Student Muhammad Saleem from Pakistan came to Vilnius to gain knowledge and skills that he could apply once he returned home to Pakistan. The 23-year-old student came to the interview dressed in his national costume – an elegant waistcoat with the flag of Pakistan in his lapel. Saleem was excited as Lithuania was the first European country he has visited. He will spend the next 2 years immersed in Master's Degree studies in the MRU joint "Social Work with Children and Youth" programme. He is the perfect representative of his country as 60% of Pakistan’s population is under 25 years of age. He agreed to answer a few questions.
You came to Vilnius for studies. Why did you choose to study here?
Because I want to get a degree from a university in Europe in the area of Social Work. Then I plan to return to Pakistan and apply what I learned in practice. While in Pakistan – in Peshawar, I was a volunteer and also worked as a social worker. I became interested in studies in Vilnius because I found a Master’s Degree programme in Social Work with Children offered by Mykolas Romeris University. I plan to write my Master’s thesis comparing social services offered to youth and children in Lithuania and in Pakistan.
How did you find out about studies in Lithuania?
One of my friends recommended this programme. I searched the Internet and found this Master’s Degree programme. I am happy and excited that I got admitted to study in Vilnius. In Pakistan, many want to get a degree from a European university. I will be the first in my family to graduate with a degree from a university in Europe. I promised my mother that I would not return to Pakistan until I completed my Master’s Degree.
What did you know about Lithuania before arriving here?
That the population is 3-million and that Lithuania broke away from the Soviet Union. It is amazing to me that 95% of the people are educated here. Many have degrees from institutions of higher education. Also, you have one of the fastest internet services in Europe. But, I am here to gain knowledge in my field and also to find out more about Lithuania. I want to learn about Lithuanian culture and more about holidays in your country – especially about the Independence Day holidays.
How are you faring here? Anything that you especially like?
I am happy with the bus transport system. For 6 Euros – per month you can go anywhere. Even when I travel to another Lithuanian city, I can get a student discount. I have also noticed that Lithuanian people are very helpful to strangers. Once, when I got lost in the city and did not have Internet and forgot my hostel address, a local Vilnius resident rushed to help me. He allowed me to use his phone. He helped me so much.
What challenges do you face living in Lithuania?
Language problems. There is a barrier. It’s a big issue for me because I don’t speak the Lithuanian language. Also, there is the issue with food. As Muslims, we don’t eat pork. We are limited in what we can eat here in Lithuania, so often I find myself eating chicken with rice. I have found one supermarket in Vilnius that sells Pakistani basmati rice.
It must be difficult for you as a student living in Lithuania during the quarantine?
Yes and no. It is a good opportunity to meet other students from the dorm from different countries and learn about their culture and traditions. I have already met students from Italy, Ukraine, Turkey, Germany, Spain and Nigeria. Living in the dormitory here at Mykolas Romeris University is like living in a “home environment.” The atmosphere is very international. There is no time to be bored. Also, I have to study and read much. Time will pass quickly during the quarantine.