Professor’s from Spain experience in Šiauliai
Working with Šiauliai State University of Applied Sciences, Lithuania, is a rewarding experience, says prof. Dr. Rainer Rubira-García.
“During my childhood, I had the opportunity to read and understand the reality of the Baltic countries, Lithuania in particular. I enjoyed stories about its history and culture and all the beautiful cities such as Vilnius and Kaunas. Nonetheless, the first time I´ve heard about Šiauliai, I was at the university as a student, and it was thanks to A. J. Greimas, an author whose work and life I found truly appealing.
Subsequently, when I started collaborating with Šiauliai State University of Applied Sciences, thanks to the invitation from Prof. Rasa Pocevičienė, as Head of the Management and Communication Department, I felt really lucky. With the decisive funding provided by the Program of the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports of the Republic of Lithuania: “Support for Foreign Teachers coming to provide lectures at Lithuanian Higher Education Institutions” in the past three years I have been a visiting scholar in this institution which I now consider as my own, teaching courses about Intercultural Communication, Public Opinion and Crisis Communication.
From a professional point of view, I have proved myself capable to engage in international education on a systematic basis, participating in seminars, conferences, Erasmus+ International Weeks and all kinds of activities. With my Lithuanian friends, we are trying to build research and teaching projects together, encouraging students from Spain and Lithuania to take part in exchange programs. I am proud of contributing to the European Higher Education Framework, as I am convinced that scientific collaboration between West and East and South and North is one of the most important ways to strengthen our nations and Europe as a whole.
In this time, I have witnessed the transformation of the city of Šiauliai, with modern infrastructures and vibrant streets full of new museums, restaurants and stores. Also, I have made a lot of colleagues and a lot of friends, some of whom I consider now as a family.
Through all my visits, I have discovered many things about Lithuania, the city of Šiauliai and my own. Lithuanians are very kind and hard-working people. You notice this from the very first moment you arrive in the country. They may be shy at first but maybe because of language barriers. Nevertheless, cultural gaps are quickly overcome, and suddenly you feel at home. At Šiauliai State University of Applied Sciences, the staff and the students are fantastic, and despite the adjustments in classes we had to make because of the Covid-19 pandemic in the last months, we haven´t lost the warm connections we established since the beginning.
Warmth, closeness and relaxation describe the way I feel in Šiauliai. During my first trip, I found myself re-discovering the bike I loved when I was a child in a museum located at the end of the main boulevard in the city, which I didn´t know, was produced in a factory here. Since that moment, I have found more and more exciting places and stories that I often use as examples in my classes of Intercultural Communication or Public Opinion so my Lithuanian students can understand they are far from being isolated. I love Rūta Chocolate Museum and the Hill of Crosses, but my favourite place is the lake Talkša, a small one near Chaim Frenkel Villa. All Šiauliai has great storytelling yet to be known, and I always tell the students, as future communication professionals, that they have to work in this direction so their city can have a global presence built from a local narrative.
One particular aspect we try to teach our students is the need to have international experiences in their education. Back in Spain, I always encourage them to push borders of all kinds: geographical, cultural and mental barriers. That is the only way to build real European citizenship and to have more prepared professionals in the future. Šiauliai and Lithuania, in general, has fantastic higher education institutions with the adequate cost of living for university students with modern facilities and good means of transportation. More importantly, centres such as Šiauliai State University of Applied Sciences with a devoted staff and small groups allow personalised attention for all students, foreigners in particular, which I believe is very important for a proper adaptation to a new environment.
Education, especially higher education, not only needs quality planning and scientific soundness but also requires some sort of magic and trust that can be better grown in groups with few students and using face to face and direct communication. But with Coronavirus changing our lives in unimaginable ways, the last time in Šiauliai, I have taught my course using computer-mediated communication. As a specialist in the matter, I found deeply challenging, and at the same time attractive the whole thing, from preparation to implementation and evaluation and although you lose part of that magical touch technologies are not able to provide yet, you can have more possibilities to reach students living abroad, away from Lithuania, and who didn´t engage in university until they had the opportunity with online classes. As a result, I had more Lithuanian students residing in France, in the UK and other places, which enrich debates with students living in the country.
Dialogue is a great way of thinking and reflecting about realities, something that Aristoteles already knew back in Ancient Greece, even more dialogue involving people who are living in different scenarios and who come from different cultures and perspectives. All these years I have been teaching in Šiauliai State University of Applied Sciences have made me realize how lucky I have been as a professor, having students from different countries and cultural backgrounds. I truly believe this is the best way of developing communication as a scientific field but also a good way to develop a humanistic and social-oriented approach in higher education”.
Prof. Dr. Rainer Rubira-García visited Šiauliai State University of Applied Sciences and read lectures “Public Opinion and Crisis Communication Management (in English)” for students of Organizational Communication and Marketing, Office Administration and Production and Logistics Management study programmes. The visit was financed by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport of the Republic of Lithuania under the contest “Support for Foreign Teachers Coming to Provide Lectures at Lithuanian Higher Education Institutions”.