Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Alyssa’s Insights on Russia Trip - Alyssa from APU

When we finally made it back to LCC on Sunday afternoon I felt like a world traveler. I still look back at my pictures and think to myself, "Did that really happen? Did I really spend 8 days in Russia?" The trip was just another reassurance that I picked one of the best study abroad programs. I am getting such a unique view of the world by living in Eastern Europe. Furthermore, it will forever change how I see the United States in relation with this part of the world. Unfortunately, unless you (my readers) never actually tour Russia, you will never actually understand what I am trying to show you and convey to you. But I hope this made it a little easier and made you yearn to travel in Eastern Europe. It will change your perspective on life. I guarantee it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Good Things - Jackie from Westmont

The weeks are literally flying by!! I can't even tell you how crazy it's driving me!

This semester I went to the Alpha course meetings. These courses are an intro to the Christian faith, but what I like about them is that they deal with life in general by asking the very important question: what is the meaning of life?

This weekend we had a retreat so that we could fit in all the meetings before the end of the semester. So we went to a cabin just outside of the civilization of Klaipeda and spent Friday night there. We talked about the Holy Spirit, went in the sauna, and watched a weird European movie. It was wonderful. I would encourage anyone to get involved by joining a Bible Study or the Alpha course when they come to LCC for a semester. It's a great way to meet other students as well as get a look into the European worldview.

In other news: Two of the other study abroads and I are traveling after the semester is over. Rachel and I just bought all our plane tickets! I am really excited that we have this chance to explore more of Europe!! Kirsten is going to meet us in Budapest and hang out with us there! Being able to travel...and travel for relatively cheap is a great benefit to spending a semester at LCC! I am stoked!!

Until next week!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

No snow on this parade - Sean from APU

March is definitely one of my all-time favorite months—mostly because of my birthday and the coming of Spring.
(Obviously, December wins 'cause of Christmas. And Christmas trumps everything.)
Yet a thing that I am not a fan of is that March is in the middle of the semester, where every professor has unofficially agreed to assign a bajillion mid-terms, projects, and papers within a two-week period.

You might think that this would leave me dead by the end of the month, and you're right. Except for the fact that I'm in Lithuania.
If you haven't noticed already, Lithuania is a magical land that is very different from real life. You think I'm joking, but I'm not. Yes, there was so much to do, but I have proudly conquered the notorious "March Death." Much of this is due to the fact that I'm still adventuring throughout the city, learning about the culture(s), and investing into friendships.

...I also think LCC was fully aware of "March Death," and knew the perfect solution to prevent it from reaching it's students: The Parade of Stars.
During this annual contest, students have the opportunity to gather as a country and share its culture with the LCC community. Each team submits an art piece, then conducts a presentation during the event that best represents their country according to whatever theme is given (this year's theme was "Legends & Tales"). Whichever five teams score the highest in the first two stages, proceed to the final round, in which a representative must answer 10 questions regarding the countries represented. The event is beyond entertaining because of the creativity and humor of fellow students—not to mention that it was educational, and just plain fun.

To kill the suspense, Latvia won. And they definitely deserved it, especially because of their ridiculously awesome presentation, which ended with a rendition of the YouTube video of the wedding entrance to Chris Brown's Forever.
But the U.S. placed in the top five countries (out of seven), which was pretty exciting if you ask me.

There's no doubt that our presentation contributed to our "success." Most of the students and faculty said our's was in their top three performances of the night. I suggest that you productively spend your time watching us embarrass ourselves in a talented, funny, creative, and educational way. Hopefully we represented your country well! Peace.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hill of Crosses - Alyssa from APU


On our way to Riga where we took the train to Moscow, we stopped in Šiauliai (northern Lithuania) to visit a popular historical and spiritual site: the Hill of Crosses.

