Iki Pasimatymo!

~ Cameron ~

“As I say  my final “see you later’s” this upcoming week, I of course find myself reminiscing on some of my favorite memories thus far; The transformation I saw within myself going from anxious to step into a four-month-long journey in Lithuania to NOW being anxious to step back into my life in Pennsylvania; Discovering a newfound love for many countries other than my own including Ukraine, Lithuania, Syria, Iraq, and Russia; Experiencing the sunset on the beach and dipping my toes in the Baltic Sea; Grocery shopping more than 2x a week; and many many more memories that I wish too keep between this country and mwah! I find myself asking others about their study abroad experience including others from my home university, and I am finding that LCC has provided me a much broader and deeper experience that I could have ever expected or imagined. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here and fall in love with a place so far away from home, yet so close to my heart. I am beyond amazed at the friendships I have established, the relationship I have strengthened with myself, and the increase in WONDER and JOY I am finding in my journey with God.”

~ Lauren ~

“It’s hard knowing that you have to leave a place and people that you have grown close to and love very much. It’s the last week of my time here in Lithuania and I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my time here. This experience has been the greatest thing for me and I have seen such a change in myself. The me 4 months ago is not the same person I am now, I am so much stronger, more independent, and have developed a deeper love for traveling and seeing new places. I have created a second home here in Klaipeda and will have a hard time saying goodbye. It’s been a good journey though and one that I will never forget. I must say, I am very nervous to go home, excited of course but it will be a challenge going back to the old lifestyle that I have in Rochester, New York ,and there are a lot of things I know will be different within myself that will radiate out into my daily life. I have overcome this 4 month challenge though and I am ready to take new challenges head on.”

~ Megan ~

“This semester has been nothing short of life changing. I have discovered so much meaning during my time here in Lithuania. From beautiful Baltic Sea views, walks through the forest, sunsets on the beach, white winter storms, and magical nights in the places I’ve travelled to, this semester has been unforgettable. I have encountered and adopted a new way of life that I had not expected. I now understand the importance of being intentional with your time and the relationships you make. I have also grown to appreciate the spontaneous moments that are full of life,and in them I see God’s hand. These are the moments I will forever remember. I have loved befriending new people, deepening relationships, and encountering and embracing new cultures. It is very bittersweet leaving this place that I have come to call home. Here, I have learned more about myself and grown as a person while making friendships with some of the best of people. Klaipeda, Lithuania will always hold of piece of my heartAs for now, I will take these life-shaping experiences, newly formed relationships, and new found appreciation for the world, its beauty, and all the people in it with me as I take my first few steps into the next journey.”

 

We won’t say good-bye, but just see you later to our home here in Lietuva.

 

Reflection

We are nearing the end – approximately 11 more days in the semester, 19 until I see my family, friends, and boyfriend. This downhill stride is one that is full of excitement anticipating those reunification’s, however, it comes with a pit in your stomach knowing you must leave the place you have called home for FOUR whole months.

This semester has taught me many things – personally, relationally, and spiritually.

#1. Intentionality: I have learned the importance of being intentional in relationships and friendships. I have also learned who from back home were intentional about hearing and experiencing the things here in Lithuania with me. I was amazed at how creative some got in their letters, packages, and even text messages in attempting to show their love towards me. I found that relationships can in fact make it despite the distance. You learn how to adapt to the time difference, although, ask me the first month I were here and I would have most likely shed a tear from exhaustion and frustration.

I have also learned how important it is to be intentional with myself. I am firm advocate for self-care and living a healthy lifestyle. That, of course, can take many forms depending on the person. I admit, my body was not happy with the changes that were occurring around me. I needed to find a new routine that worked for me and not feel guilty for taking an hour or two by myself to recuperate.

#2. Communication: I had assumed I was a good communicator prior to leaving, hah, think again Cam. It wasn’t until leaving until I realized I actually suck at communicating and needed to learn how to effectively do so. I was grateful for the patience that my friends and family had with me through the process, even the friends here with me. I learned that with being miles away from home, communication is all you got. You cannot physically go and hug that person after a rough day, you have to simply talk about it. Although it was difficult, I would not have it any other way. This semester has shown me what strength in relationships looks like. There is such beauty in debriefing with your significant other or friends about a rough day and being able to share with that with them by simply ‘talking’ about it and reflecting on your day.

#3. Self-confidence: This semester has taught me a greater appreciation for myself as an individual, and as a daughter in Christ. I have embarked on journey’s this semester that I would have never in a million years imagined I would have experienced. Who would have thought I would be navigating Russia with a group of once-strangers? I have seen myself go from anxious about navigating airports and cities to one struttin’ confidently through international airports and the city of Klaipeda. I have experienced the heaviness of being away from family and friends, who I once depended on to uplift me and remind me of my worth. But, I was forced to rely on myself and my God in Heaven for the reinforcement of my worth. I began to understand how transformative separating oneself from ‘comfort’ can be in one’s life. I am so grateful for the newfound confidence I have in myself. I am incredibly proud of myself for willingly choosing to step on that plane in Washington and head to a country I knew nothing about.

