Philippine student Jeffrey Razonabe is not your typical Master‘s Degree student at MRU. He lectures online to Social Work students in the Philippines at the University of Southern Philippines Foundation. He has a license as a registered social worker in the Philippines and has plans to study in a PhD programme in Europe. For now, he is celebrating many „firsts“ in Vilnius. Jeffrey will spend his first winter in Europe – in Vilnius and can’t wait to see snow and build his first snowman. It‘s the 1st time he has ever visited Europe and he‘s getting accustomed to colder weather. “I am ignorant about winter and I want to prepare,” said the 25-year-old Master’s Degree student. But Social Work is his real passion and the reason he enrolled in the “European Joint Master in Social Work with Children and Youth“ programme.
What brings you to Vilnius, and to Lithuania?
I had the opportunity to study in an international joint Master Social Work programme and decided to apply. Our professors and academics in the Philippines know about the Erasmus+ studies opportunity and inform students about possibilities to study in Europe. Now I am privileged to study in a programme that allows students to spend time not only studying at MRU in Vilnius, but also in Portugal, in Latvia and in Slovakia. When I was accepted at Mykolas Romeris University for the fall semester, I had to pack my bags and leave Cebu, Philippines. It is a 20-hour flight from Manila to Istanbul and then about 3 hours more until you reach Vilnius.
-This is the first time that you are in Europe?
Yes, it is my first time in Europe. Lithuania is a very memorable country for me because it’s the first European country I’ve visited. My whole life I had dreamed to come to Europe and study here, so it is my dream that I am now living. I plan to visit other countries in the region while I am here. I have plans to go to Denmark soon.
-What did you know about Lithuania before coming here?
Honestly, I didn’t know anything about Lithuania. But, when I was awarded the scholarship, I had to check the map to see where exactly Lithuania is located.
-How do you like Vilnius now that you have spent your first month here?
People are very warm and friendly here. I was afraid of the weather. It is a very different climate here. Recently I went to the shopping mall and had to ask a Lithuanian sales lady to help me find a pair of warm shoes. She did. Now I am ready for the cold winter that I am told is not far off.
-Anything that surprises you here?
I am surprised how well organized and how inexpensive the public transport is in Vilnius. It is a great way to get around at an affordable price. Also, the Vilnius airport surprised me because it is located in a green, forested area. You have many forests. Vilnius and especially the airport are very clean. Already I have gotten so accustomed to Vilnius and the rhythm of life here that I can say that I feel at home here. Vilnius has become my second home.
-So Lithuania has surpassed your expectations?
Yes, it has exceeded my expectations. I am a person that wants to see Lithuania and how people have preserved their identity over the last several decades. When I go to the Vilnius Old Town, I feel like history, like the past, comes alive. In the Philippines you can’t see such old, well-preserved buildings, cobblestone streets. We don’t have any old buildings. It is all new buildings with a style of Japanese, American architecture.
-You have accumulated vast knowledge in the Social Work area and teach the subject in the Philippines. Why did you decide to become a student again?
We have a saying in the Philippines that in order to escape poverty, one must work hard and you have to get an education. When I began studies, my family could not afford to send me to university. I did odd jobs including washing clothes and helping students write term papers in order to get money for studies. Now I have an Erasmus+ scholarship and this allows me to devote all my time to studies here in Vilnius. I’m ambitious and crave to learn as much as I can about the area of Social Work. I can then pass on my knowledge to students in the Philippines.
-What are your plans after completing your Master’s Degree?
I would like to study in a doctoral programme relating to Social Work that is offered in Lisbon, Portugal. That would be my plan. I will also continue teaching at the University of Southern Philippines Foundation, where I am lecturing in the field of Social Work.