It is interesting to travel but sometimes it is even more curious to meet people from abroad in your own country. Vytautas Magnus University is known for its international atmosphere, in 2018 over 1200 international students studied here. This semester I am learning Spanish language with a French girl who agreed to tell me a little bit about her experience in Lithuania. Marie Morillon is an 18-year-old “Erasmus+“ student who came to Kaunas for the spring semester of 2019.
Why did you choose to come to Lithuania?
My university asked me if I want to go on “Erasmus+“, it is mentored for second-year bachelor students. I wanted to go to Budapest in the first place but it was not possible, my place was taken by other students. After that I chose Kaunas, I didn‘t know the city before. I am pretty surprised, it is a very nice city, the people are very kind.
What subjects are you studying here? Is the learning system here different from the one you are used to in France?
My major is political sciences. The program here is very interesting. Here I have these subjects: international relations, politics in post-soviet states and global politics. Actually, there are no big differences between the learning systems. At home, we also have “Moodle” but it is not used that often. In both universities there are discussions in the lectures, seminars. The difference is that we don‘t have midterms, only the exams at the end of the semester.
Did you have any stereotypes about Lithuania before coming here?
I thought the winter here would be very cold, with a lot of snow. I was surprised because I saw the snow for just two weeks after I came here at the end of January. I was satisfied by nice weather, I took the right jacket here. Also, I thought that Kaunas was going to be a little town but it is quite a big city with many people, bars and restaurants.
What are your hobbies?
I do sports here, I read books. During “Erasmus+” I have visited some places in Lithuania: I went to Klaipėda, Palanga, I go to Vilnius every weekend because I have a friend from my university there. I went to Estonia, Finland, and Budapest. Erasmus is a very big opportunity for me to travel. Other than that I just study.
What stereotypes about French people are true? Are there any stereotypes that you’d like to break?
It is true that many French people drink wine every day, but it’s just one glass. It is a part of our culture because we have very good wine. Cheese and bread are good too, I miss it while being here. Secondly, French people truly don‘t like to speak other languages. For example, for me it is difficult to speak in English. Yes, we study English at school and in the university but we do not have a chance to speak it every day, so it becomes quite hard.
Is it hard for you to communicate with people here?
It is not difficult here. In the markets, people don‘t always speak English, but in shops like “Akropolis” gestures are enough to be understood. After coming to Kaunas, at first I thought that the people here are so sad and serious, but once you speak to them, you see that it isn’t true. In general, people are very nice and willing to help.
If you could give advice to Lithuanians, what could it be? What would you like to change here?
You have nice parks and a lot of trees, but the streets don‘t have a lot of colors. I would say that the buildings could be more colorful. And people could smile more here.
Have you learned anything in Lithuanian? How does it sound to you?
I study Lithuanian here in courses for foreigners, so I know some basic phrases. It is always interesting to learn other languages. But the language itself is really different from what I am used to hearing, I couldn’t distinguish it.