#5. Cultural competency: For this one, two stories are needed. Back track a couple weeks and I find myself sitting in the 3rd floor kitchen when a boy walks in. We start a conversation which leads to talk about faith and religion. He proceeds to tell me about his Muslim faith and asks me to articulate my beliefs for him. All of a sudden he blurts out, “Ya know, I just feel the need to tell you that not all of us are terrorists. We are actually really peaceful people.” My heart sunk and I still remember that moment like it were yesterday. The realness in his voice struck me. I of course knew that already but his words were so personal and real that it pierced through me. Here was a freshman from Afghanistan feeling the need to defend his religion and his people to some irrelevant American girl. I was honored but I also was taken back all at the same time.

Despite all of the ups and downs this semester, it has been one of the most invigorating and fulfilling four months of my life. I have created such incredible relationships here and back home, but most importantly, with myself. I continue to amaze myself everyday here.

I encourage you to say “yes” more than you say “no”, dive head first into the semester even though you are uncomfortable, go to chapel, go see the sunset on the beach, and so many other things!

~ Cameron, Messiah College

Reflecting Back and Looking Forward

The semester is coming to a close, and I am finding it hard to really grasp that my time is almost over here in Lithuania. This study abroad experience has been nothing less than life changing. I have experienced another culture, travelled to different countries, and made a home here in Klaipeda. I definitely did not expect all of this.

I remember back to our first week in Lithuania, starting in Vilnius. It seems like just yesterday, but at the same time, it feels like years ago. I remember being shy and nervous about this new experience, and very unsure. Who would have known that after 4 months I would go from feeling restless and overwhelmed to settled and content in this new place? If you told me that I would see Poland, an item on my life bucket list, or stand in front of the Baltic Sea so many times, or even enjoy going grocery shopping by myself, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Yet, all of these things and so much more have happened.

One of the main reasons I will miss Klaipeda so much is because I have settled more into myself here. I didn’t realize this was happening until after the Russia trip. I feel more secure in making decisions and even taking time to go out with friends or even just by myself.  Studying abroad has taught me to embrace more of an independent and intentional spirit, which I never realized I needed before. I truly love who I have and am still becoming due to my experiences here. Klaipeda will always hold a very dear and special place in my heart. It’s home.

Of course, Klaipeda has become home for other reasons as well. I love going into the city, especially now with the beautiful weather. My favorite moment is when the bus passes the main square and crosses the bridge into Old Town. I love looking at the boat and seeing the coffee shops. Now, it is so familiar and comforting. I go into the city to explore, to study, and just to breathe. A lot of this happens at coffee shops, and I am not complaining! 10 Tiltu, Musangas, and Caffeine are my favorite places for chilling with friends, journaling, and getting some homework done. I will definitely miss these places and all of the delicious bakeries and walking through Theatre Square for different events when I go back to my home in the States.

Studying abroad in Lithuania has also taught me the value of spontaneity and intentionality. Some of my favorite memories were the ones that happened randomly, like going out late to see the Light Festival on Valentine’s Day or saying yes to a friend for going out to get coffee or kebabs or seeing the sunset on the beach. These are treasures. It has also been rewarding to be more intentional with people, both familiar and new. I have met new friends among the study abroad students and the LCC community. Again, coffee at coffee shops or even dinner or lunch at a new place are a great way to get to know someone better. (A theme is emerging here…can you guess where I like to spend my time?)

I know my time as a student here must come to an end (but does it have to?!). I will be taking back so much with me: a new outlook on the world, a high appreciation for different cultures, new words from a few languages, and new and valuable friendships. It’s a little bittersweet for me since I am not sure when I will be back in Lithuania, but I will be back one day! I don’t know what will come next on my journey, but I will have all of these things with me. Lithuania is truly a gem of a country with so much to offer and to teach you. The next chapter is about to begin shortly, and the journey continues on.
Labai ačiū Lietuva. Aš tave myliu.

~Megan

Messiah College

 

My Study Abroad Experience: A Reflection

The me 4 months ago would’ve told you I wasn’t ready to study abroad. She would’ve said she wasn’t brave enough and was terrified to leave her life behind for 4 long months. But I got on that plane, terrified, not knowing where exactly I was going or what I was getting myself into or if I was even going to be able to do it. The me today will say that studying abroad has been the best decision I’ve ever made and I would do it again in a heartbeat! Studying abroad has changed my life, I am now more confident. I have found my purpose in life and have found my strength. I’ve learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of and I know now that I can accomplish anything, and I’m strong enough to be alone even in a foreign place! I have become so much more courageous these past few months and I’m not afraid to be a leader and take charge now. I’ve interacted and learned about so many different cultures so my world view has expanded so much as well. Hearing so many different opinions and learning about so many different cultures has opened my mind up to new ideas and new ways of looking at things. I’m not afraid to be alone anymore. I’m not afraid to do things out of my comfort zone, I’ve realized that my fears are just fears and I can’t keep feeding them!

