Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Feeling Blessed - Alicia from IWU

So today it was super sunny and warm out (a whopping 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit!) so on my short walk home [yes, a 25 minute walk is very close]. I just observed all of the beauty around me…and then it just hit me. I just love it here. Sometimes it gets hard to be in such a foreign context…..but really it is truly amazing. I love the cobble stone streets. I love the old buildings. I love learning Lithuanian, Russian, German, and Ukrainian. I love teaching English 3-6 times a week. I love teaching Spanish lessons. I love grading my friends’ papers. I love hearing 12 different languages all of the time and not understanding a word. I love the sea. I love the community. I love my friends. I love the lessons I have been learning. I love deep conversations. I love living in Europe. I love being in a culture that most people in the States don’t know much about. I love the rich history here. I love the perspective of faith. I love the old buildings. I love the food. I love the cheap coffee. I love grocery shopping. I love feeling independent. I love feeling vulnerable not knowing the language. I love hopping on a bus and seeing new parts of the city. I love trying crazy “weird” food. I love knowing that people are people no matter where you are. I love that I get to go to Paris for the weekend like it’s no big deal. I love the seaside. I love the way that God has provided for me to be here. I love the ways that my perspectives have changed. I love my secret locations that I can have introvert time in. I love having mixed dorms/ halls. I love pineapple tea. I love cafes. I love being changed. I love being blessed. I love Lithuania.

Alicia's Ukrainian roommate and Alicia. Photo by Angelina Kovalyova

Monday, February 27, 2012

Roaming through Rome - Bryan from Union

Myself and 9 other friends flew to Rome and thus our vacation began. 

Vinny's pastor from California had some sort of a connection with a guy at the Vatican so we were supposed to meet up with this guy for a private tour of the St. Peter's basilica. Well this was no ordinary guy, this was the direct attorney to the Pope! This guy was legit. We got to see the room (from the outside) where the Pope lives. He took us in the side entrance to the basilica where ONLY royalty and the Papacy enter. There were swiss guards protecting the entrance at all times, this was no joke. So he gave us a fantastic private tour, letting us see all the highlights of the basilica. We got to go into the room where the Pope prepares his sermons and we met some Cardinals that were going to be elected the next morning. He also sat us 4 rows from the front of a mass in St. Peters Basilica. WHAT?! I'm not Catholic, but this was incredible. So after that incredible experience we were all completely awe-struck. We had to keep asking ourselves what just happened.

Group at the Trevi fountain. Photo by Jenica

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Paintless Beauty - Alexis from Gordon


If you’re like most, you probably assumed that the first image is some sort of school. It has all the usual markings of a school after all; long hallways, clocks, art on the walls, those horrible fluorescent lights found nowhere besides office buildings and schools..

Now what about the hallway in the second picture? Many people’s first impression of this photo leads them to think hospital, psych ward, abandoned building…but would you believe that that paintless hallway is a school as well?

My initial desire for my practicum was to intern at a mental hospital, but due to safety concerns I was reassigned to Klaipeda Special School #2, which is approximately two minutes from LCC by foot. Every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I make the short trek through the ice and snow towards a building that sits in the shadow of a concrete Catholic church, which I can see through my dorm room window. Though a full functioning school, it is truly not far off from being a hospital.

Unlike the American model of integration, Klaipeda Special School is a public, government-run school designed specifically for students who are in some way categorized as “special”. Within the confines of the hallways holds a broad range of students including the most severe cases of autism, cerebral palsy, schizophrenia etc. as well as less severe (and even otherwise normal children) such as Gypsy kids and those with mild to moderate learning disabilities. Classes start at 8:45 and stretch until 2pm though many children stay in the on-site dormitories which are open from Monday to Friday.

So far, it has been a wonderful, albeit challenging experience but I have learned a lot, even from just being forced to communicate in a language and in a culture I don’t understand.
Robert and Alexis. Photo by Kelli

Friday, February 17, 2012

Blind Date - Lindsay from Taylor

One of the many great things about studying abroad at LCC is the numerous opportunities to get involved on campus. Students and staff are all so welcoming and intentionally provide events and activities for all students to enjoy. One such event during this season of love is the Blind Date. I had the pleasure of participating in this event myself.

