Why do foreign students choose studies in VMU?

DSC_0737-700x433Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) is a classical university of liberal arts which pays a particular attention on the internationalization of the studies and research. It is one of the most international universities in Lithuania and the wider Eastern Europe and Baltic region. Every year an increasing amount of foreign students has been coming from European, Asian and American continents to study here. What are the main reasons of their choices? Why do foreign students choose studies in VMU? About the choices and experiences – we speak with the students, who came from the very different countries (USA, Morocco, Ukraine, Georgia, Venezuela and Turkey) and decided to study “International Politics and Development Studies”, one of the most popular bachelor level program among foreign students.




Internationally recognized diploma for an affordable price

Olivia Wells: I was studying at University of Southern California and I did an exchange program to Greece. After spending a year in Greece I decided that I wanted to switch my major, which was classics, to international relations. I also wanted to stay in Europe, so I did a lot of research about programs in English in Europe in political science and international relations. VMU fit my requirements and it was also very affordable for me. That was a huge factor. As it is known, studying (especially getting your undergraduate degree) in the US is ridiculously expensive. The financial aspect of my studies was very important.

Olivia Wells

NewYorker (USA) Olivia Wells became the president of UN students Club

Nikoloz Chkheidze: There was a correlation of few factors that motivated me to come and study in Lithuania. Firstly, finishing studies in Lithuania would have been more recognized and accredited worldwide rather than finishing studies in Georgia. Secondly, the prices were more convenient and attractive than those in Western Europe, and lastly my Lithuanian friends that I have made in school period – made me decide to come to study in Lithuania.

Anna Romanenko: It was a great opportunity to study abroad and to get an international diploma, because the diploma from Ukrainian universities is not so recognized in the European countries. It also gives me a great opportunity to get a perfect job.

Muhammed Nas: Actually, my main motivation to come to Lithuania was because it is really affordable and my plan was to transfer my credits from Lithuania to the United Kingdom but I saw that I really achieved very good success at Vytautas Magnus University, so I decided to stay here.

Calm, students oriented city and historically interesting regional environment

Olivia Wells: I realized the benefits of staying in Europe while studying international relations. You’re sort of in the middle of everything that’s going on. It is also really interesting to study in this part of Europe considering Russia and the dynamics of the Cold War, which is an important aspect of international relations. I didn’t have a lot of preconceived notions about Lithuania. You have to understand that in the US it’s very much grouped with the other Baltic States and Eastern Europe in general. So when we study what happened in this part of the world, we don’t go into the individual states. It’s very much monolithic block vs. Russia and how Russia interacts with Eastern Europe as a whole, which is unfortunate, but it’s true.

M.Zakaria Belmehdi: Why exactly Lithuania? Because, first of all, I want to study in Eastern European country, because of the culture, because of history- these are the first factors that attracted me. For me coming to Lithuania was not challenging in comparison to the UK. As concerning integration with people, for me it was easy here, because Lithuanians are open-minded. So, I do not have any problems, as far as I want to integrate. Of course, there are little challenges, but in general, my experience was very positive here. Before coming to Kaunas, I had a concern, because the population of Kaunas is 98 per cent Lithuanians. On the other hand, I wanted to live in a homogeneous country meanwhile having some multicultural experience. I met many friends and people from different countries not only from VMU, but from other universities as well. For me, Kaunas is really suitable for a student life since there are a lot of activities, at least during the academic year.


Mohamed-Zakaria Belmehdi came from Morocco

Muhammed Nas: Kaunas is a beautiful city. It has a warm environment and very beautiful green places and historical places as well. Actually, the people are nice, multicultural communication is very vivid here and I totally agree that it is a student city. Here there are more than 3 universities, hence it includes very different types of nationalities and thus these international students make the city more rich culturally and colorful.

Nikoloz Chkheidze: I would agree, not only that Kaunas is full of international students, but it is also a city, where a lot of Lithuanians come from other parts of their country – this makes Kaunas a multicultural student city.

