On the first week of September a new group of international students were welcomed to Vilniaus kolegija / University of Applied Sciences during Online Orientational Days events. Despite all obstacles, the group of the bravest Erasmus+ exchange students from Latvia, Estonia, Spain, Poland and Kosovo started their journey in Vilnius alongside with the group of freshmen international fulltime students. For the first time in the history of the institution instead of a live gathering the newly arrived were welcomed in an Online event.

Nothing like the last year

While many changes in the area of students’ mobility occurred due to global COVID-19 pandemic, such as 14 days self-isolation after arrival required for the most countries and new rules for mass gatherings and events, the decision was made to switch traditional welcome week to Online format. This way the event was accessible not only for the students who have arrived already, but also for those who were still in self-isolation or waiting for their flight to Lithuania. Getting all technical information regarding the systems used, dormitory rules and library, students also had a chance to have an introductory Lithuania language class by Ingrida Galkauskienė as well as exchange their knowledge for some prizes during an online quiz organized by ESN (Erasmus students’ network) organization.

Lecturer from USA: “Lithuania is not that different”

While most of the students admitted visiting Lithuania for the first time in their lives, a guest lecturer Adam Mastandrea shared his experience of living and working in Lithuania for already longer than a year.

“COVID-19 in Lithuania is under control” – said Adam Mastandrea, while sharing his decision to stay in Lithuania even after the global pandemic started and he was asked to come back to the USA. The guest lecturer noticed that the situation in Lithuania regarding COVID-19 is way better than in the USA and he feels safer in Vilnius considering not only his but also his daughters’ well-being.

“There are no good and bad neighborhoods as in the USA” Adam noticed, claiming that in general Vilnius is a really safe city. In a period of a year some cultural differences where obvious to Adam, so he jokingly warned the students not to be afraid if Lithuanians will seem a bit cold at the beginning: Lithuanians might seem a bit more reserved; even though they are not smiling to the strangers in the streets, they usually are very helpful and can become your best friends after you get to know them better.

All in all, students expressed no regrets for choosing the exchange adventure in the context of global pandemic while sharing one common idea: it might be after some time that we all will start to ask each other what we were doing during global pandemic of COVID-19 and this small group of students will be able to remember their exciting exchange adventure in a foreign country.