To be honest, I had no intentions of signing up. I knew little of what the event entailed, but the words “blind date” put together didn’t exactly tickle my fancy. Nevertheless, when Levi asked me to sign up, I said yes. Why? Who knows?
Garlands. Photo by Vaiva P.
So there I am, in a room full of roughly 200 LCC students, preparing to make a fool of myself. To lay it out for you, the Blind Date event is strikingly similar to those dating game shows we used to watch as kids (do they still have them?). There were four rounds, two with a bachelor and two with a bachelorette, and three contestants on the other side of the curtain. I was among the three whose responsibility was to answer the bachelor’s questions, in a funny accent to disguise our voices no less. The question portion ended with me singing “Don’t Stop Believing” in a nerdy voice. So, there went all my dignity.
Students voting. Photo by Vaiva P.
Ultimately, I was chosen by our bachelor to continue in the competition between four couples. We had to dance, do voice overs for a popular teen movie, and answer questions about our partner. Kirill, my partner, and I ended up winning each competition. We won a gift certificate to a lovely restaurant in town (I just got back from my date in fact!)
Other participants. Photo by Vaiva P.
Obviously, participating in this event was wildly outside of my comfort zone. But I suppose that wasn’t part of the plan in coming to Lithuania. Not once did I think to myself “Oh, this will be easy and completely comfortable and natural.” Of course not. Each of us had come to this country with the expectation that we will be challenged and stretched. This wasn’t exactly how I had planned to step out of my comfort zone. But I’ll tell you what, I had so much fun. I can’t dance. I certainly can’t sing. But I got to make new friends, eat some delicious food, and hopefully entertain the majority of the campus for a couple of hours.

Lindsay and Kirill. Photo by Ira V.
Above is an image of Kirill and I during the last round of the competition. One partner was asked a question and had to choose one of two possible answers (for instance, does it take you 15 or 1 hour to get ready in the morning) and the partner has to, hopefully, guess the same answer. Clearly, one of us was wrong in this image…

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Paris!!! - Erick from APU

Sight-seeing. Photos by Erick
I think my mind is still processing everything that has happened these two days… Between traveling hours long on buses from school to the airport, from the airport to Pairs and back again i’m exhausted, but so blessed that the Lord would give me the opportunity to experience this amazing city/culture. And the Lord was definitely watching over me and my friends as we traveled. I saw so many things in such a short amount of time, and some of these things/places I have only read about in books up till now. I feel like pictures just don’t do these places justice, they may look amazing, but they’re so much more than that in person! The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Musee du Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, and Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, friggin amazing! Super stoked to have seen them all, … Probably the most tiring 24 hours of my life, considering we saw all of this in the matter of 6 hours. But it was so worth it.
City. Photos by Erick
So, let’s start at the beginning. Kinda… We arrived in Paris around 5pm Thursday night and thought we could handle reading a map and getting to our hostel by foot. We were wrong and ended up getting lost and having to ask for directions, luckily French people are really nice when you’re willing to speak their language, and it also doesn’t hurt to have some French heritage roots, I had several people approach me and start talking to me in French thinking I was fluent in it, and when I told them I didn’t speak French, they insisted that I did… Anyways, the directions that we were given were really confusing so we ended up taking a taxi.We stayed in a hostel along the canal called St. Christopher’s Inn. Super cool place, they don’t cater to people over the age of 30 I think, so the place was filled with a bunch of college age students, people from all over, Japan, Spain, UK, you name it, they were there. Roomed with a guy from Spain and another from Japan, super cool people, or rather really interesting people… Besides that the surrounding area was really beautiful, so we went for a walk around and got a baguette and pastries. There were people walking around the streets everywhere with a baguette in hand, no joke. I love Paris.

Transportation. Photos by Erick
What I noticed is that most people either drove scooters or smart cars, typical Paris. But obviously we didn’t have a scooter nor a smart car, so we couldn’t hop on with that trend, so Thursday night after arriving at our hostel we figured out the Metro system so we could get to all our destinations super fast. It was a one and half hour walk from our hostel to the Eiffel Tower, but with the Metro it literally took us like 10 minutes! and it got us to the rest of our destinations in no time at all. The Metro was a life saver, super easy and cheap to use. Only down side to it though is that you have to watch out for pick pockets, I learned the hard way and got my iPhone stollen by a hobo. But at least it wasn’t my passport or my wallet, and I mean now I can say I got pick pocketed in Paris! No big deal….

The Louvre. Photos by Erick
After the Tower we went to the Louvre museum, there is not enough time in a week to fully see and appreciate every piece of art in that place, it was breath taking and really overwhelming. There were so many pieces of art in that place that I had previously only dreamed of seeing, and had only read about in books and other places. Like who the heck gets to see this stuff!? There were so many kids there on field trips, and art students just sketching away at these amazing pieces of art like it’s no big deal. I NEED to go back, there were seriously what seemed like endless galleries of priceless paintings done by every famous artist in the world. I can’t even……The one statute that I was really excited to see was Venus de Milo. Who the heck gets to see that!!??? AHH! Super blessed.
Mona Lisa. Photo by Erick
Now the Mona Lisa people…. This is not such a great picture considering they don’t let you get that close to it, but my favorite thing about it is that you can see the reflection of all the people in the glass looking at it in awe….All I have to say is that I have dreamed about seeing this painting my entire life, and yesterday I saw it!!! I don’t care what people say about the painting being overrated, or that it’s so small, or that it’s not that great or whatever. Cause I mean who the heck are you to judge this priceless piece of art!? Leonardo Da Vinci is a genius and God bless his soul for giving us beautiful works of art like this.
Delicious pastries. Photos by Erick
Speaking of beautiful things, French people know how to do food, yeah baguettes are good but they do pastries like no other!! I think there was a pastry shop on just about every corner. I did try some duck for the first time and that was amazing. But i’ll stop talking so you can just enjoy these pictures.