Konrad Petraitis: Sometimes while walking the Liberty Avenue you feel how quite it is. That was new experience since you would never ever experience that in Venezuela. You could be in the middle of nowhere in Latin America and you still hear people screaming and shouting. That’s why people here look at me weird if I talk more loudly. So Lithuania taught me the difference between talking and shouting, and inside and outside voices. Although Lithuanians are quiet, but they are very curious as well, so they do want to get to know foreigners, they do open a lot of doors for you. With some of Lithuanians I even get along better than with my siblings.

Anna Romanenko: Lithuania is not so far from Ukraine and we share some common history such as the Soviet period, so sometimes I can talk in Russian with adults, because a lot of older generation people know Russian and it is really helpful for me. So I didn’t really feel like in a completely different environment.

Anna Romanenko

Ukrainian Anna Romanenko will seek to apply the university knowledge in her country after graduation.

Liberal, friendly and welcoming university atmosphere

Nikoloz Chkheidze: The friendly acceptance coming from university staff, teachers and students of Vytautas Magnus University made it much easier to adapt. Together with my friend, we were always feeling the support coming from locals in anything we needed whether it was something related to university or a completely different issue. The atmosphere is amazing in the university, no matter how involved and active you are, it makes you feel to be part of it, as the city is also small and full of students, this makes the inside of university even more comfortable and cozy. The constant movement of flows of people in different buildings makes you alive and motivated to go out and do something. The university offers you opportunities such as doing an Erasmus abroad and participating in many local and international events of political scope.

Konrad Petraitis: I applied for several other universities but VMU just convinced me, honestly, the treatment I got here just applying, really, it took me over, I can’t complain. VMU kind of hit the tone with me, they are very relaxed people, they are very down to earth, they provide you with the tools to succeed and if you don’t want to take them, it’s up to you. But VMU invented itself so, that you not only take them, but it would do everything for you. I have that impression, which, I assume that some people need more than the others.

M.Zakaria Belmehdi: University atmosphere is friendly, international and funny. Friendly because both Lithuanians and foreign students that I’ve met here are really friendly, open-minded and open to other cultures, so we have a lot of cultural exchanges. It is really easy to make friends here. It is really international, because there are foreign students from around 50 countries. Although the majority of them are from Europe, there are students from outside Europe as well. Moreover, university has a lot of student clubs, which help students to have fun, to relax, enjoy his moment and time here in Lithuania.

Open-minded administration supports students’ initiatives

Olivia Wells: I like it and I was very surprised by it. There are definitely things that need to be worked on, however, I like that it’s smaller because I’ve been in smaller and very large universities and in larger universities there’s a gap between the students and the administration. You don’t feel like you can easily approach any of the staff and it’s very bureaucratic, so it’s difficult to get anything done. I’m really grateful that it is easy to talk to people here and they are helpful. I liked the administration – from there I decided that I wanted to get involved in different extra curricular activities. It’s quite easy to do all these extra curricular activities and if you are the kind of person that wants to get involved, it is a great school for that because the university really supports students’ initiatives.

Anna Romanenko: From the first letter of acceptance and even starting from when I sent my documents to the international office, I was really happy that they were speaking to me warmly, they  were really friendly and when I came the environment was also very friendly. Also Eglė, from International Office, really helped me a lot in the beginning, and even now, when I have some questions, she is always happy to help me without any problems.

Muhammed Nas: I tried to be as active as possible. So, during my studies I did a lot of initiatives. One of them was the establishment of United Nations students club.  After the meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who visited VMU, we decided to establish this organization. Within the activities of this student organization we widely announced our university name while communicating with diplomatic representatives, especially in the Embassy of Sweden, the Embassy of Republic of Turkey, the Embassy of the USA and so on. So people really appreciate our initiatives. So after achieving this, I decided to stay here, I had very good success which is going to be very useful for my future life.

Muhamed Nas

Turkish Muhammed Nas was one of the initiators of UN students Club

Focus on personal development: interesting and challenging studies in multicultural environment

Olivia Wells: Simply speaking about my knowledge base, it has really expanded, that’s undeniable. I could also say that I’ve been the most active as a student in university life and involving myself in extra curricular activities than I ever was in the US. So that has been really great for me. I was able to work and do a lot. Of course, it depends a lot on the person.

