Next year he will graduate MBA at Latvia University of Agriculture and already from this semester he will start to teach students at Faculty of Economics and Social Development. Lakmal Kularante arrived to Latvia in 2014 from small country – Sri Lanka. At that time, he was looking on Latvia as on “kind of option”. However, now he is satisfied with his choice, enjoy the snow in winter, appreciates the fresh air, small living costs and people around him. He has become so used to living in Latvia that feel comfortable to stay here for a while.
How do you feel one step before becoming a lecturer in Latvia University of Agriculture?
It is pretty exciting, I feel my dream is becoming true now. Some time ago (before coming to Latvia), I had a dream to become a teacher. However, I already have some teaching experiences during my school time and bachelor degree time since I was helping my friends, also in my previous work in bank office I was training some of my colleagues. It’s not so new experience for me, however, now I will teach university students.
What will be your subject area?
I will teach Knowledge Management Innovations and I will take some practical sessions of Business Planning for MBA students.
You will be strict teacher or gentle one?
For some students, I will be a strict teacher. In my previous university in Latvia where I studied Business Financial Management I had experience with some international students who graduated and didn’t know what is balance sheet and how to calculate financial ratios. I think I won’t be strict but I will push my students to learn. It is important for university what employers will think about their graduates. From one part, of course, it is business but from the other side – it is education. We have to find kind of balance between business and quality because it is reputation of education institution. Therefore, I will make push my students to make them as smart graduates.
What are the differences between education system in Sri Lanka and Latvia?
In Sri Lanka situation is entirely different. If you have a degree from local university in Sri Lanka, you will have a very good recognition. But if you have degree from foreign university, which has some kind of collaborative office in Sri Lanka, you will not have similar recognition. Probably employers may ask you some difficult questions, which are not so easy to answer.
Also, exam system is different. It is very tough to get into university in Sri Lanka. University entrance school exam papers are designed by university professors and exams are very hard. Grading system includes A, B, C, S level or Fail. Students are selected to universities based on the level acquired during the exams and also base on the district you come from. For people from my district it is very hard to get into the Human Medical University. Students from less developed districts can go to the Human Medical University with two “B” and one “A” level but from my district it is not enough even if you have 75% marks for your “A” level in biology, chemistry and physics, you have to have at least 85% marks for “A”. That’s why a lot of students are going to foreign countries to obtain higher education. In Sri Lanka,these days university entrance exams are going on and 315 000 students are writing exams, from them maybe 215 000 students will qualify for the university but only 30 000 can get to the university. At least 15 000 may go to foreign universities in Sri Lanka and maybe other 2000 will go to other countries, rest of guys will search for the job, go to technical studies or stay at home.
How did you decide to come to Latvia?
I got to know about studies in Latvia from my friend who came with me to Latvia. At the beginning, I didn’t plan to go to Europe. I planned to go to Australia but I realized that my budget was sufficient only for the first study year because per course I had to pay 2700 Australian dollars. Per year I would have 12 courses. So, you have to multiply 2700 with each study course... Then I thought about New Zealand but again I realized I don’t have enough money for the third semester. Then I was thinking about Germany because education there is for free. But I realized it takes a lot of time and there is lack of chance to get admission. Then one of my friends told me about Latvia. Also, my cousin sister’s friend, who at that time was in Belarus told me that Latvia is cheap place to live and study.
Usually people in Sri Lanka search education in UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand because of English. In these countries costs are very expensive but here costs are very cheap and you do have English medium courses. In India and Sri Lanka most of people are in middle income class. For them Latvia is kind of best place to study.
What did surprise you when you arrived to Latvia?
It was in 2014. First of all, I was shocked to see an airport. I expected that it will be big. But it was like a shop! Then by driving from airport I saw a lot of empty areas. Now I am used to this. After graduation in Rīga I moved to Jelgava and I like it better. People are much friendlier here than in Rīga. People use to smile and I feel comfortable with staying here. Also, Latvia is very safe place. Few weeks age one of my bachelor degree friends asked is it safe for a girl to study and live in Latvia. I said: “Of course, you will feel here safer than in Sri Lanka!”
Are you satisfied with your studies at LLU?
I didn’t expect so much things from the university but I am very happy with my choice. It may seem strange but I even didn’t hear about Latvia University of Agriculture when I was in Rīga. I was searching information in Study in Latvia portal and found this MBA programme by myself. Then I talked to one of my Latvian friends and he told that his friend’s wife Dina is working in the same faculty I want to apply! The most interesting thing I like here is the opportunity to do sport. I am badminton player and I can play it here. In June, I represented LLU in the higher education institutions competition Latvijas Universiāde and we won the third place.
During your study time, you also used opportunity to go for exchange studies. What was your experience?
It was awesome! Actually, I have used this opportunity twice. When I was studying 1st Master degree, I was in Poland, University of Economics in Katowice. We were approximately 80 to 90 international students, who lived in dormitory and felt like one family. When we went somewhere out we looked like a small pride. Even once police questioned us because it looked like a protest (laughing).
Previous semester in my MBA studies I spent in Nitra, Slovakia. There were around 25 – 27 international students and we also kept together. This semester I will meet a friend from Nitra who will be my student now. I am a travel lover and during my Erasmus time every weekend I planned a trip. I traveled to Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, France and Switzerland. That’s all just within 3 months’ time.
Now you live in dormitory together with Latvian students, not international once. Probably you can speak Latvian already?
A little. During my first semester, I had lessons in Latvian language. I can manage basic communication but still I have 99% grammar mistakes (laughing). I can read what is written on products in the shop if there are some similar words with English.
Are you planning to stay in Latvia after graduation?
Yes, but I don’t know for how long time. At this moment, I prefer to stay here. The living is quite cheap comparing with other European countries. Also, I like winter in Latvia because of snow. We don’t have it in Sri Lanka. And I like public transport. In Sri Lanka there is long traffic, smog, noise. In Sri Lanka, we have 20 million people in the same size land as Latvia. In our capital are more than 2 million people, it is more than in Latvia whole. If you will open the window of the public transport, your face will be dark and oily. However, the biggest advantage for Latvia is people. They are a little bit cold because Latvians take some time to become friends.
Describe Latvia in three words!
Cold, but the best!