When first brainstorming blog ideas for the Study Abroad Lithuania blog, one of the brainstormed topics was “Facing the Unexpected”. At the time, we weren’t exactly sure what this topic would cover since it is very broad. However, it seems our cohort is a great example of facing the unexpected while abroad.
Because of the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, we had our study abroad experience abruptly cut short. While enjoying our time exploring Russia, the students of LCC received an email from the university president. This email gave the students an update on the pandemic situation as it related to both Lithuania and specifically to LCC and its students. In the email, it was encouraged for students to return home if they could because the COVID-19 situation was worsening. This put a lot of study abroads in a tough position of whether to go home right after the Russia trip or to make the decision to stay in hopes that things would improve.
Although the news that our semester was ending early was very disappointing, we all stayed in positive spirits through the rest of the Russia Trip. Once arriving back on campus in Klaipėda, we all scrambled to go and have fun in the city, as this was also the day before the city shut down all its non-essential businesses. Some friends and I decided to try and find last minute souvenirs in Studlendas, a local grocery store, and go to a coffee shop in the city. Later we decided to go to Olando kepurė, a beautiful area looking out to the Baltic Sea, to have pizza and explore one last time.
Even though by the time we all returned to Klaipėda, many of the study abroads already made the decision to return home, I don’t think the fact that we would be going our separate ways really sunk in until all the study abroad students, interns, and coordinators came together for one final pizza party. Hosted in one of the dorm kitchens, we got together to see each other as a big group a final time before people made preparations to fly home. During this time, we talked about what a great semester it had been and about our favorite memories from the trip or what we would miss the most about living in Klaipėda. We also had the chance to write letters to our future selves about how the trip had helped us to grow or what it meant to us in general. These letters were special as at the start of the semester we also wrote letters to our future selves during one of our first days together in Lithuania. Once they are delivered, we will be able to see how our perspectives may have changed and they will serve as another memory of the wonderful things we experienced in Klaipėda.
The days following were full of both happy and sad emotions. All but four of the study abroad students were going home and the rest, including myself, stayed on campus to try and wait out the restrictions. I helped my friends pack up their things as we talked about future ideas of traveling together and what they planned to do during quarantine once they were home. Although the semester was physically ending in Lithuania, we still had online classes through the end of the semester which was carried out in an online platform So, this kept many students busy once they returned home. The four of us that stayed spent our time staying busy in quarantine as well. We made food, played games, and watched movies together, among other things to keep busy. However, eventually, with the uncertainty of having flights home, the four of us decided to return home from Lithuania as well.
It was very sad to say goodbye to the people who I had grown so close to and experienced amazing and unique things with during the past few months, but we all held the same grateful view that at least we had the opportunity to have these wonderful experiences at all. Although the semester ended in this way, it in no way took away from my experience as a whole. I loved my time in Klaipėda and I will always have those memories to carry with me. Even though it ended on a melancholy note, it won’t be the end that I will remember but rather the joy and excitement that the program experiences gave me. No matter what, if there is an opportunity to study abroad, I definitely recommend it to anyone, regardless of the unexpected scenarios that one may have to face, because the memories and the opportunity it will give one to grow will be far more worth it.