Today's opportunities for work and study are vast, but it is often hard to know where they end until we test the boundaries anew. Combining study and work, even if both take place in the same city, is often seen as an extreme or personal challenge. But would you believe that it is possible to study in one country and work in another at the same time? Although Brigita, who is now in her third year, did not choose this path of her own, her doubts have been dispelled and today she has no doubt that anyone can do it.
How did you come to live in the Netherlands and how long have you been living abroad?
I came to the Netherlands with my boyfriend three and a half years ago. We did it because we had financial problems while living in Lithuania. We chose the Netherlands because most of our friends who emigrated settled there.
What came first: studies or work?
When we emigrated, I had already started my accounting studies and finished my first year. We planned to live and work in the Netherlands for a year, so I decided to take a year’s sabbatical. When my boyfriend and I decided that we would be in the Netherlands for more than a year, I switched from full-time to part-time studies. During the three years, I tried my hand at various jobs: working in a salmon factory, a cheese packing factory, making bouquets, looking after flowers, collecting orders for planting flowers, etc. My current work is in electronics.
Do you find that your studies interfere a lot with your work? Do your supervisors support you?
Definitely yes, they do. I don’t go on holiday when I have lectures in Lithuania (if I did, I would have to go on holiday 4 times a year). From then on it is 2 or 3 months until exams. I do everything on my own – I gather all the information I need and study after work and at weekends as intensively as I can. When the exams come around, I have no choice but to go back and take them at university in Lithuania.
In my second and third year, I used to go back three times a year, for two exam sessions and in the summer, for a couple of weeks to have a normal holiday, to rest. Now, in my final year, I’ll need about 10 weeks of holidays per academic year, so I’ll have to go back to Lithuania about 5 times.
Luckily for me, it’s quite easy to come to an agreement with my employers. I’m in my second long-term job, and my manager understands my goals and is letting me go to Lithuania for a “holiday”, i.e. an exam session. However, the success of the agreement also depends on whether you are a good employee and whether your manager wants you to continue working for the company after the break. On the other hand, I work through an agency, so I can take as much leave as I want, and even if I didn’t go back to the same job after my leave, I would certainly find another. For me, science comes first.
Do you plan to pursue a career in the Netherlands after graduation?
I would like to do that very much, because with the education I am pursuing, I would have the opportunity to earn a lot of money, but there is a prerequisite: I would have to know Dutch. I plan to do this after I graduate. However, I have not yet decided on my future – I am very attracted to Lithuania, so when I graduate, I will first look for opportunities there.
How did the idea of studying in one country and working in another come about? Is this scenario possible for everyone?
It was a necessity more than a choice – I started my studies first and then left. It was due to other circumstances, and after a year I didn’t want to go back, so I chose part-time studies.
I think that anyone who knows how to plan their time and who really wants to learn could combine studying and working in different countries. The free studies in Lithuania were an added incentive for me – I thought it was an opportunity I should have taken.