Erasmus+ experience: Stepping outside the LLU box
Ms. Amanda Kļaviņa is a LLU 4th year student at the Faculty of Information Technologies and prospective programmer. One year ago, in autumn, she continued to improve her knowledge and skills not at Jelgava, but at Malta's College of Arts, Science and Technology as part of Erasmus+ exchange programme. She is very pleased with her experience and recommends to be a part of this programme to all of the students.
“Everything is okay there, everything will be okay there, you can go there!”
Amanda said that participating in erasmus+ programme was her wish for a long time, but she hesitated to go abroad alone. Her sister inspired her to go as she once was LLU student and chose to participate in Erasmus adventure too.
“I knew how good this experience was for my sister and wanted to have the same experience for myself. But I was scared, because it was completely unknown environment for me. Before going myself there our Dean Mr. Gatis Vītols visited Malta’s University and thanks to him I made my decision, because he showed us the photos un said: “Everything is okay there, everything will be okay there, you can go there!”. Long story short- I with bunch of other students from ITF packed our stuff and travelled to Malta. Studying in this group felt safer,” Ms. Amanda told about hear fears of going to another country.
One of the main reasons on why she chose Malta was the language, because this countrys’ one of the official languages is English and she didn’t want to learn another foreign language in parallel with other studies. In college, in which Amanda studied, the study process was organized in English. This is a significant difference from other countries in southern Europe, where students often need to learn the language of the host country, since the teaching staff do not lead their lessons in English.
As Amanda went to Malta with the aim of studying and acquiring a new professional experience, the language issue was very important to her. She had promised not to miss lectures and study hard, and she was holding her promise. Only after that she realised that the country is very warm and beautiful, which typically is the first thing that students look at while deciding on where to go. As she said that the warm weather and clear blue water that you can swim in late October was like a bonus to the mobility.
Additionally, it was equally important for mobility to find the course that will be easily recognized by LLU. Amanda said that: “I didn’t want to tear myself apart when returning home, I wanted to find subjects that are available in host country and will be recognized at my home country”.
While studying in Malta I stepped outside the LLU box and understood that there are other boxes too
Amanda finds herself a real LLU and ITF patriot. She has not changed her thoughts after Erasmus mobility, but now her opinion has become more justified and more balanced.
“I gained so much. I stepped out of the LLU box and understood that there are other boxes too. Before that I had only LLU, LLU was the best and I saw only LLU. I still think that, but at the same time I saw how different it can be somewhere else. I passed my good experience to ITF, so they would know about different approaches. I expanded my world up to 100%. A lot of my thoughts have changed. It was new experience in living, being in totally different place” said Amanda.
Amanda studied together with Maltese students’, because there were no individual study groups for international students. Usually, the teaching staff taught in Maltese, but as soon as there was one Erasmus + student in the audience, the teaching staff used English language. But there was situations where the professor spoke in English, asked the question in English, but students asked and replied in Maltese. Then the professor answered in both languages.
In Malta she attended five courses, but they were very in-depth, as she explained that every working day was full with lectures the whole semester. A huge emphasis has been on practical works, the theory part was in in a minimal quantity, but to pass the quiz or prepare course works, without the knowledge of theory, it could not be done.
Interestingly, college is built with open corridors. Although they are already rebuilding them. IT's still in an old-style building where the corridors are beneath a clear sky: if it rains, then everything is wet. Moreover, Maltese cannot be proud of the most advanced technology and ultra-fast Wi-Fi, but the teaching staff are very knowledgeable and professional. Amanda adds: “We have such a good internet, also at LLU! A normal Internet was only available through a wire and correctly configuring settings."
Shooting all day long. Did the war started?
Student life outside university was as intensive as study life in Malta. Amanda says that Maltese people know how to celebrate the festivities. Paradoxically, Maltese have learned to make a real sense of Christmas even without snow, but they are enough with Christmas trees, dwarf parades and markets. Moreover, the Erasmus + organisation is at a very good level and has a wide range of events that they organize.
“For example, a party on board all day long, swimming in clear blue water, hiking in the mountains or a Halloween party with costumes. A whole town meant to party, similar to our Old Town, but more stuffed with clubs, bars, and something else. I never sang karaoke in my life. Well, now I have done that! (laughs) The Maltese are crazy with fireworks, they also shoot in daylight. The first days of our arrival we heard that sounds of shooting all day long and we thought that maybe war has started? Turns out, no. In honour of some festivities they shoot fireworks all day. In the evenings I would go out on the balcony, drink tea and watch fireworks for half an hour, or learn, look out the window, and “Vou, fireworks!” But in the New Year’s Eve oddly enough the fireworks weren’t so stylish. “I guess they ran out of fireworks by then,” Amanda says.
Malta is southern land, at the end of October, Amanda has enjoyed sunbathing at +24 degrees, nature is generally grey and brownish, and it becomes greener in winter. In December, it was cold, because they don’t have heating system. Some Maltese have air conditioner with heater, but Amanda didn't even have that. She was forced to cover up with several sheets and buy a heater.
Why no, when it can be yes?
Asked whether to suggest Erasmus + studies for others, Amanda responds with an unambiguous “yes.” In her opinion, every experience is a good experience, but Erasmus + is a really great opportunity when partly or completely everything is paid for. Without study experience, it is also an opportunity to look at another country and to learn another culture. Although Malta is slightly bigger than Riga, Amanda has not managed to see all of the possibilities this country gives, but her goal was different, so traveling wasn’t a priority.
“The experience gained – oh god, it’s huge. It is underestimated in the beginning and often understood only after you come back. Even your thinking changes. At least I changed it for 180 degrees. If you are more timid, you get out of your comfort zone. I had a huge fear of being somewhere in an unknown place, like up to tears. I drove to Erasmus + with everyone together, but I was going somewhere and doing something on my own. I came home from Erasmus + and after a month I flew to Korea through Russia to visit my sister. Simple like that! Before that, I could never have done it in my life. With the experience I had, I changed my “no” to “yes, let’s do it”.
If a student is afraid to go to Erasmus + mobility because of inadequate foreign language knowledge, then Amanda recommends to take language courses before going. Perhaps the first few weeks or month will be harder, but after some time period you will get used to it and start to understand most of the things.