I had been looking forward to visiting Hill of Crosses ever since arriving in Lithuania and upon arriving and seeing the masses of crosses, both large and small, made my heart skip a beat. The cross is the cornerstone of Christianity and Catholicism. It represents the redemption, grace, and sacrifice of our merciful God by sending His  son to die for the world, for our sins. Seeing hundreds of thousands of crosses made me overwhelmed with so many different emotions.  Furthermore, knowing that this site was where countless Lithuanians visited during the Soviet occupation to lay down a symbol of their religion, their culture, their tradition, and their beliefs that were being heavily suppressed made me feel so encouraged that the light shines in some of the darkest of times. Being at Hill of Crosses was  one of the most memorable visits of my time in Lithuania so far.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Torn - Jackie from Westmont

Well folks, it has hit me. We only have about six weeks left here in Lithuania and I feel like I have so much left to explore! Things have definitely gotten busier here. There is so much to be done before the end of the semester but I am looking forward to all the fun times I have left here.

It definitely hit me this week that I am not at home. That sounds crazy, I've been here for over half a semester and it finally hit? But it's true. I think it was a combination of being really tired from Russia and not being able to talk to my family for awhile, as well as seeing all my friend's from Westmont posting pictures from their spring breaks back home. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE being here and I don't think that I am ready to leave at all, but I miss some of the things that I grew up with. I am very much torn between these two places.

This semester hasn't been easy but it has been worth it! I have been learning a lot about myself, other cultures, and my own culture. I still have more to learn and I am excited to do it!

I am excited to be participating in the Parade of Stars, which is a contest that showcases each country represented at LCC. It will be a fun way to learn more about each culture and share a bit of my own culture. Speaking of that, I have to go to practice for our amazing performance which we have yet to put together!!!
It's all good, we still have two days ;)


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

There's a rumor in St. Petersburg! (Courtesy of Jackie)


Disclaimer: The person dancing/singing during half the video may look like me, but it's not. Because if that were really me, that would be super embarrassing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Россия! - Sean from APU

Okay, I know Jackie already posted about the incredible opportunity to spend Spring Break in Russia... I guess you have the privilege of hearing about it from two perspectives! Though we all got back a bit exhausted from experiencing a whirlwind of things to do and places to see, spending my usually restful break in the largest country in the world was so worth it. I mean, c'mon, how often in your life do you think you'll be able to week in Russia?!

You'll learn more about this when you get closer to spending a semester here if you don't know already, but this trip, along with a couple others, is included in the study abroad program (and you get a stipend!). When I first heard of this, it definitely went in my "Top 5 Reasons to go to Lithuania."
We spent the first third of our week in Moscow and the rest in St. Petersburg, which are separated by a 4-hour (almost) bullet train ride.

