This is me, Jeanette Mattsson, 33 years old, and I from Sweden. I grew up on a farm with the dream of becoming a veterinarian. I had been working in the human medicine field for the past 10 years, and while the years passed by, I gave up on my dream little by little. I told myself it was too late, that I will be too old when I graduate. But think about it, those years will pass by anyway, and as the quote I later decided to tattoo on my body says: “Don’t give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” Now I am a 5th year Veterinary student, and I don’t regret a moment for taking this opportunity!
Why did you decide to study abroad?
Even though I would love to answer this question with an inspiring answer such as, I saw an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of other countries and the world; that I could see myself learning a new language and appreciate other cultures, and so on. The truth is a bit different. Those mentioned things came to be true as well, but in the beginning, the answer would have been, because my grades from earlier education were not high enough to apply in my home country, Sweden, and I was searching for options.
How did you find LSMU, and why did you choose Veterinary Medicine?
My answer to why I chose Veterinary Medicine is probably the same as of the majority of students in this program; it was a dream from a very young age, and I have always felt a special connection with animals. But since getting into Vet-school was practically impossible for me in Sweden, I started to give up on this dream, and I did not even think about the option to look for a Veterinary education abroad. After browsing the internet, I found an event in Sweden about studying abroad, more specifically, in Australia, where they offered a Business Management program. I thought that it would not hurt to go to the event and listen to what they had to say.
I went to the event, and there I met a woman that happened to be an LSMU ambassador, she told me about this Veterinary program in Lithuania and encouraged me to apply right away.
And without hesitating, I applied, expecting to not get accepted.
Imagine my surprise when they later told me I was accepted, and that I would start in just a few months!
Does life and study in Lithuania meet your expectations?
To be honest, I did not really know what to expect the day I moved to this country. I tried to do some research before, and being a control freak that I am, I sent messages to my mentor as soon as I got accepted to the program, asking all kinds of different questions. But it is difficult to imagine how it will be to leave everything familiar in your home country and move to a place where you do not know anyone and do not understand a single word coming out of the people’s mouths.
How student life looks like in LSMU? What does a typical day involve for a vet student?
In the Veterinary program at LSMU, it is obligatory to attend both labs and practical classes as well as the theoretical lectures. The days are sometimes very long since classes can start at 8.00 in the morning, and it is not uncommon to finish late in the afternoon. Some classes have even been scheduled until 19.00 in the evening. Even if the days at the University are long, you still need to study when you get home, which results in late nights.
But some days are shorter with only one or two classes, and then it is easier to plan the day with some studies and to find free time for sports or other events.
Can you tell something about this study program, its structure, exams, excursions? Are there many differences with the school system in Sweden?
I don’t think I can give a proper answer to this question for two reasons. I know that the study program here in Lithuania is changing a lot as we speak, and I am not fully aware of all the changes happening for new students. They have changed the structure of the program in many ways, and what I have heard from students that are currently in their first year, it is completely different from when I was in the first year. The program for me is 5.5 years, but now it changed to 6 years, and with that comes a lot of changes within each subject.
I am also not really updated about the Veterinary program in Sweden, except a few things I know that differ from the Lithuanian one. For example, the grade system in Lithuania is 1-10, where you need a 5 or more to pass, while in Sweden there is no grading, you only have passed/not passed. Students in Sweden do not need to organize their own practical internships since the school administration take care of that, while international students in Lithuania have to contact the place of internships themselves to organize it.
But to answer the question, I can tell you how it was structured during my study time in Lithuania. Every semester, we studied about 6 subjects at the same time; some subjects extended over 2 semesters. During the semester, we had exams (colloquiums), presentations and homework, and we finished each subject with a final exam in January or June each year. The first 3 years were mainly theoretical, and the later years were planned to be more practical; unfortunately, due to the world pandemic of Covid-19, there have been many cancellations of practical classes and excursions, and most classes have been carried on online. It was a tough time to be a student when the practical experience is a particularly important part of the education and to find solutions to this problem.
What are the most interesting subjects for you? Do you consider studying to be very difficult?
No, I wouldn’t say that the material we study is very difficult. The difficult part is the workload. It takes a lot of self-discipline to study any health science program, since the amount of study material is sometimes overwhelming. But anyone who has the willpower could absolutely do it without any problem! Some subjects are more difficult than others; in my case, the theoretical classes with a lot of memorization have been tricky, e.g., Anatomy, Histology, and also Lithuanian language.
While more practical classes, such as Internal Medicine, Special Pathology, Forensic, Diagnostic Imaging, and Surgery are more of in interest to me. This year, we are also studying Obstetrics and Reproduction Disorders, which I find really interesting!
How many hours do you spend studying? Do you have good relations with other international students?
