Study.EU spoke with Armin Kreiner-Norkunas from Austria, who is currently the Head of Innovation & Design Management at Indeed, a Hamburg-based consultancy specialising in product design and innovations. One important stepping stone in his career were his Bachelor studies in Design at Vilnius College of Design, Lithuania.
Prior to the Bachelor's programme, you attended Vilnius University for a special Lithuanian Linguistics programme. Was that a prerequisite for VCD? What did you take away from that year?
Yes, the admission procedure for foreign students at VCD required for a language certificate as lectures were held in Lithuanian only.
The year at VU taught me a solid command of this complex language - of course, fluency I only obtained when having started to study at VCD and was "forced" to speak Lithuanian on a daily basis. VU was a very enjoyable place to study because the teachers were experienced in teaching foreigners. I was part of an international group of students from Norway, France, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Russia, Egypt, Chile, Argentina, Mexico - and myself from Austria. We all came together to learn Lithuanian for various reasons - and in the end we all managed.
Once you attained your language requirements, you proceeded with your Bachelor's programme at Vilnius College of Design. Tell us more about it:
Initially it was an intense experience, because all lectures were taught in Lithuanian only, and much of the vocabulary and specific expressions I simply didn't know yet. However, as the design studies at VCD were very much hands on and practical, I could quickly catch up with the rest of the group. I think in the end it all comes down to talent and engagement. Luckily enough I had the pleasure to study with a very nice bunch of people, who were eager to help and explain details even several times. Same thing about the lecturers - they were very patient and caring. For them it was also something new to have a foreign student: as far as I remember, back then I was the first foreign student at VCD (except of several local Russians and Poles).
Thinking back, I enjoyed most the monthly exhibitions: students presented their works on big boards and all walls in classrooms and corridors were covered with sketches, technical drawings, mood boards etc. The committee of teachers led by the headmistress took their time to review every single student's work and gave detailed feedback - sometimes even harsh one, but always constructive. It was great to see what other students have developed and how the committee reacted to it.
Overall this Bachelor's degree prepared us well for the professional reality, it was very diverse and the time passed by super fast.
Why did you choose to study in Lithuania?
My partner is Lithuanian and was working for a Lithuanian TV station at the time. I wanted to study design and the degree offered at Vilnius College of Design was just the right choice in that context.
How did you get along with the locals?
Very well indeed, and as soon as they realised that a foreigner is speaking their language they were even nicer and very very keen on learning all about how it came about. Often I have been asked why I came from abroad to study in Lithuanian, because many Lithuanians go abroad to work or study - so I turned this common picture upside down.
You went on to obtain a Master's degree in Design Management from IED Barcelona. How was the transition from Lithuania to Spain, and how did your personal study experience compare?
I have a commercial education from Austria and a design degree from Lithuania - the Master's degree in Design Management in Spain was the perfect combination of these two quite differing backgrounds.
As the education in Lithuania and the one in Spain were on different levels (Bachelor and Master), it's actually quite hard to compare them.
From the teaching structure it was way more planed and scheduled in Lithuania and you more or less knew already in the beginning how the outcome would look like. In Spain I was quite challenged in the beginning, because I had difficulties to imagine how the result of these studies will look like and where this education will bring me to. As mentioned before, maybe it was because of the difference of Bachelor and Master - or maybe the Spanish university planned it that way all along.
Which experience stands out from your time as a student abroad?
Experiencing different ways of studying and taking in content: there's quite a difference in the ways of educating in my native country Austria, and Lithuania and Spain.
Mastering all of them was a challenge and chance for personal growth at the very same time.
You now work as the Head of Innovation & Design Management at Indeed, a Hamburg-based consultancy. In what ways have your study-abroad experiences shaped your career?
My studies abroad gave me a unique perspective on things and equipped me with methodological tool box that was sought after in the company.
I was lucky enough to be at the right time at the right spot, and find an environment to thrive. When hiring people now, I look for diversity and pay very much attention to education - all of the employees working in my department have accumulated experiences abroad and can therefore contribute a different perspective to our daily challenges.
If you had to sum up your experience in Lithuania in one sentence:
Life-changing - both on a professional and personal level.