I also have a different take on traveling in that I will not just be a tourist, but I will make a home in every place I go and make a point to learn their history and be a part of their culture. I’ve really learned to become a part of the culture I’m in and see it as a place where people grew up and have their own lives and not just an amusement park to see just tourist things. Of course, seeing tourist things will still happen but I also want to take time to see the coffee shops, bakeries, book stores, restaurants and other shops. I’ve now been to 6 different countries in 4 months. Never would I have thought I’d be able to do that! I’ve walked through all these countries and navigated my way around, I’ve learned some of the language and I’ve learned the history!

As for Klaipeda, it will always be my second home, the place where I found my true self, where I found amazing people, where I spoke a different language, where I mastered public transportation, and where I found a new look at life and traveling. Living in Klaipeda, Lithuania has been the most wonderful thing ever, I will truly miss everything about it when I leave and it will always have a piece of my heart! For anyone even remotely thinking about studying abroad, DO IT! It will bring nothing but goodness to your life! It will be scary and nerve wracking at first but after the first 2 weeks you forget why you were even scared! I’ve wanted to study abroad since high school, I almost didn’t because I was too scared and didn’t think it would work out but I pushed through that fear and I do not regret it one bit!

As for coming to LCC university, it had given me so many opportunities to grow as well. What’s cool about LCC is that it’s literally one of a kind, it’s the only school of its kind within the European nation. It’s 68% international students, from the US to Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, etc. and 32% Lithuanians. LCC sends a clear message of wanting genuine growth out of everyone who attends, it’s a place to get to know new people from different places and will definitely leave a lasting impact on you! There are so many opportunities to get involved and be a part of LCC culture!

As I look back on myself 4 months ago, first coming here I thought this experience wouldn’t change me that much and that I wouldn’t grow or gain much out of it. Now, forwarding ahead 4 months I realize how much I have actually changed, I’ve become such a different person than I was when I first got here. I’ve become a more open, confident, strong and my worldview has also changed completely. I’ve also gotten so much out of this experience, learning about and seeing new cultures, living in a new culture, learning some new language, living life on my own and being in a foreign country living my life. It’s crazy to think what 4 months can do, 4 months that I thought would be long and hard but we’re actually short and challenging in the best way possible.

Overall, I’m sad my time in Lithuania is coming to a close, I’ve made this place my second home and I will miss it dearly. I will definitely be coming back here the first chance I get!

~ Lauren

Roberts Wesleyan

Tri-S: Who, what, where?

As my final Tri-S dinner happens this evening, I cannot help but reflect on my time here in Lithuania so far. All from navigating the city and bus system to walking the shores of the Baltic Sea and sipping coffee from a local coffee joint, I have experienced a minimal amount at what this city can offer. But, who am I to sit here moaning over what could-have-been or what I could-have seen…it is time to think reintegration, what bucket list items I have yet to cross off, scheduling time with friends and roommates prior to leaving…so much to do yet so little time…

With that being said, my Tri-S dinners have been helpful in gathering with fellow cohort members to reflect on the feelings above. For those who are unfamiliar with this concept, it is I who will break it down for you.

Tri-S: Spiritual, Sustenance and Soup

The cohort gets split into small groups and assigned with a leader, usually an LCC faculty member. It could well be one of your professors. They provide you with a home cooked meal in the comfort of their home.

First meeting: Your first ‘meet-up’ will be basic introductions and fun story time. You get to know your leader on a more personal level as well as your fellow group members. JoAnn made us a delicious Thai curry over rice, talk about YUM, and allotted us time to play a game before diving into the juicy stuff. And by juicy, I mean, getting real about how adjustment to LCC and Klaipeda in general has been. I remember sitting on her floor with a cup of tea listening to her give us an overview of the semester ahead thinking, what in the world did I get myself into.

Second meeting: Your second session will be POST-Russia. You will debrief about the trip, sharing good and bad stories…oh! And you will be able to sit and laugh about the Russian sauna because who doesn’t laugh at the fact that Russian women smack you with palm branches? Trust me, it sounds funky but it has been my favorite memory thus far. JoAnn again made us a delicious peanut curry over rice which we all enjoyed.