Anyway, in an effort to save your time and eyes (along with mine), I'll attempt to choose my top favorite moments/activities:
  • [the cathedrals] Two words: ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. My favorites are the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (in Moscow) because of it's how ornate and massive it is, and the Church on Spilt Blood (in St. Petersburg) because the entire interior is mosaic, when at first glance the walls appear to have paintings all over them.
  • [the history & art] We went to the Hermitage, which is the third largest museum in the world. It held so much art from so many varieties, from the original interiors of the Winter Palace to ancient Egyptian sarcophagi. For the first time, I saw original works from Picasso, Van Gogh, and Monet! And it's free admission with your student ID. BOOM.
  • [the ballet] Even if you're not a person that would be interested in a ballet, you would still enjoy this thoroughly. This was my first ballet, and it was so incredible to see it in the world-renown Mariinsky Theatre! The ballet was Romeo and Juliet, with many of the dancers giving excellent performances. We also had the opportunity to dress up. The whole experience was nothing but classy.
  • [feel yourself russian] This was a Russian folk event with incredibly talented singers and dancers. You could possibly equate it to a lu'au, if you've ever been to Hawaii. As cheesy as it might appear to native Russians, the entire cohort had a blast. We were cracking up and had huge smiles on our faces the whole time. They also treat you to a few refreshments, which definitely was a plus for us starving college students!
  • [the sauna] If you've never been to one in the States before, you're not missing much, 'cause the saunas in Russia aren't like them at all. I mean, yeah, there's a wooden room that gets excruciatingly (yet refreshingly) hot, but there's this whole tradition and culture around it... You'll get it when you actually experience it. It's glorious. Definitely up there in my favorites, nonetheless.
  • [the food] All you need to know is that it was bomb. I can't go into much detail without getting super hungry, but there was this fast-food pancake place called Teremok. It was just fantastic. And the Pizza Hut is more like a down-graded Olive Garden. Well, aside from the not-so-exciting, there were several classy (and cheap) bistros and cafes that served as our lunch stops!
  • [traveling in general] As Jackie posted, we spent a significant of our time underground in Moscow because of their ridiculously efficient metro. Traveling (not just internationally) is honestly one of my favorite things. Just walking along the sidewalks of beautiful and massive buildings within the hustle and bustle of city-life is very much a therapeutic thing for me. We also got to be on two overnight train rides, which are more entertaining than you would imagine.
  • [my birthday] Yep. 21 years ago, last Saturday, I was born. But more importantly, I was in Russia! Another student in the cohort also had her 21st birthday, which made for good times. Though I would love to have been with family and friends back home that are dear to me, I felt blessed to spend the day with a group of people I now call friends in such a unique place as St. Petersburg. One of the highlights: Having birthday pancakes and a birthday McFlurry!
I know, that was pretty long winded. But with all that being said, it was such an incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which you should all experience!!!

I hope your spring has been as blissful as mine thus far.

In Red Square with St. Basil's Cathedral in the background

Team: "It's Go Time" - Our Moscow travel group

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Russian matryoshka dolls at the market

Church on Spilt Blood

The Hermitage

Us with our Russian fur hats and Russian guard faces

Monday, March 14, 2011

Russia - Jackie from Westmont

Over Spring break all of the study abroad students had the chance to go to Russia! Moscow for two and half days and St. Petersburg for four days. It was amazing!! Moscow was really cool because most of the traveling that we did was underground when getting around in the city. The metro system is amazing! There is basically a city underneath a city. So cool! St. Petersberg seemed bigger because we spent more time above ground, but in either case it seems like Russia's rule of thumb is "go big or go home." There was so much to see and so much to experience. St. Petesburg especially was so full of culture. I loved the Hermitage Museum and the cathdrals that we got to see.

One of my favorite experiences was when we got to go be a part of a Russian Orthodox service. It is so different from any church service I have ever experienced. It was so full of tradition and sacredness. It was amazing to see how moved people were by the images of saints and Jesus on the walls of the cathedrals and by the routine that the preist went through.

I wish I could describe more of what I experienced but it is one of those things that you have to experience for yourself. Only you can decide what you will get out of a week in Russia with your fellow study abroads and a fearless leader. It is a chance to learn a lot and grow even more. I would not change any moment that I had this past week.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spring Break in Russia

Yesterday the Spring 2011 study abroad students went to the Circus in Moscow. Today they will visit Lenin's tomb, see Russian History and Art, and travel to St. Petersburg by train. Tomorrow they will see the Russian Ballet perform Romeo and Juliet. And that's only 3 days! 
Stay tunned for more news from Russia!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy Kaziuko Mugė!

This weekend in Lithuania the annual celebration of the biggest folk and handmade crafts festival will take place – Kaziuko mugė. This festival, which in English is Casmir’s Market, is named after St. Casmir and held close to the day of his death.  Kaziuko mugė has been celebrated since the 17th Century and was originally a time for Craftsmen to display their handiwork. Now the holiday is recognized near the beginning of lent and has grown as a nationwide event celebrated with markets across Lithuania as thousands of Lithuanians gather to celebrate the coming of spring.

During Kaziuko mugė Lithuanians celebrate the change in seasons and banish the winter away as they welcome the first signs of spring. It is a grand celebration of folk art, crafts, music and dance that are characteristically Lithuanian.

Happy Kaziuko mugė!!!