Learn IT by doing and put on your warm jacket!
When he was only five years old, he already liked computers, so it was not surprising that he chose to study IT at university. But at that time, he couldn’t imagine that his life will take him to Latvia – 7450 km from his home city Guntur in India. Supported and encouraged by his Dad, Gowtham Satti came to study Information Technologies for Sustainable Development at Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies. Although the interview was done at the time when Gowthan was studying mainly virtually through video lectures and fulfilled individual tasks because of COVID – 19 restrictions, he had gained a lot of interesting study experience before the pandemic started in the world and is willing to share it with others.
What was the reason to choose Latvia and LLU?
I wanted to go to study at a university that provides practical lessons. I searched for a lot of universities in India. We have a lot of good universities, but mostly there are very theoretical studies. So, I started to search for universities abroad. My first choice was Germany, but their students have to pass the German test. But when I wanted to apply for the test, all the seats were occupied before. It was like an open application procedure, but in a minute, everything was full. So I was looking for other universities. Then I searched for universities in Italy, but I passed all the application deadlines, and I could apply only for the next semester. Then the international coordinator from LLU came to India, and he told everything about LLU and Latvia. I liked his story. I got to know that I will have the opportunity to study in a calm place and get a convenient education. I checked the curriculum, and I liked that there are different subjects from different fields, not just IT and technical subjects. It fit my interests. Since I'm 5 years old, I like computers. I mostly played computer games, but I also like physics, chemistry, and almost every field. So, I understood that it would be the right choice for me. Also, my Dad had a significant influence on me. He encouraged me to go and explore the world. So, I came to Latvia in February 2018.
Did you know something about Latvia before you came here?
I knew the Baltic States but not very specific information about Latvia. In the meeting where I got to know about LLU, the international coordinator said that education would be very practical in Latvia. Also, it has beautiful nature, forests, etc. Before coming to Latvia, my Dad contacted other Indian student Rakesh who graduated here from the Faculty of Food Technology. Now he lives and works in Saldus. It is always good to know the place before going there.
What did he suggest you to do before coming to Latvia?
He suggested taking a lot of spices and warm clothes! He said: "It is important, the rest you will get in Latvia." And that's true. Being an Indian, I like spicy food. Latvians don't eat much spicy food. Also, here are not so many vegetables as we have in India. Usually, I cook by myself, but sometimes I go somewhere to eat. In the first semester, I used to cook most of the time, but I started to go out to eat during the second semester to get to know more Latvian cuisine. I like Latvian bread.
When you came here – did you receive what you was expected to have?
I was expecting a lot of snow, but there was only a little bit of snow when I arrived. But the next month, there was a lot of snow (laughing). Studies are super comfortable. Nature… I expected something different, and it is so. People sometimes speak English, but I had Latvian classes at the beginning of my study year, but now I can understand people. I can’t talk in Latvian, but I can understand at least half of the content people speak.
What’s the biggest difference between Latvia and India?
Cold and snow. In the summer, I was expecting to be more relaxed, but I still feel a lot of heat here. I think it's hot here!
Is there some differences in education system in Latvia and India?
It’s a totally different approach to studies, and I like it very much in Latvia. Not so many assignments, not so strict schedule, not so many books to read. In India, we have to learn from books a lot. In Latvia, we get the preliminary information during lectures, and we learn mainly by doing. Either you learn, or you do. If you learn, you will do less because you won’t have time for that. We do more hands-on here. And I like that approach. Also, the tuition fee is okay. In India, there are several private universities where the amount of tuition fees is similar.
What have you learnt in the Faculty of Information Technologies?
The faculty is very excellent, I have met the best teachers here. I don't need to put a lot of effort into my studies. I can go to the classes, listen to what they say, and take the exam the next day. They are super good in what they are teaching, and the Dean of our faculty is a very cool guy! He supported me very much.
What are your impressions of student life in Jelgava?
The Jelgava palace is magnificent, they are renovating it now, it is much more beautiful now compared with the time I came here. In the second semester, I visited the library in the palace. It wasn't so big as I expected, but I can sit there freely, even when I am not working. There's a lot of space where I can have some peace of mind. And the palace is very close to the dormitory. In the dormitory, I got to know a lot of friends from different faculties and countries. I also have some friends from Latvia. My neighbour from India is working here in Latvia, so I got to know a lot of Latvians through him. And at the same time, I know around 20 -30 Indians here. Sometimes people come to me for help - to fix their computer (laughing).
What your parents said about your choice to study abroad?
My Dad always supported me, but of course, he didn't want me to leave the family. But he always kept me and my decisions. Every summer, I go back to India. But during the time in Latvia, I have entirely changed to Latvian mindset. As a result, when I go back to India, it takes me a day to adapt to a busy life and sounds. I like being in calm places like Jelgava. It takes time to adjust to sounds and busy things in India again.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in Latvia?
To understand the signs, to understand what is written on the board because everything is in Latvian. Fortunately, I had wi-fi everywhere, and I could translate everything. But from one point of view, it was good that everything is in Latvian because it forced me to learn and remember these words. The first semester was exciting. It was very challenging to find the right places. Once my neighbour and I went to the city to find a shop. We asked for directions to the shop, but some people were afraid of us. They were literally running from us (laughing). Then we met another guy and asked for direction. He actually dropped us in the place in his car. Then we forgot the address for the dormitory (laughing). But it was only during the first five days. After that, we didn’t have problems in the city.
Have you noticed some cultural differences between Latvia and India?
European culture and Indian culture is different. Usually, we assess culture by the way how people dress or how they act with their families. The first semester I thought that it is different here in Latvia comparing with India. But later on, I started to look at people, and I understood that people go out with their families as we do in India. It changed my mind. The first impression was different. You always have to get to know people deeper.
Latvians are quite cold not just to internationals but also to new people in general but only initially. When you get to know them, they may be super cool. To better understand Latvian culture, I visited an open-air museum. The guide told everything about Latvia, how Latvians used to live, get married, etc. Also, I was in the War museum, where I got to know more about Latvia's history.
You went to Erasmus+ to Hungary at your third semester. What was your experience?
My experience wasn't as I expected. Firstly, I didn't get the subjects I expected. Also, the education system was similar to India, which I don't like so much. You have to study more books and theory, and there are less practical things. Of course, you can do it, but it is still hard, and you lack practical knowledge. I was studying a lot of books during the night. It's good from one point of view, but it is a nightmare from the other sight (laughing). But I met some great friends from different countries – Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, South Korea, and China. The exchange program's biggest benefit was improving English, learning of different cultures, and learning how people act in different situations. Also, I saw a lovely Budapest.
How do you explain to your friends and family where you are now?
First, I start with Europe. Then the Baltic Sea. Then they usually ask about language. I say - it is Latvian. Then they typically ask about a second language. I say - it's Russian.
What can you say about Latvia to other people in few words?
Firstly, it is calm, then cold, warm, and then good. It's Everything together. I have seen very different people, but when I don't have a warm jacket, everybody says: "Take a warm jacket! Put a jacket!" Even though if I feel hot, I really appreciate their caring.
What can you suggest to other students based on your experience?
About university - don’t think about other choices. Just come to this university! About Latvia -take spices, and that’s it!