All stories

Kevin Kotsak

Eastern Europe and Russian Studies student

Tell us a bit about yourself: who are you, where do you come from, and what should people know about you? What did you study for your bachelor’s degree?

My name is Kevin Kotsak and I am from New Jersey in the United States. I received my B.A. in Political Science from Fairleigh Dickinson University. I am very interested in Central and Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. I consider myself very lucky to be here studying in Vilnius.

How did you find out about Eastern Europe and Russian Studies? Did the location have any impact on your decision?

I was searching for Masters programs focused on Eastern Europe and Russia and was very open to studying outside of the US. The university’s professional website and responsive staff made it stand out from other universities in the region.

The location of Vilnius definitely had an impact on my decision to come here. Lithuania is a very unique country in my opinion. Lithuania has a strong national identity, but also has many people who don’t mind speaking in English or Russian to tourists or foreign students. It is not too far from virtually all of Europe and Eurasia. My last two trips while living here have been to Yerevan and Frankfurt. It’s hard to get that access in most other places.

You have been working before in the US army. Can you tell us more about your experience? What was your occupation, and what did you learn from this experience?

I worked in the US Army as a Russian Analyst. Overall, the military is a stressful environment, but I am grateful for the experience. I met some of my closest friends there and have learned a lot from people more experienced than me.

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. It’s a great city. If you want peace and quite it’s very easy to find it, but if you feel like having a drink at midnight it’s easy to find as well. Vilnius is a great balance between peaceful and exciting. It’s different than my hometown because people here are not so loud and blunt. People in New Jersey can be very direct and sometimes it can seem rude. 

The only challenge I would say is adjusting to the weather. It rains here more than I am used to.

Could you compare the main differences and similarities between Lithuanian and American education systems/learning processes?

I don’t think the differences are as big between the systems as one might suspect. I think most Americans would find the transition into the Lithuanian system quite smooth and Vice-versa

How do you feel about Lithuania’s proximity and active involvement in the Russian – Ukraine war?

Lithuania’s proximity to Russia obviously is something concerning, but this is something Lithuanians have had to live with for a very long time. I think a lot of people in the West, probably even myself did not listen enough to countries like Lithuania regarding the threat Russia poses. I think we all understand now. Lithuania has been very strong in their support to Ukraine and I think this should be a source of great pride for the Lithuanian people.