When considering the options for Student Exchange Program (SEP), my eyes were drawn to ‘Lithuania’ and ‘Latvia’. Immediately, I was hooked on the idea of venturing to Lithuania for my SEP. The primary reason was that I wanted to see how an ex-Soviet Republic would look like and furthermore, in 2009, the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius was the European Capital of culture. Another reason was to see for myself how the emerging Eastern European region would be like. I would say I was not disappointed to dive headlong into this fairly unknown country. In fact, I was the very first student from NUS studying in Vilnius University. In Vilnius, the Soviet-era buildings were scattered all over the place. But in these changing times, Lithuania is slowly emerging from her Soviet identity and has begun to develop economic ties with her neighbours.
The format of studies in Vilnius University is somewhat similar to NUS, though they do not have tutorials but because the class size is small so discussions could be carried out easily. Another point to note would be the ease of studying and using Russian in Lithuania and the Baltic states. During my period of stay, I met quite a number of people from Ukraine and Central Asia there. Thus I believe that these Baltic States, already part of the EU but at the same time having the Soviet heritage would become an important platform to build better Europe-Russia relations in all areas.
Living in Lithuania is not much of a hassle as the younger generation (20 and below) are picking up English in school, some of them study English as a major in universities. Most retail and F&B outlets have staff that speak English or have menus in English. Culturally, the town has much to offer with all its baroque architecture. Yet on the other hand, commercial developments are taking the priority now, thus not much is done to promote or upkeep the old churches and castles, probably there’s just too much to do as churches are literally all over the place. Only the few major churches and castles under the UNESCO heritage list had renovations done to them.
Lithuania has a lot of economic potential because of her strategic locality and at the same time being full of culture, this country has so much packed into it that no wonder it is one of the rising stars in Europe.