Mechatronics student from Central America appreciates Lithuanian cuisine and opportunities provided by KTU

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“The one thing that Lithuania and Honduras have in common is that most people don’t know where either of those countries is,” says Wendy Giovanna Andino Villalta from Honduras. A third-year student of mechatronics at Kaunas University of Technology. Living more than 10 thousand kilometres away from home, she believes that pursuing dreams requires sacrifice, but the rewards are worth the challenge.

While looking for studies abroad, Giovanna applied to five different European universities seeking better study opportunities, aiming to get to know different cultures, learn languages, and grow personally. At Honduran universities, mechatronics is still a new field and Giovanna wanted to study in an environment with more know-how on the subject. From a college counsellor, she heard about KTU; the University offered her a scholarship and this sealed the deal.

“The idea of moving to a country I knew nothing about seemed like an interesting challenge to take on,” says Andino with a smile, remembering the decision to travel from Central America to Northern Europe for her bachelor’s abroad.

Three years into her study adventure, Giovanna is on her third attempt to learn Lithuanian, enjoys the many extracurricular and exchange opportunities provided by the University, and building her plans.

The only girl in her class

The BSc Mechatronics third-year student is the only girl in her class. This situation is not uncommon – despite the attempts of policymakers and educators, women in engineering are still underrepresented globally. For example, in the US, women engineers comprise 16 percent of employees in STEM occupations. Moreover, the percentage of female engineers varies by specialisation – only 9 percent of mechanical engineers are female.

“Learning is not limited to gender,” says Giovanna, admitting that she knows that mechatronics is not considered a feminine subject, as are also most engineering and STEM study fields.

“I think that is what keeps many women away from them, which is a shame. I encourage women to pursue their passions, to pursue engineering without caring about the difficulty of it or the opinions of others,” says Andino, a bachelor’s student at KTU Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Design.

Wanted to study engineering since her childhood

She discovered her passion for engineering in her young years, fascinated by sci-fi films and robots. Giovanna’s father was a great inspiration for her – while observing him solve engineering problems, she wanted to do the same. Mechatronics, an interdisciplinary field, combining knowledge of different engineering disciplines, which can be applied to various projects, seemed very relevant to her.

“I enjoy learning about many exciting subjects simultaneously and finding where they converge. Also, I love hands-on work,” says a KTU student from Honduras.

In her master’s, Giovanna is planning to study Biomedical Engineering – to use science and technology to help solve people’s health problems and improve their lives.
At KTU, Andino loves and makes use of all the opportunities the university is providing – from scholarships and after-class activities to traveling for studies: “Recently, three local students from KTU and I participated in an ECIU University micromodule ‘Intercultural Competencies’ in Spain. It was an enriching experience, we learned a lot and met people from all over the world.”

Both Lithuania and Honduras are hidden gems

Learning new things is also her hobby – currently Giovanna is studying German and the local language.

“It has been hard, but my Lithuanian skills have gotten better. Now, I can communicate with locals at the supermarket, or in stores,” says Andino with a smile.

The future engineer also enjoys playing the guitar – she remembers running to the shop and buying the instrument once the stores opened in Kaunas after COVID. She missed playing so much! Pandemic restrictions made the first Giovanna’s year in Kaunas relatively hard.
“Over the last two years, I have enjoyed Kaunas much more, going for walks in Laisvės Avenue, jogging in the old town, and watching the sunset at the Nemunas and Neris confluence park. Kaunas is a cosy city, it is very easy to get around in, and it is perfect for anyone who loves nature,” says a KTU mechatronics student from Central America.

She believes that both Lithuania and Honduras are hidden gems – people usually do not know where these places are, but once they visit, they love them.

Although five years ago Giovanna did not imagine herself studying in Eastern Europe, she believes that coming to KTU was meant to be.

“Things happen and I believe I am where I’m supposed to be at this point in my life. I have met amazing people and I learn something new every day (both about me and my study field), which I am incredibly grateful for,” says Andino.

Pursuing dreams requires sacrifice

In Lithuania, she loves nature, potato-based dishes, and mushrooms. She misses home, though, and the warmness of Latin people – they are more open to foreigners and talk to them in the street if they hear the Spanish language. Here, people usually do not talk to strangers, although Giovanna has observed that speaking Lithuanian makes a difference: “When you try to speak Lithuanian (even if it’s broken), the locals appreciate the effort.”
As travelling to Honduras takes two days, she visits home only during the summer holidays and stays there for a month and a half. Living far away from her large and close-knit family is the hardest challenge.

“When I lived back at home, my cousins and I met multiple times throughout the week to run errands, visit each other, or just go for coffee. I used to visit my aunts’ and uncles’ houses to say ‘hi’ and bring the cake that I had baked the previous day,” recalls Giovanna.

Her two younger siblings (12 and 9 years old) with whom she used to spend a lot of time together watching movies or making crafts are very much looking forward to her coming back for summer. However, Andino’s family is very supportive of her studying here, even if that means leaving her old life behind.

“Their love and support are what keeps me going whenever I have bad days,” says Giovanna, a KTU mechatronics student from Honduras in Central America.

Are you ready for your study abroad adventure? Kaunas University of Technology offers 22 bachelor’s programmes in English. Choose yours, and apply by June 30.

3 May 2023