Vilius, you just started your last year as a political science student. Take us to the beginning of the journey – why did you choose to study at the Institute?
When I was first encouraged by my relatives to study at the Institute, my first reaction was not positive – politics or political science seemed to be a distant field for me. However, once I found out more information on various study programs and it was time to fill out the admission application forms, I no longer had any doubts about my choice. What fascinated me the most was the interdisciplinarity of these studies. It is not necessary to study the same subject for the whole 4 years, it’s possible try out many different fields – philosophy, economics, public policy, etc. For me, this has always been the greatest advantage of the Institute, as it allows the students to get to know themselves even better and discover themselves in exactly the area that appeals to them the most. While studying, I found out that the Institute provides numerous opportunities for this – it is possible to come up with unique topics for written work and choose the study subjects that best suit one’s interests. The lecturers of the Institute are well-known experts in our society, often seen in public analysing and interpreting ongoing political and social processes. For these reasons, I did not doubt that I would acquire exceptional higher education while studying at VU TSPMI.
You have extensive experience volunteering in a variety of organizations. What have these experiences given you?
The benefits of volunteering are twofold: on the one hand, it is an opportunity to express oneself through interesting activities. On the other hand, it inevitably contributes to one’s growth and development. Studies at the Institute help me to get a formal education, but it was my involvement in social activities that helped me to develop other, general competencies that are necessary for any area of life. For example, through a voluntary internship in the Office of the Equal Opportunities, I was not only able to contribute to activism on human rights issues but also gained experience working in a new team, which is inevitably beneficial for everyone entering the labour market. By voluntarily collecting data for the Media4Change study, I had the opportunity to contribute to the monitoring of political communication on human rights issues, which also allowed me to see more closely how this type of research is organized. Therefore, it is a very valuable exchange – it can not only contribute to solving various societal problems, but also allows to gain more experience in different spheres.
For three years you have been participating in the activities of VU SA (Vilnius University Student Representation). Initially here at the Institute, then at the central office of VU SA. What influence does VU SA have on studies at Vilnius University? What activities did you contribute to?
I believe that volunteering or involvement in various social activities is a necessary part of studying. The university is not limited to the study programme – an integral part of it is student organizations that help to get to know the community better and integrate into the academic environment. That is why, as soon as I started my studies, I joined the Student Representation of Vilnius University. In a number of years of activity, I had to contribute to different activities – the representation of students in the bodies of the University, the organization of community events, and monitoring Lithuanian education policy on higher education issues. Thus, this experience also allowed me to acquire a variety of different skills and expanded my knowledge on education. However, despite my skills and knowledge, the most important part of working at the VU Student Representation has always been people. Working in this organization, I found the closest friends and study friends, and I was also able to get to know the community of the Institute and of Vilnius University much better. I would consider being involved in this organization to be the main axis of my study experience – without VU SA, my time at the university would have been much less unforgettable.
Starting this September, you began working in the administration of the Institute. What does the job of an international officer look like?
I am delighted to have this opportunity to work at the Institute. After spending a year and a half at looking at a computer screen during remote classes and workshops, it seems to me like a kind of a return to a very close and heart-warming community. Although I have been working only for a few weeks, I already feel that it helps me get to know the part of the community that ordinary Lithuanian bachelor students may or may not meet – foreign students. By meeting them, answering their questions about the study process, I see how diverse the University is and make sure it is open to anyone seeking study and education, regardless of their country of origin or nationality. Together with them, these students bring their cultural experience, which lets us all understand each other and it becomes a great advantage for the Universities community and the whole Lithuanian society. As an international officer, I can help ensure a good quality study process for students coming to Vilnius and thus contribute to the further development of the internationality of studies.
What makes Vilnius attractive for Erasmus and Eastern European and Russian studies master’s programme students? Why should they choose to study at VU TSPMI?
I have heard that often one of the most important motives for incoming ERASMUS students is to get to know the other country better. VU TSPMI creates the most suitable conditions for achieving this goal: the study subjects of the Institute allow for a better understanding of the political, social, and cultural specifics of various regions of the world. Also, students who have chosen to study at VU TSPMI can communicate with lecturers with extensive experience in the analysis of international relations and social processes, so there is no doubt that the chosen study subjects will be of high quality. Finally, the Institute is located in the very centre of Vilnius, near the City Hall. It is a historically and culturally special place in the city and it is a great privilege to study here.
The new school year has begun. New students come to VU TSPMI auditoriums and after a long time, other students return from distance learning. What would you like to wish to the students of the Institute?
As I already mentioned in a previous question, I see the University as a wider space that provides not only higher education in a certain field of study, but also many different opportunities. Therefore, I would like to wish the students of the Institute to be independent, enterprising and try to take advantage of all the opportunities: actively participate in study activities, events organized by the Institute, discussions, join student organizations (there are many and very different), go abroad for part-time studies, in the activities of sports teams, etc. I have no doubt that this will allow us to get to know the University much closer, to communicate with the brightest minds in our society, to make new friends and to feel part of one big community. And then improvement and the pursuit of knowledge will become even more enjoyable.