them and make them feel comfortable here. Things were somewhat different at Dortmund University. I noticed that both students and teachers were not particularly inclined to befriend those around them. Whereas at VMU, I could easily pop into my faculty dean’s office to clarify what I need or just to have a chat,” Viktoriia identifies the main cultural differences.

Nevertheless, her greatest discovery during the Erasmus+ exchange was a newfound love for Lithuania. “I missed Kaunas and Lithuania a lot when I was in Germany. My friends and some of my family live here. It’s a place where my heart belongs. During my Erasmus+ studies, I realised that I see my future in Lithuania,” concludes the VMU student.

Learning from the best

“Successful prior experience during my Erasmus+ exchange studies encouraged me to return to this country once again,” says Kamilė Dumskytė, a VMU Marketing alumna who chose France for her Erasmus+ internship. Not only did she have the opportunity to live in Paris, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but she also had the chance to see firsthand how one of the biggest film events is organised and to work with well-known professionals in the field.

“I hadn’t planned or specifically aimed to end up in the film and cinema industry. I found a plethora of internship offers on one website and applied randomly. Both my first and second interviews were successful, which paved my way to the European Independent Film Festival, where I was responsible for event management and maintaining partnerships with festival partners,” Kamilė explains.

Kamilė mentions that working in an international team taught her how to collaborate with people from different cultures and adapt to various communication styles. However, the most memorable part of her experience was working with and getting to know the festival’s president, documentary filmmaker Scott Hiller. 

“It was a great honour just to be around such a person. There’s wisdom in the advice – if you want to improve, find someone you aspire to be like and get as much experience from them as you can. That was exactly what I tried to do during that period. Nowadays, people often tell me that I am brave and creative. I used to respond to this compliment with just a thank you and a smile, but over time I realised that creativity is founded on knowledge and courage is built on experience. That is exactly what my Erasmus+ studies and internship in France provided me,” asserts the VMU graduate.

VMU offers exceptional opportunities for all students wishing to study or do internships abroad: the university currently has more than 600 Erasmus+ and bilateral cooperation partners in 75 countries around the world. Over the last decade, more than 3,000 VMU students have gone abroad for studies or internships.