Tell us a bit about yourself: who are you, where do you come from and what people should know about you?
I’m 24 years old, my mum is French, and my dad is Japanese. I’ve lived in 8 different countries and I speak 5 languages. I have a pet cat called Toffee!
How did you choose to study Eastern European and Russian Studies Master‘s programme? Did the location have any impact on your decision? How did you learn about studies at Vilnius University?
As a political science and economics novice with a growing interest in Eastern Europe & Russia, the Eastern European and Russian Studies Master‘s programme seemed perfect for me. I started teaching myself Russian online last summer and I really liked that this programme seemed to cover the basics and tackled different disciplines and angles, including historical, societal and cultural, political, economic and even linguistic. I have been able to carry on studying the Russian language throughout my course.
I found out about Vilnius University because I was looking for quality, English-taught programmes in Central & Eastern Europe. The location played a large role for me: I had never lived in Eastern Europe before and, like many people, knew of Lithuania as a country that many emigrate from, rather than immigrate to. So, I thought, why not do the opposite and find out what this small Baltic country is all about by actually living there for at least the duration of my degree? I also thought it would be an intriguing experience to live in a country where the official language is completely different to any other language I speak or understand.
What do you think is the most important thing while studying this region? What do you value the most in your studies?
The most important thing while studying this region is the willingness to listen and learn, yet remain critical and objective whilst having an open mind. It is a region full of complicated ties and history – it can be a lot to take in, but your mind becomes richer and stronger throughout the process. I’ve sincerely enjoyed hearing the depth of arguments that my classmates come up with during our seminars; in fact, what I have valued the most throughout my studies has been my classmates and professors. I have loved hearing about my diverse classmates’ experiences and opinions as well as being able to share my own without fear of judgement by either classmates or professors. I’ve also enjoyed giving presentations and always receiving constructive criticism that seemed to always be motivated by peers’ and professors’ desire to genuinely help me improve and understand.
What did you study for your bachelor‘s degree?
I come from a foreign languages background. Specifically, I studied Regional and Foreign Civilisations, Literatures and Languages in German at a French university in Brittany, north-western France.
Have you ever lived abroad before moving to Vilnius? What was the occasion?
I’ve lived in many places: Japan, Argentina, the Netherlands, the UK, France, Germany, Sweden and now Lithuania… As the daughter of a Japanese expat, I moved a fair bit while growing up. As I became older, other reasons have included higher education purposes, volunteering etc.
How do you like living in Vilnius? How is it different from your home country and city? Were there any challenges when you moved here?
I love living in Vilnius. I had no preconceived ideas about either Lithuania or Vilnius before moving here and yet was pleasantly surprised. On our first day here, we had been warned about Lithuanians’ supposed cold demeanour and lack of smiles; however, my experience has been quite the opposite. Lithuanians are friendly, helpful people who love to help foreigners and will go out of their way to make things easier for you, despite occasional language barriers. They are a proud people and it has been interesting and challenging to discuss various topics. As a food enthusiast with a fondness for culinary diversity, I was also delighted to see the variety of cuisines available in such an arguably small city. I also had the great pleasure of partaking in a traditional Lithuanian Christmas with a fantastic Lithuanian family who never made me feel out of place.
What are you writing your MA thesis about? How did you come across this topic?
I’ve decided to write my master’s thesis on transitional justice in the context of sexual violence during the Bosnian War. I first became interested in the Bosnian War during my bachelor, when I picked a book by Saša Stanišić – the son of a Bosniak mother and a Serbian father who fled to Germany during the war. With very little prior knowledge on the topic, I began to do more research; upon finding out about the extent of the use of sexual violence as a strategy of war, I realised I wanted to contribute to this relatively young field and dig deeper as a means to assess the effectiveness of reparation initiatives. Though a difficult endeavour, both academically and emotionally, I believe it is a topic of great importance which can serve as a lesson for the future.
How do you spend your free time? Do you have any hobbies or other interests?
I’m a huge animal lover and spent about 9 months volunteering at a cat shelter. I also love languages – reading about them, learning them and listening to them in the form of music, international cinema and radio. I watch a lot of foreign movies and often select a random country’s radio station and just listen to it. I’m also big on reading about customs and traditions in different countries, something which goes hand in hand with my passion for food. One of my hobbies is looking up the national dish of a specific country and then attempting to recreate it at home, as well as trying as many different cuisines in different restaurants and countries as possible. Additionally, I love reading about human psychology and spend a lot of time reflecting on how to increase self-awareness and heal emotional trauma through evidence-based psychotherapy. Recently, I’ve been exploring the phenomenon of impostor syndrome.
If you had to give advice to anyone deciding on what and where to study their MA right now, what would it be?
I would suggest embracing your fears and viewing them as excitement rather than anxiety. When choosing where to study, I would advise picking a place where you could never have imagined yourself living. You might be surprised how much it changes your perspective, your idea of yourself, your goals and dreams… And just how much more independent, wiser and open-minded you’ll find yourself to have become.