There are so many opportunities when studying abroad to Lithuania to participate in internships, volunteer programs, and even your practicum! We asked several Study Abroad students who are participating in one of these programs to describe their experience so far.
Ally and her colleague signing people in for CMAP.
Please briefly describe your internship/practicum/volunteering and its daily activities.
Ally: We meet once a week to prepare for our weekly CMAP session. Then, we meet with the students the following day for about two hours. We present a topic related to multiculturalism, play some games, then have tea and cookies. We end the session with discussion questions. We answer questions related to the presentation but afterwards we can talk to the students and get to know them. Additionally, each semester we have two movie nights. We watch a movie related to multiculturalism then have discussion questions afterwards.
Amelia: I am an English teaching assistant. On Mondays and Wednesdays I work with 5th and 6th graders, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays I help out with adults. Sometimes I create my own lesson plans or activities and lead the class, but usually I help people with their pronunciation and conversational skills.
Felicia: Every Tuesday and Thursday me and my co-teacher, teach English to adults between the ages of 25-60. Our class is at beginner English level so they are learning a lot of vocabulary and basic grammar points such as he, she, it; to be verbs; possessives; etc. Right now they are learning about family members.
Katie: CMAP is the name of my internship and it stands for community multicultural awareness program. The team is dedicated to discussing topics with high schoolers and making them more aware of the different cultures around them and the importance of being informed. We meet with them once a week and introduce a topic, play a game related to the topic, and end with discussion groups. The discussion groups give us and the students time to reflect on the presentation as well ask and answer any questions.
Paige: I have a psychology practicum at a local elder day care center, and it’s been an incredible experience! I do a lot there, but I mainly teach a yoga/chair exercise class every weekday morning, along with observing individual and group therapy sessions that my supervisor conducts. Everyone is so warm and welcoming at the facility; every day feels like a celebration.
High school students learning about multiculturalism.
What is your favorite part of your position?
Ally: CMAP is great because you not only work with other students from LCC but you also get to form friendships with students from local high schools. The students get to know more about you and America while I get to know more about Lithuania and their culture. I love being able to form friendships with the students because we compare and contrast our cultures. I love watching them smile when something we do is out of the ordinary for Lithuania. For example, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are apparently an American thing. Something I learned about the students in my specific group is that they not only had to learn Lithuanian growing up but also had to start learning English in elementary school. Then in middle school or high school, they have the choice to take either German or Russian. Many can speak three languages fluently and they are only in high school!
Amelia: My favorite part of this position is getting to learn from amazing teachers while getting to know the students! I especially love just being able to converse with them and tell them a little bit about the culture of my home state and country.
Felicia: My favorite part is connecting with my students. I am also learning some Lithuanian and I get to have basic conversations in English and in Lithuanian. We have a great group of students who seem to get along with one another and are being challenged with the new content.
Katie: Being able to interact and get to know kids from Lithuania, discuss important topics with them, and have fun.
Paige: One of my favorite parts of my practicum is the projects my supervisor gives me. It sounds weird that I love the “extra work” the most, but I think I’ve learned so much through the projects I’ve completed! It’s really developed my interest in other forms of psychology than what I mainly have studied.
Amelia uses several books to create her lesson plans.
What is the most challenging part of your position?
Ally: Sometimes there might be a language barrier when talking with some of the students. However, other students help translate for their friends. This program is great for local high school students because they not only get to learn about multiculturalism, but they can also practice their English in a safe and welcoming environment.
Amelia: The most challenging part is actually probably not the language barrier! It is more the fact that I have to rediscover the English language! I have been challenged to think about why we use the expressions we use or what words really mean. I am falling in love with my own language while daily coming to realize its complexity and perplexity.
Felicia: The challenging part is explaining new vocabulary. However, my co-teacher is from Lithuania, which is helpful for translating difficult vocabulary terms. It’s also challenging that we do not live in an English speaking culture, so I cannot ask the students to practice reading signs and use English daily, since its easier for them to simply speak their native language in their native country.
Katie: The students do not speak English fluently and I do not speak Lithuanian fluently so there is a language barrier that can make it difficult to communicate effectively sometimes.
Paige: The most challenging part for sure has been the language barrier. I don’t speak much Lithuanian or Russian, so it’s difficult to build relationships with the clients verbally since none of them speak English.
Felicia is taking charge in her teaching internship.
How has your position influenced you thus far?
Ally: Lithuania does not have much diversity so it has been fun not only practicing my public speaking but also teaching students more about multiculturalism. Additionally, it has been so much fun forming relationships with students. The students’ English speaking just amazes me! The students are so intelligent and so sweet. It has been a blast getting to know more about them but also their community, friends, family, education, hobbies, and so much more!
Amelia: This position has encouraged me to think about English and teaching in new ways. I have become more confident and I have learned that sometimes the best way to teach is just to spend time in conversation.
Felicia: This position has impacted me on how to communicate in my own life more efficiently and effectively.
Katie: This position has influenced me by helping me become more aware of different cultures and how to interact with people from different cultures.
Paige: I think my experience at my site really made me more open to trying out different forms of psychology, like geriatrics, that I wasn’t as interested in before.
Ally and Katie are discussing CMAP events.
What is unique of doing your internship/practicum/volunteering here in Lithuania compared to the States?
Ally: We meet once a week to talk about multiculturalism. There is no incentive really other than some free cookies, practicing English-speaking, and making new friends. Students come right from school and spend two hours with us. It’s a great program and I wish I had something like this when I was growing up. Students get to meet students from other local high schools and as well as meet the leaders from CMAP who represent three different countries. Additionally, students also get to know more about college life since the sessions are held at LCC. There is so much this program offers. The main focus of the program is to focus on multiculturalism but we get to have so much fun in the process as well.
Amelia: I love that my internship is so practical and hands-on here! In the United States, TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) practicums just involve a lot of classes with maybe one possible hands-on application. Here, I can apply my skills by teaching students who actually are learning English as a second language! In the process, I am learning more about their language and culture that is helping me to be a more effective teacher and have more appreciation for the beautiful diversity and languages in our world.
Felicia: I am also learning their language by being emerged into the culture as well as learning in an introduction Lithuanian course. Doing so helps me to understand my students’ frustrations.
Katie: Doing an internship here in Lithuania gives me experience with a different culture than the States would. The other people on my team are from different countries as well and this gives me experience with working and interacting with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Paige: I think that’s what makes doing a practicum here unique — nonverbal communication is sometimes the only means of interacting with others, and that’s okay.
We hope that this has encouraged you to take part in an internship, volunteer program, or practicum abroad in Lithuania!