Third meeting: Reintegration, scary right? The thought was intimidating at first feeling as if it were so far away but it has come. JoAnn articulated many scenarios in which we may find ourselves in once we return. She gave us time to reflect on how we would respond to that many questions or lack of questions that will come. We thought about what we would miss and not miss about Lithuania as well as examining our personal growth. She encouraged us to take time to journal as it is a way to take care of ourselves and prepare for what is to come when we arrive back in the states. I left this final meeting excited for what awaits me at home but unusually empty – feeling that there is a part of me that does not want to leave.

I encourage you to take advantage of these three dinner sessions as they are crucial to your emotional well-being here at LCC. You will be amazed at where you started and where you will be at the very end.

– Cameron, Messiah College

Check it off the BUCKET LIST!

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” —H. Jackson Brown Jr. 

This semester has flown by! It is hard to believe that we have been here just a short three and a half months. So much has happened from exploring Vilnius, travelling to Russia, walking around the Old Towns of Riga and Tallinn, and everything in between.

I know when I was preparing to come on my study abroad trip, I had a few (not many things) in mind that I wanted to see and do while in Lithuania and Europe in general. My bucket list consisted of seeing the Baltic Sea, going to different coffee shops, and making it to Poland. I am happy to say that I have done all of these things! I can check them off of my bucket list!

Some others from our cohort have also been checking off items from their bucket list in terms of travel, going to local spots in Klaipeda, deepening relationships with others, and even growing as individuals. In terms of travel, our study abroad students have been to Sweden, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, Italy, Denmark and some even will be going to Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, and Greece by the time our semester ends or shortly thereafter.

Below are some adventures that our students have gone on to fulfill their bucket lists:


  • Rachel: Visiting Copenhagen has always been on my bucket list of places to travel to. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would live up to the expectations I had of it.”

  • Lauren: Ever since I learned about Europe and Poland I’ve always wanted to go. I’m part Polish. So even though I don’t speak the language, I’ve always wanted to see Poland and learn about the culture. I’ve also wanted to see Auschwitz.”

 

  • Erika:To spend a sunny day experiencing Palanga and biking around, eating waffles.”

 

  • Abby M.: As cheesy as it sounds, one big thing on my bucket list was to go on some unplanned adventures alone. This picture is from one of those adventures, just a little walk to a park near LCC. It was small, but it felt so freeing to feel a bit of independence and just walk wherever I felt like going.”                                                             

 

  • Abby H: My cousin grew up in Amsterdam but she sent most of her summers in the US with my family. I told her when I was maybe 9 or 10 that I would visit her in Amsterdam some day and this weekend I am going.” Abby H

As you can tell, we are continuing to check things off of our bucket list, especially during this upcoming weekend. With our time coming to an end rather soon, I have made a list of all I want to do in Klaipeda! This weekend, I am going to look for the sculptures in the city, and hopefully by next week I will have seen the sunrise while drinking coffee in Old Town and the sunset on the beach.

It’s good to have a few things to look forward to during your semester here, but most of my goals I made during my time here. I am so excited to see and experience all of my favorite things in Klaipeda in the upcoming weeks!

Here’s to rewarding experiences filled with so many memories!

 

~Megan

Messiah College

Recap: Riga and Tallinn

Hey friends! We just got back from a super fun trip to Riga and Tallinn. We’ve now seen 3 Baltic states! Here’s a little recap on all the fun we had in Latvia and Estonia…

After our 9 hour bus ride we arrived in Tallinn, Estonia just in time for some yummy breakfast! After filling our stomachs with as much food as possible we checked in to Old Town Alur Hostel and went on our walking tour around Tallinn. We learned so much about the history of Estonia and saw a lot of cool sites around old town as well.

After our walking tour we had some free time which consisted of walking around Old Town by ourselves and exploring any shop, bakery, bookstore, coffee shop and souvenir shop possible. We explored the beach as well and of course ate some Tallinn chocolate!

For dinner we went to Old Hansa and tried some very interesting food. We tried bear, elk, and wild boar. The majority of us really enjoyed it and we had fun stepping out of our comfort zone!

And of course to finish off the night, as we did in Russia and Lithuania, we went to the so called “embassy” of America, McDonalds!

The next day we headed out for Riga, Latvia and checked in to Mosaic hotel! We headed out for another walking tour around Riga and again, learned some cool history and saw all the cool sites in the Old town.

The next morning we all went to a church service at this super cute church with beautiful stained glass windows! The pastor mentioned us several times throughout the mass and wished us good luck on the rest of our trip and with the rest of our journeys through life. It was super sweet. After the service we all split up for our free time, my group went to find souvenirs, chocolate and of course, some ice cream!

After that, we were back on the road again but made a stop at our favorite place for dinner, Lido! We filled our stomachs with delicious food then started our journey back home!

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Overall, Riga and Tallinn was a blast and we had so much adding those countries to the list of places we’ve been!

~Lauren

Roberts Wesleyan College