Nikoloz Chkheidze: It gave me also a better understanding of myself, my strengths and weaknesses as well as it determined me more as a person, knowing exactly what I want and what to strive for. By choosing to study in Lithuania, I believe I made a very good choice and I am satisfied. The program turned out to be exactly what I was interested to study.

Konrad Petraitis: It gave me a lot more that I could ever express in any interview. I am eternally indebted to this university, to every single professor, to every single staff member and it is going to be my alma mater forever. VMU will give you every single thing to you to succeed and it’s only up to you whether you’re willing to take them. You will have to work, play your part, but as I said, VMU has that big fish in a small pond mentality that helps people to succeed.

M.Zakaria Belmehdi: When it comes to this particular study program, for those, who wish to study politics, I definitely recommend them to come to study here. Also, people who are looking for fun, for good quality of education and international environment- I recommend them to come to VMU.

Anna Romanenko: When I came to the faculty of Political Science and Diplomacy I was really surprised by the level they are teaching, because the level of English of lecturers were really good, they are helpful and the lectures are interesting for me. I understood that I am happy to be here and I’m lucky to study in such a university. In the beginning it was really difficult for me due to everything was in English, every lecturer wants something from you, and you need to write and read a lot of, hence the first year was really challenging for me. But then I started to develop myself and improve my language and communication skills, I started to read more. So I believe I really grew up as a person.

Muhammed Nas: I had very intelligent and professional lecturers, who are open-minded, informative and smart. This study program is a comprehensive, the content of the program is acceptable by other universities worldwide and it includes very good topics. Besides of being a good political scientist, you can increase your knowledge and it really contributes to your life, because you can select very different type of elective courses such as Media Art, Philosophy, Biology and so on. So I really call people, who want to study political science to come here. If they are going to struggle, because if there is no struggle, there is no achievement, if they are going to study hard, VMU is very international university and therefore they will achieve the goals.

Dr. Sima Rakutienė: „ There is no question that multicultural environment creates opportunities not only to know, but also to feel and hear the voices of different peoples and cultures right here in the classroom, to study international politics in the international community, to analyze the effects of global importance, socio-political and economic processes. Each year the program attracts foreign students from various parts of the world (Morocco, Venezuela, Ukraine, Georgia, USA, Nigeria, turkey and etc.) and creates an invaluable intercultural environment and experience for both: teachers and students“.


Dr. Sima Rakutienė, Head of the Department of Regional Studies


Impressions from the first year in the Faculty

hhFelix Hoffman is a BA student from Germany, who is studying International politics and development at the Faculty. After being here for one year, Felix agreed to share his perspective.

What motivated you to choose this field of studies?

I have a strong general interest in politics and history. Specifically, a word “development” seemed to be interesting, since it looked more about applied politics, than theory. For me it means to look into exemplary cases, into current development politics of specific players, looking into history and thinking about the future.

What did make you interested in this particular program at PMDF?

I decided to come to Lithuania because of personal reasons in the first place and then started to look for an international program to study in. The choices for international students in politics and history weren’t too many, so I decided to choose international politics and development. I thought this program would suit my personal interests the best. Moreover, I liked the idea of learning another language, which was provided by this faculty.

What were your first impressions about studying here? Did they change over the time?

The concept of giving first and second year students a required amount of general education seemed a really great idea, quality of the side classes could be improved, though.

In the first semester I had an introductory class to Development which was really good! The lecturer had deep knowledge of her field, held very interesting conversation, always had a suiting exemplary case for any question connected to development, tried to challenge the students and their opinions and most importantly, she spoke really good English!

What do like about studying here?

There are a lot of opportunities to engage into university life besides the curriculum and you are encouraged by the university to take opportunities for internships, exchange programs, etc. As a student you definitely get not overloaded with work, yet personally I like to be pushed and challenged more often, also within the subjects!

The Moodle and the FirstClass online systems, as well as a general strong online presence, surely are big plusses for the University and studies. I also still believe that teaching general knowledge to younger students is a great idea.

How would you estimate the quality of the teaching?

Of course, it depends on the particular subject and lecturer. There are classes like my Arabic course, which I was very happy to attend, because I knew I would learn something. On the other hand, at some classes I wasn’t happy with the quality of teaching.