Lindsay and Erick taking a break in Louvre. Photo by Alicia

Superbowl - Laura from Westmont

I’m guessing that many of you reading this watched the super bowl this year. However, I doubt that many of you stayed up until 1:30 a.m. for kickoff. On February 5, many of the current LCC study abroad students gathered to celebrate a truly American holiday: the superbowl; we were just a few hours early. Tensions were high as the room was filled with Patriot and New York fans alike, but our rivalry was offset by the delicious food provided by some of our more die-hard fans. We were even joined by several Eastern European friends throughout the night, some even staying until the end of the fourth quarter at 5:00.

(video by Joshua)
What started out as an excuse to stay up late, eat food, watch commercials, and—for the select few— enjoy football, became a truly cultural experience. As the hours passed and our exhaustion increased, we enjoyed listening to our friends talk about the athletic traditions in their respective countries, and hearing jokes about the absurdity of American football (handegg, anyone?). When you live in an international community, almost any event can turn into a rich cultural experience. I am proud to say that I have never missed a super bowl, even while living in Lithuania. But super bowl forty five proved to be one of the most memorable. Just one more reason why I love Lithuania!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Students learn to.. cook

This semester one of the Study Abroad Lithuania interns - Vaiva - came up with an idea to teach Study Abroads to cook. Check out how it looked, and hear current Study Abroads share some thoughts about it.
Have fun!

The group

Friday, February 3, 2012

On classes and.. food - Vinny from Westmont

Labas! If you're confused as to what I just said--you should be. It's Lithuanian! I had my first week of classes at LCC International University. I am officially a student at LCC. I am taking Political Economy, Introductory Lithuanian, Human Development (psychology), Moral Philosophy, and a Business Finance class. I really lucked out on my classes and I am enjoying every minute of it.

Learning to pronounce American names in Lithuanian class. Photo by Kelli
It has been a very full week. All of the students are back on campus, and there are a lot of people to meet. There are so many different languages being spoken at all times, it's great. I have met people from Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Nigeria, and so many more. Definitely ain't in California no mo'. The mixture of cultures has been an awesome experience so far, and it has been really exciting hearing about such diverse backgrounds, customs, values, traditions, and most importantly...FOOD.
Sushi time with LCC students. Photo by Jenica 

The food here is amazing. While I have to admit that I have become a pretty creative cook here, the food that has been cooked for me has been even better. Tonight for dinner, some friends and I made a traditional Lithuanian meal (a meal that I plan to make for everyone when I return to the states). Potato pancakes with meat. Mmmmmm. Potato pancakes are very common here, and they are delicious.
Kepta duona! Photo by Kelli
Another Lithuanian food item we have been eating a lot of is something called kepta duona. It is dark, fried bread, covered in a mixture of mayonnaise, cheese, garlic, and other yummy goodness. It is so rich, but it is so delicious. I will be making that once I am home as well, so no worries there. The good food does not stop there. I love Starbucks. So you can imagine how heartbroken I was when I found out that there are NO Starbucks in Lithuania (I wanted to study abroad here that badly). Luckily, I have found my saving grace. There is a coffee place here called Max Coffee that is delicious, making drinks like a cookie latte, blueberry latte, and everything in between. I was a happy camper. The best part? A big latte is the equivalent of $3. Jesus is looking out for me.

Blueberry latte. Photo by Vinny

I have really enjoyed getting to know other people and learning about different cultures. Being at an international university like LCC, there are so many unique stories to learn about. A lot of you may have been thinking (and many have asked) why Lithuania? After a short week here, I have so many answers to that single question. In one short week, I have learned so much about other cultures, eaten so much great food, enjoyed great company and fellowship, taken in everything Lithuania and Eastern Europe, and personally challenged in more ways that I could have expected. God is so good, and I am blessed to be on this adventure that He has shown me. It was a bit of risk to come somewhere like Lithuania (the popular question: why aren't you going to Italy?!), but so far it has been the best decision I could have made. God is pretty sneaky, and is showing me a great hidden treasure. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.


Futsal (indoor soccer) championship at LCC

This Saturday LCC students competed in a futsal championship. Students formed teams by nationality and had a friendly game. The Lithuanian team won the whole championship. This year was the first year that USA formed a team, and they took the third place!

Pictures by Vaiva P.

Ukraine - Latvia 4:0 

Fellow students came to support
Lithuania - Moldova 8:2

International - Ukraine 4:1 

USA - Moldova 1:4