Barakat Smoqi: My Exciting University Experience

nuotraukoje greta Barakato – VDU Socialinio darbo katedros profesorius Jonas Ruškus

While in Iraq, I was always searching for an opportunity to pursue a master’s degree in social work outside my country. I had a particular interest in Lithuanian universities due to their significant number of international students. One night in a displacement camp, as I was browsing Facebook, I came across a post announcing a vacant position to study a master’s degree in Social Work at VDU University. Without hesitation, I immediately filled out the application form. VDU had been my dream destination, and I was ready to seize this valuable opportunity.

After about a month had passed, I received an email congratulating me on my acceptance to VDU University. It was an indescribable moment of joy. I felt overwhelming happiness as if I were about to fulfill my dream. However, the road to reaching the university was not easy. I traveled to Turkey for an interview to obtain a Lithuanian visa since there is no Lithuanian embassy in Iraq. Unfortunately, my initial application was rejected. I felt a great sense of disappointment as I had left two jobs behind in Iraq and depleted my savings for this aspiration. But thanks to the university’s support and cooperation, they extended the attendance and document submission deadline, which helped me in attempting to reapply for the visa. After another 35 days, I finally obtained the visa.

Now, let me share a little about my experience at the university. Today, it has been almost fifteen days since I graduated from the university, obtaining a master’s degree in social work. Despite the remarkable academic system and organization, what truly enriched my experience was the kind and immensely helpful university community.

While at the university, I felt as if I were living among my family members. They greatly assisted me in facing the challenges I encountered and played a significant role in my personal and professional development. In fact, I felt such strong support that I unintentionally referred to it as “my university” in my defense letter instead of its actual name. For this reason, I am indebted to this university and feel deep gratitude towards it.

Based on my personal experience, I highly recommend this esteemed university, especially the Department of Social Work, to anyone seeking an excellent educational system and a strong academic background. The university provides exceptional education that meets the needs of the modern job market, and personally, I have benefited greatly in developing my practical skills and critical thinking.

Aside from the high-quality education, the university’s community is what really sets it apart. The social experience there was great, interacting with students of different nationalities and friendly and helpful faculty. They were always willing to help me in any way they could. It’s a really friendly university.

Erasmus+ students from Germany Laura Böttcher and Anne Kleinert

You have spent a semester as an Erasmus+ exchange student at the Faculty of Social Sciences at VMU. Why did you choose our university?

VMU is a partner university of the PH Heidelberg, so we found it on the list of potential ERASMUS opportunities. As we both didn´t know a lot about the country, it´s language or its culture, studying in Lithuania was a very interesting experience for us.

How would you generally describe your Erasmus+ experience and your experience at VMU?

We spent one semester in Lithuania with the ERASMUS+ programme. This programme provides a lot of support when it comes to planning and executing the stay (we had mentors in Germany and in Lithuania who we could always ask when problems occurred). When you want to study in another European country for one semester, ERASMUS+ is a great idea as you not only get organizational but also financial support.

In general, VMU appeared as a very modern and futuristic university to Anne. We were very impressed by their social media appearance (Instagram page of VMU with really good photos). The courses were very international as the offer of English courses was quite big. The people we got to meet there were also really nice and became really good friends. We also appreciated that the teachers were always replying so fast to e- mails and that they were very flexible (for example when we had to switch the exam to online very spontaneously because we were in contact with a friend who got the Covid-19).

What did you like the most during your studies at VMU?

We really enjoyed that the courses in general (field of social sciences) had so much focus on discussion. The input of the courses was very interesting.

Which useful competencies do you think you acquired during your Erasmus+ exchange period?

We got to improve our English and Lithuanian. We improved our competences in creative works (creating an Instagram profile, inventing myths, etc.), how to write essays and hold presentations in English. We got more open-minded and learned a lot about history, geography and culture, not only about Lithuania, but also about other parts of the world.

Would you recommend VMU for other students who want to study abroad? Why?

We would definitely recommend VMU for this experience. This is a great chance to learn about history, another culture and yourself.

What are your career plans for the future?

We are studying special education, so we are hoping to work with blind/ deaf people one day.


Interview conducted by Laura Lapinskė, International relations coordinator of the Faculty of Social Sciences at VMU