Gabriele is the Social Integration Manager of the foreigner-aimed project BeFriendVilnius launched by International House Vilnius and Kurk Lietuvai.
Gabriele lived in Australia for seven years and in the UK for three years before returning to Lithuania. She has family all over Europe, and just a few family members and friends left in Žemaitija, where she’s from. “This whole time away made me quite detached from Lithuania, as I was immersed in the cultures I was living in,” she says. It is safe to say that she is experiencing Vilnius with new eyes now and is one in a million, trying to settle in the best way possible. “My return to Lithuania was not exactly planned – it kind of just happened that way.” says Gabriele. After approximately six years in the land of kangaroos, she felt a rather strong gravitational pull towards Lithuania, and lived with that feeling for about a year. “My family circumstances led me to return to Lithuania at the peak of the pandemic and I have been here ever since. I have realised how much Vilnius and other cities have changed – for the good, of course.” She now sees it as a city with plenty of opportunities. In her eyes, the capital has bloomed into a great thriving place to be.
BeFriend Vilnius is a mentorship program for Ukrainians where local mentors provide support to make the relocating and settling process much easier and faster. These mentorships facilitate smooth and quick integration via social network building and settling with the help of locals. Gabriele uses her psychology/psychotherapy degree and combines it with business experience in start-ups, which helps a lot in this process.
”I would join a programme like BeFriend Vilnius myself, as I definitely had to go through various integration processes and am still in one now. I know how much easier it is with the help of locals,” Gabriele says. Vilnius is a perfect location with its dynamics and growth. It has a lot to offer for everyone, but sometimes people may not get to know all the opportunities, and this is where a mentor can come in handy.
“I like to call Vilnius pocket-rocket. Small but effective and growing immensely.”
Gabriele enjoys how easy it is to get around Vilnius via public transport, bike or just on foot, which is her favourite way of starting the workday. Although she is often surrounded by nature, she likes the feeling of the Old Town streets and has taken, “quite a few tours of the city, learning something new every time.”
She recommends exploring hidden gems like Vokieciu St. 24/Pranciskonu St. 6, Pilies St. 22, Stikliu St. 6, areas like Užupis, which is a self-proclaimed independent republic, and more.
She also encourages everyone to come to Vilnius and get curious about its history and explore the unexplored or lesser-known parts of the city. Most importantly, she encourages everyone not to hesitate to ask questions and seek help when needed.
BeFriend Vilnius mentors are waiting to help and the International House Vilnius team is here for you every step of the way!