Thursday, January 26, 2012

Orientation - Alicia from IWU

WEDNESDAY: So much happened the first day in Vilnius (the capitol). We met up with the whole group and took a walking tour around Vilnius. There were so many things to see! In the town square there is a…I guess you would call it a brick….that you spin around on 3-7 times and then it comes true. Naturally my frolicking self loved that experience. It was the place where Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania held hands and sang to declare independence. Kumbaya anyone? :D We also saw Old Town, Vilnius University, the president’s house [who by the way is a woman…and no one gives a hoot about it], and many other things. Most striking, however, was the KGB museum. This city is absolutely incredible! 

Vilnius. Photo by Jenica

THURSDAY: we went to the Trakai Island Castle. It was ABSOLUTELY beautiful. It is in the town that was formally the capital of Lithuania and there was so much history! There were little cafes all over the place that sold a special Lithuanian dish that consists of meat or mushrooms wrapped in bread. It was very yummy. We then finished the 4 hour drive to Klaipeda (feasting on bread and Salmon with cheese) and arrived to LCC in the late afternoon.

Trakai Castle

FRIDAY: It was our first opportunity to really soak in the fact that this is where we are going to be living for the next four months. Most of the day consisted of meetings and information that we had to know in order to survive but there was also a Lithuanian lesson and our teacher is superb. I am so excited to learn how to speak with the locals and communicate with people in their heart language. That night, we learned what it is like to grocery shop in Klaipeda and we went to the mall. The malls here are HUGE. I thought that we had nice shopping in Chicago, but this is something else. The architecture of the food court is designed to make you feel as if you are in a windmill or little town. Fast food is also a sit-down style with a waitress and the whole 9 yards. Plus in the middle of the dining area, there is a huge ice rink where people were practicing for hockey. We also learned how to take the bus, travel around town, and got our pictures taken for our Russian visas.

LCC Campus. Photo by Jenica.

SATURDAY: We were able to experience a very cultural thing: the sauna. The saunas of the Baltic Sea are preserved by the UN and there are apparently people from all around the world who come there for natural healing…but mostly it is just kick-butt older ladies and locals who do the sauna every week. We took about a 40 minute walk from campus to the edge of town and took a ferry to the spit (it’s a small chunk of land between a canal and the Baltic Sea). We then walked through the forest to saunas. We all got into our swimming suits and piled into the boiling little room. Man was it hot. The process is to stay in the sauna for 5-10 minutes and then go to the freezing cold showers and repeat for 2-3 times. After our third time in the sauna we ran out onto the shore and into the Baltic Sea….in JANUARY! It was so cold but definitely worth it, the feeling was similar to a runner’s high but without any exercise.

Baltic Sea. Photo by Kelli

SUNDAY: The day began with a drive out to a little town north of Klaipeda to attend mass. We went to a Franciscan church and worshiped in Lithuanian. All of the churches are so magnificent here. Lithuania has the most Baroque architecture in Europe (which basically means high ceilings, columns, and lots of gold…so gorgeous). The altar at the front of the church was ornately carved completely out of pine and evergreen trees and depicted Christ, a lamb and Old Testament prophets. That night we all sat together and made stirfry and played cards until bed. When I came home I met one of my roommates from Ukraine [she is so nice!] and Skyped my family until bed.

Alicia. Photo by Jenica 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Say Yes - Bryan from Union


Hello all. I am now in my second week of classes, third week in Lithuania and the time is flying by! Seriously. I am really starting to get into a daily routine, and with that comes branching out more and really getting to know more people outside of the Study Abroads. It amazes me how friendly and receptive people are of us. So with that being said, I am making a lot of new friends and not just meeting a lot of people. Big difference.

I was thinking about this experience as a whole, how much fun I am having, how many memories I'm making, the friends I will always have both in Europe and in the U.S., and how I will always be different because of the trip.

This has been such a great experience for me in so many ways. And all because I put my e-mail address on the paper passed around in my microeconomics class last year after recruiter’s short sales pitch on LCC International University. What I am trying to say is, everybody in Union's Business department heard the presentation about studying abroad in Lithuania and either thought it isn't for me, it sounds fun but no thanks, or I would love to do that someday. I thought it sounded like fun, so I put my information on the paper. Not really giving much thought to it. I just did it. And a year and a half later, here I am! If I would have simply just been hesitant for one minute and passed off the sheet, I would be at home right now playing PlayStation and counting down the days of winter break left.

Opportunities are all around us. Every single day. We can choose to either take notice to them, or just keep living our lives. It is amazing to me what happens when I say yes to something and get out of my comfort zone. Its how we grow, learn, and live an exciting life! 

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Lot to Process - Anders from Bethel

FALL 2011
It is hard to believe that four months of studying in a land that I would have never imagined myself going to is already done and gone.  It seems weird to think that I could have gotten so used to a completely different culture with different norms and traditions.  But, I guess living there for several months will do that.  It was a truly wonderful experience and most of that came from the many different people that I was able to meet and interact with.  It was a time of personal growth that came in large part from being able to view the world differently.

While I met and spoke to many Europeans (as well as other Americans), I felt that I was able to really pull myself out of my own culture as an American and take a critical look at it.  There are definitely things that I appreciated about being in America and being with fellow Americans, but at the same time, it was very easy to see the negative stereotypes that are held by people all over the world.  While some stereotypes are too extreme, you can't deny that many of them do exist in some manifestation, whether it's our obnoxiousness, materialism, or over-weightness.  While I was in Europe, I did my best to show that those stereotypes can be founded on some truth, but it is not always the case with every American.

Either way, being away from America caused me to draw even nearer to those things that I had taken advantage of in the past.  Towards the end, I had really begun to look forward to those things that I had gone without for those months.  Dr. Pepper, Chipotle, and many other simple things were apparent, but most of all, I realized that I missed my family and friends.  The friends I made while in Lithuania will never be forgotten, and I was incredibly blessed with the way I was able to connect with them, but there is no replacing family and friends that you have known your whole life.

In the end, it all was a wonderful experience that I will never forget.  There is a lot more even that I need to process, but I am glad to be home and adjusting back to the "American Way".  It has made me even more thankful for what I do have and the people that are in my life.