Writers: Liudmyla Germanyuk, Mariia Lysikova
Photos provided by the interviewees
Not everyone had the chance to travel to another country in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, the group of Erasmus+ students from Hungary and Germany was lucky enough to come to study at LCC International University and explore Lithuania. Meet Sarah Zimmermann, Dóri Farkas, and Elli Steglich.
The girls chose Lithuania as their destination since they wanted to explore more of Europe and become a part of the welcoming international community.
“My first aim was to improve my English speaking skills. At first, I wanted to go to Ireland but the country didn’t accept Erasmus students because of the pandemic. My university offered three other options, one of which was LCC International University, and I don’t regret that decision,” said Dóri the Erasmus+ student from Hungary.
Sarah Zimmermann, another exchange student from Germany, shared that, for her, the most crucial factor for coming here was the wide variety of classes that students could choose from that is not available in Internationale Hochschule Liebenzell, her home university. She studies Social Work and Theology, so she could choose between theological and psychological classes simultaneously, which was not possible in Germany.
“During the first quarter, one of my professors invited us to dinner at her house for every class. We enjoyed the meals and discussed the class material, which was awesome,” Sarah shared.
“After my A-levels, I went to Moldova for a voluntary year, which got me interested in the East European countries a little more. The fact that I only knew very little about Lithuania made me even more curious. During the application process for LCC, I was talking to some students from my home university who spent one semester at LCC and heard a lot of positive things as well,” shared Elli Steglich, a German student from Internationale Hochschule Liebenzell University.
Though the students from Germany had to go through mandatory self-isolation upon their arrival, they were excited to join in-person classes afterward.
Elli shared that she felt quite safe because Lithuania, like Germany, is part of the European Union and that gave her some feeling of security regarding the travel restrictions, “Coming here, this is exactly what I heard from others: other exchange students and I were warmly welcomed and looked after by the international office with its staff and the responsible students. Thanks for that!”
“It wasn’t scary to apply for Erasmus in the midst of a pandemic because I knew that LCC would take good care of me and other students. I took that risk and never had the feeling that was a wrong decision to come here,” Sarah added.
The students also stressed the importance of the international LCC community in their experience.
“In Károli Gáspár University, the Psychology department is separated from the rest of the university in terms of location, events, and studies. I don't really have the chance to meet students from other majors, whereas at LCC all students study on the same campus and are very engaged in the lives of each other,” shared Dóri.
Sarah Zimmermann added that because of the welcoming atmosphere here, she joined some extracurricular activities such as Chapel band and the team of IUC photographers that showed her the variety of interests LCC students have.
“I traveled a lot at the beginning of the academic year, but right now that’s not possible. Some trips that were made for us by the Erasmus leaders were canceled. However, we still had the chance to explore the fascinating parts of Lithuania such as Palanga and Nida during Fall break before going completely online,” said Sarah.
While the vast majority of their experiences was positive, the dangers of COVID-19 still have an effect on Erasmus students’ stay in Lithuania.
“A big part that we missed out on are all the events that usually take place at LCC and the opportunity to travel around more in Lithuania,” said Elli when asked about some of the unfortunate circumstances caused by the pandemic. “But that does not mean that we could not experience or see anything at all!”
“My biggest challenge here happened when I had to go to self-isolation two weeks ago because of feeling ill. I had to call the Lithuanian COVID-19 hotline, register for the COVID-19 test, and arrange transportation to the testing site, so that was really stressful. I’m grateful to everyone who supported me and I’m glad that it’s over,” shared Dóri
Despite some unforeseen circumstances that the pandemic has brought, the Erasmus students still enjoy their exchange experience. Elli stated that “despite the COVID circumstances I can only recommend an exchange semester at LCC – and I will and did already. This semester was an enriching and valuable time for me that I would not want to miss.”