Manuel Palacios from Mexico City gave up a profitable bakery business in the heart of Mexico City to study and live in Vilnius.
Manuel Palacios
© Organizacijos archyvas

Having some German ancestry (his great grandmother was Elher), he felt the desire to leave his native Mexico and live in Vilnius, Lithuania. „ I know that there is something here in Europe that is for me. I feel it,“ says the artistic, piano-playing student. He is now pursuing a Bachelor‘s Degree in Informatics and Digital Contents at Mykolas Romeris University.

- How did you decide to come to study in Lithuania and not in Germany or another western European country?

- I was looking at different websites for universities in Germany, France and Spain. I found nothing much to interest me. Then I noticed this University in Vilnius. I checked the programme. I found out that I will have the chance to spend a year in South Korea studying as part of the programme. The timing was right. I didn‘t have to wait a semester or a year to apply. I sent my documents. It was only then that I started to check out videos on the Internet about Vilnius, the city that would become my home.

- What did you know about Vilnius before coming?

- I didn‘t know much. I started looking at YouTube videos. I wasn‘t expecting really anything. It seemed like a very nice country with very beautiful girls (he smiles). I wanted to see what the city where I will live, looked like. I know it‘s a big challenge because I don‘t speak the language yet.

- So you want to learn Lithuanian?

- Of course. I plan to study here for the next several years. I have to learn so much. I also want to live like the local people.

- You had a successful bakery business in Mexico City. Wasn‘t it difficult to shut it and move to Europe?

- Yes, my bakery was profitable. I worked and managed it for the last two years. I also was the pastry chef. But, I wasn‘t completely happy. I had this desire to come and live in Europe. It was always in the back of my mind. From the age of 20 years old, - as far as I can remember – I always wanted to live in Europe. I started to save money. I also listened to European jazz music and this also heightened my interest in moving to Europe. I have a lot of vibes that somehow I know this music and it reminded me of something.

- But, you were born in Mexico City. You surely must miss the food, spices, colours and your family in Mexico?

- Yes, I miss my family – my brother, parents. Mexico as a territory is very beautiful. We have deserts, rain forests, beaches and rivers and lakes.

But there are many things I do not miss. Mexico City is polluted. Often when people from other cities or countries come to Mexico City, they complain of headaches, sore throat, dry eyes and other health problems due to pollution.

There is also a lot of garbage on the streets in Mexico City, unlike in Vilnius which is a relatively clean city. In Mexico City, people buy a soda, drink it and throw the container out on the street. I don‘t get used to this because I get mad. But, people don‘t listen. They don‘t want to think about the environment.

Also, in Mexico City, it is a problem to cross the street because cars do not stop for pedestrians. So, you have to be quick and run across the street in Mexico City. In Vilnius, cars have to stop and they do stop for pedestrians. I like this.

- Also, you have mentioned that there are other differences you have noticed?

- Well, for one in Mexico it is easy to get a driver‘s license and there are no tests or exams, unlike in Lithuania. That is why people drive so poorly in Mexico because there is no testing of drivers. People in Mexico drive without a license and without insurance.

- How old were you when you learned to drive?

- I was 15 years old when my father started to teach me to drive. I got my first car when I was 19 years old.

- You mentioned the high crime rate in Mexico City and that you don‘t feel safe.

- Yes, there are lots of crime and it is not safe to be on the street even during the day. Even going to the cinema, you are not sure if you will be shot in the street or not. There are shootings and rapes every day in Mexico City. You feel this insecurity, this sense of not being safe. It‘s very important to feel safe. If you don‘t, you feel stress and have illnesses and get sick. In Vilnius, I walk at night and I feel safe here.

- You mentioned music, your love for jazz. Do you like to play the piano?

- Yes, I play the piano. I have met a fellow student from Ukraine, Max. He plays the guitar. We are looking for 2 other musicians and want to start a band and play together. That is the plan.

- In November the Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) is celebrated not only in Mexico but also in Lithuania. In your country, it is a big holiday. How do Mexicans remember their deceased loved ones?

- Yes, we celebrate for 3 days beginning Oct. 31st. During this time we not only remember the deceased but we celebrate life. There is lots of food and drinks. My parents traditionally have a party at this time.

- How long do you plan to stay in Lithuania?

- I hope to live here in Lithuania after I graduate. It depends on whether I can get a job here. I want to start a family and live here. I am happy here.

Somehow, I feel this space, this quiet in Vilnius and Lithuania is good. The vibes are good in Vilnius. You know, I‘m a dreamer. I think if you don‘t have any dreams, then you don‘t have any goals. As for my fellow Mexicans, I can tell them that Lithuania is beautiful. They simply don‘t know what they are missing.

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