Alejandra says it took her six months to find the best option for studying architecture – for her the key aspects were timing and hands-on experience.
“As soon as I saw that KTU had an integrated degree – five years for bachelor’s and master’s – I thought it was perfect for me. Also, I wanted to be in a place where I could be exposed to the field right away, where I could master the latest technologies. KTU offered everything,” says Gutierrez Luna.
Although very different, architecture and medicine are equally demanding fields – you have to learn and improve throughout your career. However, Alejandra is not afraid of hard work – she is happy to pursue her lifelong passion.
“I have always been in love with the arts, fascinated by the study of the history of cities. I enjoy researching spaces and seeing beyond their physical structure. And, of course, I want to be useful to society, to serve my social purpose in life,” says a KTU MSc architecture student.
At some point, a too quiet life becomes frustrating
Born and raised in Nicaragua, Alejandra lived there until she was 15 years old. After two years in Panama, she moved to live with her father’s family in Zambia, Central Africa. According to her, living in Zambia is very different from here. There are no big cities, no cold temperatures – at most it can be 3-4 degrees. Also, Lithuanians are more reserved, more shy, in Zambia they are more relaxed.
“Life is quieter there; its pace is slower. At some point it gets rather frustrating – they don’t work fast either,” says a future architect with a smile on her face.
When she decided to give up medicine to pursue artistic studies, Gutierrez Luna had to do a lot of research. She likes mathematics and logical calculations, likes to express herself through drawing – architecture encompasses all these aspects and more. Although studying architecture for Alejandra means working 24/7, she has never regretted her choice.
“Having a lot of work is not a disadvantage – I like it. That way, I feel like I’m productive, exposed to the field. Seeing my classmates who are also very dedicated motivates me and the teachers help me a lot,” says a KTU student from Nicaragua.
Enjoy having hands-on experience
Gutierrez Luna arrived in Kaunas at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, in October 2020. At the time, all education was online, there were many restrictions on social life – it took her three months to visit the city center.
“My savior was the KTU ambassador, a student from my country, who was also studying the same subject. I was contacted by him right after I arrived in Kaunas – he started teaching me how everything works. I am very grateful to the university for telling him: look, there is this girl from your country, look at her,” Alejandra recalls.
The medical student turned architecture says the transition from manual to digital practice was difficult at first. Then, when she got used to it, studying went from online to face-to-face and she had to adapt again! However, Alejandra thinks this mode of study is a much better option.
“I like it more, because I feel like I’m doing something, not just pressing a button, clicking on the screen. I can go to the library, to college, to use the computer or a laptop at the faculty or at the library. Also, I was finally able to meet my classmates. In architecture, you have to meet people, you have to interact”, explains a KTU student from Nicaragua.
Having many friends studying the same subject at home, Alejandra is convinced that studies at KTU are much more advanced. If in his home country people mainly study from books and design models manually, at KTU they use technologies.
“We use many different programs and design everything digitally. This is a great advantage not only because you can get the job done faster but also the 3D digital modeling allows you to see the space. For me, it’s important to be exposed to these technologies while I’m still a student – in the end, we will all work with them”, explains the future architect.
Lithuanians and Nicaraguans have a lot in common
As Alejandra studies with local students, she has many Lithuanian friends. According to her, Lithuanians are shy, but helpful and trustworthy. Once you get to know them, Lithuanians are very cheerful and friendly.
“It takes time for them to open up and let you in. However, once they do, you become part of the family. This is such a drastic change! I have a very good friend in my class – at first she barely spoke to me, and now she hugs me, chats and takes me to her hometown to meet her parents,” says a KTU or architecture.
According to her, when it comes to culture and traditions, Lithuanians and Nicaraguans are very similar. Our cultures are centered on communicating with family, friends, celebrating Christmas and other holidays.
“Even the formalities in both countries are similar – try to follow the rules and be respectful. The only difference is in the temperament of the people – we are very outspoken people, quite loud, and you are much more reserved. However , it strikes the perfect balance – someone who is shy needs someone who can bring it out,” smiles Alejandra.
Although she loves Lithuanian cuisine (and loves cepelinai!), the food here is very different from that at home.
“We have a lot of corn, fish and we eat a lot of roots. Alongside carrots and potatoes, we also eat cassava – they take a lot of boiling to get soft and they’re much more fibrous. However, the fruits in Lithuania taste much better than in Africa – there all the fruits are rather sour, and here I can get the tastes I’m used to,” says Alejandra.
“I have never met a disrespectful Lithuanian”
Having left two homes behind, Alejandra misses them both. In Nicaragua, the girl lived 20 minutes from the beach; here she has to travel a bit to get there. In Zambia, the natural wildlife was very close – fishing in a river, going to see wild animals was very easy.
However, in Kaunas, Alejandra has something that was not available at home: freedom.
“In my country, a woman can’t go out alone after five o’clock, it’s not safe. If you are dating, it should be with a group of other women or a male companion. In Africa, if you are a foreigner, it means you are always in the spotlight – they will always notice you, they will know everything about you. Moreover, being a woman in Africa is generally dangerous: I have had experience in the medical field and I have seen so many girls who have been injured simply because they have gone out alone,” explains Gutierrez Luna.
She admits that although spending 100% of her time with her family was very enjoyable, she appreciates the ability to walk wherever she wants at any time while living in Kaunas.
“I like not depending on anyone, being free, feeling at peace – I can go out knowing that nothing will happen. I walked around, I met people on my way and I got scared, in because of my past experiences. However, they were always nice – they smile and say “hello”, and leave. I have never met a man in Lithuania who was disrespectful to me. I like that very much says Alejandra.
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