Personally, I need to spend a lot of time on my studies since I am dyslectic. Being a dyslectic and studying Veterinary Medicine is a challenge, since it takes me a long time to read and write texts. This also results in less free time, and therefore, I don’t have much time for hobbies and to meet other people. I am usually studying by myself, at home, in the library or at cafes in the city center, but once in a while, I meet up with other students to study together.
But in general, it is easy to get to know other students; the international students have classes together, and for those who want to, there are many sport options to take part in where you will meet some international students, but mostly Lithuanian students.
What about practical internships, can you tell something about that? And about your professional life after studies?
You would think that I, in the 5th year of my studies would know what to do in my professional life when I am done, but no. My mind is shifting each day, where I sometimes think the perfect choice for me is to work with production animals since that’s where I believe that I would be the happiest, but on other days, I think that companion pets are more interesting, since I always get the feeling more veterinary health care is done in companion animals. There are also days when I am questioning my choice of profession completely, and believe I am better off working with something not related to Veterinary Medicine.
I understand that working as a veterinarian will put me through many challenges mentally, but I am trying to tell myself that it is okey not to know everything, to not always have the answer or solution, that the pet owners or farmers will not always agree with me or even like me and that I don’t have to fulfill other people’s expectations. Also, that even if there will be many tough days with tough decisions and situations, there will be just as many good days or even more!
What kind of veterinary practice do you imagine having?
When I imagine myself in the future as a veterinarian, I see myself in a barn somewhere surrounded with cows, assisting a farmer delivering a calf!
And if I could dream, I would picture myself in a savanna in Africa, sedating a rhino to prepare for dehorning as prevention of poaching.
What is the most demanding aspect of the study program, and how do you overcome this?
As mentioned earlier, the most challenging part is to move to a foreign country with people from different cultures. Spending your time with international students and locals in Lithuania, which all have different backgrounds, values, habits, personalities, cultures, religions, etc., conflicts easily occur.
Whenever there is a situation like this, I am telling myself that this conflict is temporary, and if we cannot solve it, we are at least learning something from it that we can take with us in the future.
What is your favorite animal?
Animals from the feline species have always fascinated me. Cats could be a bit tricky to read, and I think I see it as a challenge to understand each individually and to find a solution to make them as happy as possible. They are generally very independent and majestic animals, which I find beautiful!
What did you find the most challenging with your studies here?
Being 30 years old, it’s a long time since I studied and nothing is fresh in my memory from earlier years in school.
What is your best memory from your study time so far?
I can’t possibly choose one memory!
Well, during my first semester, I had some classmates telling me about their previous experiences of traveling and backpacking in different countries, and that inspired me to apply as a volunteer to a program in South Africa, where I traveled the next summer and worked with wild animals. If I would not have met my new friends here in this study program, I do not think I ever would have the courage to finally fulfill a dream I had for so long! So I am very grateful for this.
And during my studies I also met a guy, which is now someone I can proudly call my husband!
Some other memories that pop up in my head is the many study sessions I had with my friends. Maybe it doesn’t sound like fun for most people, but when you have been studying for hours and are really tired, you lose concentration and start laughing together about every silly little thing.
And living in the dormitory during my first year brought a lot of happy memories and bounds with friends for life!
To summarize, my studies gave me an opportunity to meet new people, travel and experience the world! So coming to Lithuania for studies truly changed my life.
What was the first sentence you learned in Lithuanian?
Aš nekalbu lietuviškai ar jūs kalbate angliškai?
As soon as I got accepted, I started watching videos on YouTube about “how to learn Lithuanian,” and this was the first sentence that stuck in my mind! And for you who don’t know Lithuanian, this means: “I don’t speak Lithuanian, do you speak English?”, a sentence that I used many times during my stay.
What is your recommendation for someone interested in Veterinary Program at LSMU?
Talk with students that are studying Veterinary medicine at LSMU and ask about the program but also talk to veterinarians that could give you a more accurate answer on how it is to work as a veterinarian in general.
I also believe that the veterinary profession is so wide with many different specialties, so if you have an interest in science and animals, and you are willing to put your time and energy in a profession where you will never be fully trained, you have a great future in this area of studies. There is always more to learn!
Why choose LSMU? Please describe in 3 words that come first to your mind.
Cheap, Acceptance and Challenging
When I applied and did some reading about universities abroad, I found that LSMU is cheaper than similar programs in other countries. The Acceptance comes to my mind, because I chose Lithuania over Sweden since it was easier to get accepted. And challenging could probably be both positive and negative. But moving to a foreign country with a completely different society and culture is a challenge, and I like to be challenged and believe it makes me stronger and prepares me for challenging situations in the future.