Which are your favourite subjects?

Arabic, History of Civilization, History of Lithuanian culture, introductory class for development, International relations and governance.

In your opinion, what could be improved in your program?

There should be more classes connected to the actual field of studies (Politics and development), in my opinion. Yet the language classes should be kept up, I believe it’s important to speak more than one or two languages in this field of studies, but maybe one more mandatory political class could be added.

Interview was taken by Anton Chernetskyi (student of the Faculty of Political science and Diplomacy).

Summer Internship Programme (SIP) Registration Now Open

1-300x200Youths from anywhere in the world are invited to register for Summer Internship Programme (SIP).  SIP online registration is now open, the deadline is 15 March 2016.

The programme is a part of the VMU social project entitled World Lithuanian University (WLU). The participants do not have to be of Lithuanian origin: world Lithuanians and anyone interested in the southern-most Baltic country may apply. Students who successfully end their internship and defend the final project are awarded 6 academic credits (ECTS).

The length of the student internships is six weeks (from 7 July until 18 August 2016). The planned programme includes introductory week, Lithuanian language courses, accommodation at VMU dormitory, etc. Internship placements for the students are provided based on their chosen fields including finance and economics, politics and international relations, medicine and social work, communication and public relations, marketing, advertising, technology, engineering, etc. Opportunities are offered to do internship at workplaces or institutions which are social partners of VMU, including Kaunas city municipality, medical institutions, museums and NGOs.

Students from Gabon, Spain, South Korea, France, Brazil, Turkey, Ukraine and Germany have already taken the chance to participate in the Summer Internship Programme (SIP):

This programme united me not only with the native country of my grandparents, but also with all Lithuanians, who hold their motherland deep in their hearts no matter where they live in the world. I am pleased to have made new contacts and discovered something I have in common with other world Lithuanians: a shared history. (Thammy, Brazil)

My internship was beyond amazing. I gained various skills at many levels. The programme itself helped me to get to know Lithuania from different perspectives. I would love to actually apply again next summer (is it technically possible?!) and I would definitely recommend it to my friends since it only brings positive things. Thank you once more for everything! (Maelle, France)

More information on SIP programme will be provided soon.

**Students will not be registered for the programme if they cannot obtain a visa for travel to the Republic of Lithuania themselves. Vytautas Magnus University does not provide visas of any kind to foreign students.


Registration is now open online for the SIP programme, which will take place from 7 July until 18 August 2016. The registration deadline is 15 March. Registration fee is EUR 390.

About World Lithuanian University (WLU)

World Lithuanian University (WLU) is an initiative inspired by joint efforts of Lithuanian and Diaspora scientists who contributed to the reestablishment of Vytautas Magnus University a quarter-century ago. It became a pattern for further collaboration that fosters creative exchange between scientists and students from Lithuanian Diaspora, and aims to attract everyone interested in modern Lithuania, its daily life, traditions and culture.

WLU is involved in a variety of activities: VMU Summer Academy events, study and internship programs for students and researchers, Lithuanian education projects, etc. At the same time, WLU functions as a conceptual, virtual entity, which is open to various initiatives. More information is available on the WLU website.

VMU Opens Great Opportunities

Amil_Photo131Each year more and more international students are applying to Vytautas Magnus University to get an undergraduate or a postgraduate degree in various study programs that this university provides in English. Just recently two international students from Azerbaijan Samil Niftaliyev and Amil Sadigov successfully defended their theses and were awarded master’s diplomas in the field of Diplomacy and International Relations. They gladly agreed to share their experiences and thoughts about studying in Lithuania and VMU.

How did you hear about Vytautas Magnus University and this study program?

SAMIL: I was looking for universities abroad which would fit me by my IELTS score. It is funny to say, but I actually found this university through Google. After that, I talked with my friends about this university and fortunately I found my groupmate from bachelor degree, who studied here. She successfully graduated and defended her thesis. She also told me that it is a nice place to study in Europe. So I applied, got accepted and came here.

