He has been shocked by the different varieties of alcohol, and the strong spirits, that are sold in supermarkets. Also, the high skyscraper apartments in Vilnius’ suburbs - that almost all look the same, also surprise him.
After classes, he rolls up his sleeves and bakes bread, makes pizza or his own Greek yogurt. If he finds a PhD programme that interests him, he plans to stay longer in Vilnius for studies and research.
- Why did you come to Vilnius?
- I was working with refugees in Greece, after I got my Bachelor’s Degree at Democritus University in Thrace. I wanted to study abroad for my Master’s. I was researching different universities in Europe and I looked at universities in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany, and U.K. I was looking for a university where I could study for my Master’s.
It took me eight months to find and research different universities. I noticed that Mykolas Romeris University has a Master’s in Strategic Border Management.
I worked with refugees in Greece and I did research on border security. I then decided to see what other programmes were available at MRU. I saw the Master’s in Social Work with Children and Youth and became interested.
It’s 3 semesters. It’s in Lithuania. It’s in the Baltic countries. It’s an opportunity to conduct research in the Baltic countries. It triggered my interest. I made a lot of inquiries.
I also looked closely at universities in Denmark, Belgium, Germany, and Sweden, but it was this University that had the programme that interested me. Also, the prices were competitive in Lithuania.
- What did you know about Lithuania before coming?
- I knew nothing at all about Lithuania. For me, as for many other Greeks, it was not a well known country.
For a researcher, it is something new. My professors in Greece had compared different countries and talked about social policy in the Baltics. It was very interesting for me. Everything now is of interest to me here – the people, their way of life, social policies, etc.
As a social worker, you always find problems, divorces or a family in crisis. It is a challenge to be in Lithuania now because there has not been much research done on Lithuania.
- You are here for several months. What has surprised you about Vilnius?
- I went to the supermarket recently. I was shocked by how many alcoholic drinks are offered for sale. Also, many sweets are sold. But, you really have a wide array of strong alcohol for sale. I was shocked.
In Greece, alcohol takes up only a small shelf in a supermarket. The choices here are huge. How does the government allow this?
I saw a father with two children and he came to the “Lidl” supermarket just to buy 3 beers, but no food. The children looked undernourished, almost pale. It was sad. If I were in Greece, I would approach the father and say something to him. A social worker in such a situation must intervene in Greece. It’s our obligation. The shocking thing is that the father is an alcoholic and he is going to the supermarket and buying only beers in front of his children. This kind of information is important for a social worker.
In Greece, people who are down and out get food cards and can buy only food, but not alcohol with these cards. In my country alcoholics and drug users don’t get money. They get food stamps.
- What do you think about Vilnius?
- There is lots of potential in this city. I like the buses and the convenient public transportation system. It is very good. This is positive.
You have a beautiful, vibrant city here and students, like me, do love it here.
- What else did you notice?
- I like the open spaces in Vilnius. In Greece, we have a very dense population and there is less room for parks. But, in Vilnius, I noticed that you have these post – Soviet, ugly buildings. The first day that I spent walking around Fabijoniškės was very shocking. The buildings were all of the same style and there was a lot of grey. My reaction was: “Oh my God, how the people live here!” I think part of the reason for such grey buildings is that architects are used to making cheap buildings. In Greece, we have a jungle of concrete as well.
- You enjoy cooking and are known to bake your own bread.
- Yes, I really enjoy cooking. That way I can control what I eat. I prefer to cook myself and often make pizza and other dishes in the dorm. I bake my own bread. I make Greek yogurt myself here in Vilnius with milk and some yeast that I brought from Greece. In Vilnius, the Greek yogurt that is sold is only called Greek, but not really so. I noticed that students from France and Italy also like to cook themselves and are often in the supermarkets looking for ingredients.
- You also mentioned that there are too many sweets sold here in the supermarket. I thought that Greeks like to eat sweets?
- After dinner, after we have a meal, we like to eat sweets. Here, in Lithuania, I noticed that you eat sweets as a main meal, whereas in Greece never. Here in the supermarket there is so many different baked goods, sweets, chocolate for sale that it is hard to resist. I watch and see how people behave in the supermarket here and as a researcher it is interesting for me. I often see Lithuanian parents buying sweets for their children, instead of ingredients to make dinner. You are a parent, so make something at home for your children.
- You plan to pursue a PhD after studies in Vilnius?
- Yes, I would like to stay in Vilnius and continue studies here. But there is no PhD in Social Work or in Criminology here that I can find. That is a shame. I think if a smart plan, an aggressive plan is established, Vilnius perhaps could become the Eldorado of higher education in the region. But, it needs to offer more variety in programmes and a wider choice for students.
Lithuania has a lot of opportunities with education and with proper management, it would flourish. Perhaps forming more joint programmes with universities abroad would help make more study choices available for students. I hope so. You have a beautiful, vibrant city here and students, like me, do love it here.