‘Bullying continued up to university’

| Rik Visschedijk

In the series The International, UT students from all over the world talk about their lives, studies, choices and passions. In the first episode: Viktorija Jankūnaitė, first-year Technical Computer Science. ‘I think I'm in my place for the first time here in Enschede.’

Photo by: Hung Nguyen
Curly hair and freckles

‘I was born in Kaunas, Lithuania, but I spent my early childhood in Russia. When I was seven, we returned to Lithuania, in the town of Klaipeda. I had a difficult time there. I changed schools often because I was bullied. It was because of my long curly hair and my freckles - that is unusual for Lithuanians. All this time I have felt different from the others and I regularly cried in the toilet.’

‘It's hard if you don't really belong to anything. My family is mostly from Russia and my grandmother has a Polish name. I now use her surname, Chemerovskaya. That's a tribute to her, she died three years ago. My biological father is from Kazakhstan, but I did not want to have contact with him.’

Helping children and animals

‘The bullying continued up to university. I went to Vilnius University, but there was talk behind my back too. It is terrible if you notice that people are talking about you when you are not there. I wanted to leave and went to Italy on an Erasmus grant. That wasn't such a success at first, there were many immigrants in Genoa and I didn't dare to go out in the evenings. So I spent a lot of time alone watching TV series. I did attend the protestant church regularly and became a volunteer there. I thought that was so beautiful, teaching children, helping them and removing them from their often hard daily routines. In Lithuania I did volunteering in an animal shelter. I want to do something good.’

Living in the now

‘I firmly believe that bad things will ultimately lead to good. For too long in my life I have looked to the day of tomorrow, hoping it would get better. I made a change: now I look at the present day, the coming hour, the coming minute and especially the now. I picked up reading again, which I loved as a child. I get a lot of inspiration from the manga comic The boy and the beast, which I always have in my bag. It is about a boy who has not been accepted in the human world and finds his place in a parallel world with beasts.’

‘Enschede is fantastic. When I arrived, I did not have the keys to the apartment yet. I was waiting in the street a couple of hours, when a neighbor invited me in and offered me coffee. This is something I never experienced before.’

‘I chose to study Technical Computer Science because I want to work on myself. I want to grow, see what is in me. I would really like to become a doctor, which is my childhood dream, but that is not possible because of my sensitivity. In Computer Science I combine my interest in logic and mathematics. I would like to build something beautiful later that will benefit people. I don't know yet what that is.’

I fall every day

‘I have had difficult times in my life because of the bullying and my bipolar disorder. Since a year I have a diagnosis and I have medication. As a result, I have every confidence that I can give my life a good twist. The Netherlands is the perfect place for that, people are open and I feel welcome. I live in the center, in an apartment with two guys and a girl. I am learning to ride a bike. Every day I fall, but I will learn.’

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