AMIL: About me…One of my friends also informed me that there is a university in Lithuania which provides affordable tuition fee for our expenses. He also said that education here is more developed and that it is one of the best and most innovative universities in Eastern Europe. Later I Googled it on the Internet and looked for suitable courses which would allow me to continue my field of studies at master’s level. Finally, I applied to this university with two of my friends and fortunately we all got accepted and I’m very happy about that.


Was it challenging to go study abroad in a completely different environment? Were you not scared? Lithuania should be much colder than Azerbaijan

AMIL: Of course in the beginning it was a bit challenging, it is much colder here than in our country. However, here in Lithuania I met some people who now are my best friends. What is more, the sense of European values was one of the best things here for me. We also had an opportunity to go for exchange as Erasmus students in Italy, which is one of the main advantages of the university.

SAMIL: In my case, it was the first time I went abroad as a student. Before I had visited several countries, which were close to Azerbaijan, but they were not the same as Lithuania. Luckily, with the help of my mentor Lina, who helped me to adapt and not to feel strange, it didn’t take me a long time to feel comfortable. Of course the weather was a big challenge, in Azerbaijan if we have zero degrees Celsius, we consider that it is already cold, but here we had to live under minus 20! However we managed to adapt to it and in the end it was not that bad. Actually one of the biggest challenges for me was the language, because if I see someone who does not speak Russian or English it was hard to communicate, but as Kaunas is a student city, with a lot of young people living here, I did not have to face this problem too often.

How did your studies at VMU differ from your bachelor studies?

SAMIL: First of all, the relationship between students and professors here is completely different than in Azerbaijan. Because of the big problem of corruption in Azerbaijan’s education system, professors do not work under a strict plan and sometimes they make it hard for students to pass the exam successfully. Here it is different, I did not feel that my professors would want me to fail an exam, they are working under a well-structured plan and try to share the knowledge of their field of study with their students as much as they can.

AMIL: For me the major difference was the well-organized credit system according to which the studies at VMU are held. It was new for me, because in Azerbaijan we are studying in a different system. Secondly, while studying here I learned a lot about methodology, to which I was not introduced that much before. It helped me to improve my research skills, which I used while writing my master’s thesis. The skills and the knowledge I gained at the faculty of Political Science and Diplomacy helped me to successfully finish my internship at the Delegation of the European Union to Azerbaijan, where I was able do to some research using the abilities I gained while studying at VMU. Finally, I really appreciated the help and the effort that my supervisor Dr. Giedrius Česnakas made while helping me in the process of writing my final thesis.

SAMIL: Also one thing I would like to add is that while I was studying in Baku in my university the majority of foreign students were Turkish, whom we do not really consider as foreign. Here we had a chance to meet with people from Germany, England, the USA, Spain, Italy, France and lots of other countries all around the world. The environment at VMU is really multicultural and you have a chance to learn about different countries and cultures just by interacting with foreign students. This would be also one of the major differences.


I wanted to congratulate you on successfully defending your master’s theses and receiving your diplomas. What are your plans for the future?

SAMIL: For now I would prefer to stay and find a job related to diplomacy and international relations in Europe. I think that it would be perfect for me to find a job in a company working in this field and to continue improving myself as a specialist.

AMIL: Same is for me, together with Samil we are already looking for various job opportunities in Europe. But first of all I will have to finish my military service!

What would you say to people who are still wondering whether it is worth it to study at VMU’s faculty of Political Sciences and Diplomacy?

SAMIL: First of all, regarding the budget, this university provides an affordable tuition fee for students and the cost of living in Lithuania is not really high itself. That provides students from less wealthy countries to access high quality education. Secondly, by choosing this university you will have an opportunity to go on exchange to a different country to study abroad and widen your experiences. Finally, from a non-educational point of view, even though it is a little bit cold during winter, you can still enjoy it and have fun during this time of year. What is more, you will start new friendships with the people you will meet here including Lithuanians and other exchange students.

AMIL: I would agree with all the aspects that Samil mentioned before about studying at this university. I think that it is a perfect place for students to get their higher education diploma and later you will have bigger opportunities to visit other EU countries or even continue your career here. I would definitely recommend studies at Vytautas Magnus University.

SAMIL: My last advice for future students of this university is to take Lithuanian language courses, which would open even more opportunities for you in the future.

Interview by Daina Naujokaitė