Connections Made at the University Lead To Cross-Border Experiences

Connections Made at the University Lead To Cross-Border Experiences

Sukurta: 27 May 2022

Tado Kazakevičiaus VU nuotr. 2The pedagogical studies of Vilnius University (VU) brought together the lecturer of the Faculty of Philosophy, Dr. Sandra Kairė and her student Martyna Vilutytė, and the connection established between women today can be a great start to implement joint activities that cross national and continental borders.

Philosopher Algis Mickūnas stated that relationships and connections are nothing other than seeing and experiencing the another person, through which we can get to know both the other person and ourselves. However, the last two years, when the world was held in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, have forced us to cut off direct connections and move them into the virtual space.

In the presence of COVID-19, we have seen that direct communication is much more than just live verbal communication – it includes emotions, physical contact ranging from just a look, a handshake to hugging, being close, while remote communication is fragmented, more formal, perhaps less inspiring.

The heroes of history – the director of the Institute of Educational Sciences of the Faculty of Philosophy of Vilnius University, lecturer Dr. Kairė, who is currently actively studying the future of education related to the topics of Children of the Anthropocene, climate crisis and education, and Vilutytė, a student of the childhood pedagogy study programme, a teacher of a Saturday supplementary school in the North Lyceum and a student representative of the Faculty of Philosophy.

The first meeting between Dr. Kairė and Vilutytė took place in the business context of Vilnius University – general university subjects were discussed, stories of the success of pedagogical studies were shared, and the feedback provided by students was heard out and given meaning. Both Dr. Kairė and Vilutytė felt the importance of communication when they communicated with their teachers while studying at school. Kairė recalled that communication and the help of teachers were especially important to her.

“While studying in several schools, I kept thinking about being a teacher of one subject or another because I had a friendly and respectful relationship with the teachers. I am grateful to multiple teachers who told me: "You can do it. You can do it better", "Everything will work out for you. You can do it better." This was all I needed to be inspired by the teaching profession,” recalls Dr. Kairė.

Although in the end Kairė did not become a teacher, she did not leave the field of education out of her life. While talking to pedagogy students, the same trend emerges – the relationship with teachers is very important to young people choosing the path of a teacher.

Both Dr. Kairė and Vilutytė felt the importance of communication when they communicated with their teachers while studying at school.

"In fact, when we interact with students studying at our institute and especially when asked during the first lectures why they have chosen the teaching profession, we hear multiple stories about how the relationship with the teacher inspired those students to choose this profession," says the interviewee.

The teacher-student relationship is extremely important, especially for a student who comes to school knowing almost nothing and learns things with the help of a teacher. The teacher is the person who shapes the student's understanding, his or her worldview, helps him or her to develop his or her knowledge. Therefore, Vilutytė was very happy that she had the opportunity to learn at her school from teachers, who encouraged her to choose the path of a teacher.

"This was the foundation of the person I am now, how I interact with everyone around me. It is difficult to decide whether such communication absolutely always determines the choice of the pedagogical path, as has happened to me, but in any case it has a great influence on the development of the student's personality, ability to communicate and cooperate,” says Vilutytė.

Tado Kazakevičiaus VU nuotr. 3

The educational process does not end with graduation as young people, upon starting their studies at a university, have to face a different environment, different schedules, since the lectures last for an hour and a half. Lecturers are often seen as intimidating – not because of their appearance or behaviour, but because of their level of knowledge. Therefore, at the beginning of studies, it is very important to identify the kind of connection and respect that are established. The university can provide a lot, Vilutytė also noted.

“The connection between a lecturer and a student is first and foremost an academic contact, a chance to discover much more in the desired university niche. By opening up to the world, and in this case to the lecturer, you are basically giving yourself the opportunity to get involved in the ongoing projects, events or even research. In addition to all opportunities for active participation, the relationship between student and lecturer can bring many educational benefits. Having the slightest contact with the subject lecturer, we are bolder to ask questions, dispel uncertainties, which in the end allows us to delve deeper into the subject being studied, to gain more academic knowledge,” says Vilutytė.

Vilutytė was very happy that she had the opportunity to learn at her school from such teachers, who encouraged her to choose the path of a teacher.

As Vilutytė points out, the connection must be mutual. We know full well from history that one-way communication will not produce the desired result. Sandra also seeks such a reciprocal relationship with her students. According to her deep conviction, the two-way process can lead to many things – to long-term friendships, to new joint discoveries, to joint academic activities, to the desire to grow both personally and professionally. Currently, Sandra has a number of results from the two-way process – she writes articles along with students, helps students or graduates to find further career opportunities, encourages students to take an interest in various activities, such as volunteering.

The connection established between Vilutytė and Dr. Kairė established at the academy may eventually go beyond the latter and expand into international waters – Dr. Kairė will go on a research internship at the University of Western Sydney, Australia at the end of this year, Vilutytė is planning her internship in Italy and it can be a great continuation of the established connections by merging seemingly different worlds.

We can never know where our connections might take us, so we should never be afraid to make them and to ask questions. This is well illustrated by the idea expressed by the late Professor Leonidas Donskis, which is also followed by Vilutytė: "The process of asking should not scare people, because not asking questions makes a person uninteresting even to himself."

So let’s ask questions, open up the world, and build strong, reciprocal connections.

In recognition of the importance of developing a relationship between teachers and students, and having the courage to ask questions, VU is presenting an art project and a virtual exhibition, in collaboration with the documentary and portrait photographer Tadas Kazakevičius. The exhibition also includes a series of portraits of Dr. Kairė and Vilulytė, revealing the sincere and attentive relationship of the lecturer with her student.