Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Roommates - Courtney from APU

Top: Hedi and Irsana; Bottom: Courtney, Nastia and Yulia. Photo by Courtney

I have to dedicate one post to my roommates because they are absolutely the best and God-sent group of girls. Israna, Yulia, and Hedi are from Russia and Nastia is from Lithuania’s neighboring country of Belarus. They all speak Russian and I’m learning new words every day along with some Lithuanian. Each one of these girls is completely open and welcoming. 

Making Sushi together. Photo by Courtney
They are excited that I am here and are intentional about getting to know me. Everything about them is refreshing. They work like a team and value friendship so deeply. We have teatime together and always talk about what is going on during the day. I know it has only been a few days but I feel like we are sisters in some ways. God has blessed me beyond what I could have imagined. I am so thrilled to be a part of their lives. One of the best parts of my days here is speaking in Russian with them and learning as best as I can to communicate with them in their native language. I absolutely find it fascinating to watch them speak in Russian to each other. It is pretty fun to guess what they are saying. I have so much respect for them because each one of them knows at least three languages. Also, on Friday night I got to learn how to make homemade sushi with them.

Irsana and Hedi are sisters who are only a year and 1 hour a part and Yulia lives with them in one room. I live with Nastia in the other room. The rooms are very big for a college dorms but I really enjoy them. I’ve never had a desk where I could completely spread all my work out and then have space left over.

I do admit that I feared the worst coming into this semester with my roommates. I have had not good experiences in the past so I was ready to accept just being roommates with them. However I am so blown away about how kind and compassionate they all are. Each one has had such unique life experiences and I cannot wait to get to know them better every day.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Why Lithuania? - Samantha from Eastern

I’ve heard that question so many times since I’ve applied and been accepted to the program. I mean, I guess it is a good question but the way people ask sort of annoys me. It usually sounds less like they are interested in the country/program and more like they are asking, “Why are you going so far away from home to a land of cold and ice and depression? You don’t speak Lithuanian. You have no family ties to the country. I’m not really asking you ‘Why Lithuania?’ but actually ‘Are you insanely crazy?’” 

And so my response is as follows:

When I got to college, I knew I wanted to study abroad. I pictured Italy or Oxford or maybe even
somewhere warm, like Costa Rica. I’ve been to Nicaragua a few times and I loved it there and the Costa Rica program my school offers actually takes you there, too. I heard a lot- and I mean A LOT- of people talking about the program in Lithuania. Freshman year, I pretty much put my foot down and said I’d never find myself going there.

Then during Sophomore year, I heard more people talking about it and a girl I know actually left our home university to be a full time student at the school I’ll be at in Lithuania. I decided to actually take a look at the program. I was pretty shocked. The tuition for the semester, including plane tickets, was cheaper than a semester at my home university. A week is spent in Russia between Moscow and St. Petersburg and then there is a long weekend spent between Latvia and Estonia. Everyone I talked to said that they traveled a lot on the weekends and many of them stayed after the program ended to travel. One of my friends was able to visit and see 16 countries when she did the program because weekend trips are encouraged; the program is designed so that students can learn the culture of Europe and see a part of the world that they may never have the time to explore once they are out of school. The classes are taught in English, the professors like to personally get to know students and there are a lot of things to do in and around the Old City. Also, the program factors in a stipend for each study-abroad student per month that is included in the tuition. It’s to be used for food/entertainment.

There’s also many ways to get involved at the school. I will be applying to the Fellowship program and will be given the option of working in many different environments with people in the area. I’ve narrowed down where I’d like to work to: working at the orphanage (they have two, one for babies-10 or 11 and then another for kids 11-18), working to raise awareness about human trafficking (and working with people who have been involved in it) or helping with the local radio station.
This all sounded amazing to me. I’m an anthropology major and the chance to see that much of the world excited me so much.

So, that’s why I choose to go to Lithuania! :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hopes and expectations for the new semester - Courtney from APU

Today, I embarked on the craziest journey of my life. Spending 4 months in what most people from California and Texas would consider to be the tundra. Studying abroad in Lithuania could not be more opposite than my upbringing or my college environment. Although I couldn’t be happier to challenge myself in such a unique way and it is a huge blessing to be able have such an experience.

I hope during my time abroad I can focus on seeing God’s creation and people as He sees them. I’m ready for Him to mold and use me.
Photo by Courtney. "It’s like a dream here. Growing up where the ice melts within hours and snow sticks to the ground for seconds it is like witnessing a miracle with the light snow falling all day and the mounds of ice and snow."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Study Abroad Lithuania Spring'13

New risk takers came to Lithuania to embrace different culture, learn, encounter and observe. They have all survived orientation and are ready for the first day of classes (today).

Friday, January 4, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, dear Risk Takers! New adventures are waiting ahead. We wish a new year full of adventure and joy!