Dear Future Travelers

Dear future travelers,

With just over 10 days left in the semester it’s time for the last blog post from yours truly! It’s been so much fun to share our experiences and memories with you as we explored Lithuania and invested four months in the culture here and beyond. I’ve made some of the best friends and memories in these months abroad and have changed in numerous ways as a result. If you’re at all considering coming to Lithuania for a semester, please do! Let me highlight a few last things.

When we first got here, the cultural differences were a little bit rocky and intimidating–Eastern Europe feels like a world of its own, so different at times from the States, that the first few days are overwhelming. You walk around and hear Lithuanian, Russian…basically everything but English everywhere you go. But after a few days to adjust, you learn how beautiful and peaceful that is. You learn how beautiful it is that you can communicate with people without verbal language.

After a few months of exploring Klaipėda–walking through the cobblestone roads of Old Town, spending hours in a coffee shop people watching out the window, restaurant hopping every night of the week to try all the traditional foods and drinks, and buying ketchup in the grocery store thinking it’s a jar of tomato sauce–you fall in love with the place you’re in. And, if you give it time, you fall in love with the people too. You learn that the experience isn’t an experience without the people, it’s just a mindless semester abroad.

No other study abroad program will push the limits of your comforts academically, spiritually, and personally as much as this one. Living with Eastern European roommates is a blessing, traveling to Russia, Latvia and Estonia as well as many other independent trips is the best lesson in cultural awareness you’ll ever get, and meeting the people here is life changing. To see God working in yourself and in those around you is the best gift you can receive from a semester spent anywhere–to take something with you and leave a part of you behind in its place–and I have never experienced that as genuinely and deeply as I have here. So, I promise, if you spend four months in Klaipėda you’ll quickly be ready to spend four years here next.

I have had the best semester of my college experience at LCC. As much as I miss my friends and family at home, and even good old Gordon College, I will miss LCC, Lithuania and the Eastern European vibe just as much. So my wish for you is that you take the risk and visit the most underrated part of the world–take the first step in changing your life and your world perspective. You won’t regret it! 🙂

Much love,

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Final Video Projects

We have less than 2 weeks left in Lithuania, so almost every project or conversation is beginning to center around re-integration and what that will mean heading home. As a final assignment for our cross cultural seminar, the study abroads were all asked to make a group video showing their semester in 5 minutes and reflecting on what it meant to them. It was a pretty open-ended project and our class ended with five amazing (and tear-inducing) videos! We’d love to share them with you so you all can see our adventures and life-changing experiences! Check them out below! 🙂

5 Must-Do’s in Klaipėda

As the semester comes to an end, I have been in a panic trying to fit everything in that I want to see, do and eat in Klaipėda! Here’s a list of some must-do’s for your time here here so you don’t miss out on anything:

  1. Go to the Baltic. You can walk or run there fairly quickly, and there’s a bus that runs every 15 minutes from just down the road from LCC. It’s super easy and definitely something you don’t want to miss–especially at sunset!
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  2. Go for a walk in the woods. There’s a cute walking trail in the woods just a 15 minute walk down the road from LCC. If you’re in there at the right time you might even see a moose! But either way, it’s a quite and peaceful place to reflect on things or get some fresh air. A lot of us didn’t realize they were there until late in the semester and wished we had known sooner.

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3. Find the Klaipėda statues. There’s a list of cool statues to find throughout the city–a mouse, a ghost, and a bunch of other random animals/figures. One thing we’ve spent the past weeks doing is hunting them all down, so start early!

4. Get baby arms. WHAT? Yes, baby arms. There’s a bar in Old Town called Old Town Bar, and they have Old Town Fingers (Baby Arms) that are to die for! They’re cheese or chicken filled bread you dip in a spicy/garlic mayo sauce and they are heavenly. Trust me, you’ll start craving them.

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5. Donut Tree. Don’t question anything with the word ‘donut’ in it, just go. Find the shop, eat donuts, be happy.

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Klaipėda may seem like a small city in comparison to Boston, Chicago, and other cities we’re used to, but there are so many things to do that one semester is hardly enough time to scratch the surface. This is my top 5 bucket list (though there are SO many other things I could add in as well)! I’ve come to love this little city. 🙂

*Shout out to Luke from Messiah for winning our photo contest with 97 likes–thanks for voting!

Lithuanian word of the week: food – maistas

Tallinn & Riga Recap

Our last trip as a group was this past weekend to the other two Baltic capitals, Tallinn in Estonia and Riga in Latvia. It’s bittersweet to think that our semester comes to an end in less than 20 days! Time has FLOWN!

It’s funny to think about how our travel style has changed since the first day we landed in Lithuania–we got here wanting to see every big tourist attraction there was to see and check things off a bucket list we had. This trip felt more relaxed and “chill,” and we all spent more time investing in local places than the tourist traps. We went to a church service in Riga (in English) and got to experience that part of culture apart from going inside to say we say the inside of another cathedral we may or may not be able to differentiate from the rest in 5 years. We will remember this service and we will remember taking communion alongside the Latvian congregation. We went to a karaoke bar and just sat and talked for hours, occasionally making fools of ourselves with some singing and dancing! It was a nice change of pace from some of our other trips (which were also great, don’t get me wrong!). In Tallinn, we had a walking tour and got to walk around and had some free time to explore outdoor markets, coffee shops, etc and just get to know the quaint town on our own. One of the highlights of this trip was our visit to a medieval Estonian restaurant where we ate traditional food from that time period–the main course included bear, bore, elk and an assortment of other odds and ends. It was interesting but not as bad as some people thought it would be! 🙂 Both places were super cute and welcoming, but words don’t do them justice. So enjoy some photos from our weekend!

*Friendly reminder that our photo contest ends TOMORROW, so if you want to vote for your favorites head over to the Study Abroad Lithuania Facebook page and check out the album!

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Independent Travel to Dublin, Ireland

Sorry this post is a day late! We were traveling for our long weekend to celebrate Easter so blogging had to wait until I got back to LCC (and let me tell you, as fantastic as the weekend was, I have never been more excited to sleep in my life).

Another girl and I spent two days in Dublin, Ireland and another two in London, United Kingdom. As second group also went to Dublin for the whole weekend, so we were definitely hitting up the UK for Easter! What we didn’t know before going to Dublin was that it also happened to be the centennial celebration of their independence as a country, so Easter Sunday was a dual celebration in the city center. They had ceremonies all over the city and big screen TVs playing the main ceremony for everyone else to see–the President of Ireland even came and hung a ceremonial wreath. It was a really fun cultural experience to see the Irish people remember their past as an oppressed country and celebrate the freedom they now have!

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Here are some tips we learned from our travel mishaps along the way:

  1. ALWAYS bring snacks. You will regret nothing more than getting stuck in an airport longer than you expect and not having snacks. The ‘hanger’ gets real.
  2. ALWAYS check to make sure you have the right kind of outlet adapter for your phone charger in the country you visit. The UK is different than Lithuania and it was a struggle to share one the whole weekend when we constantly drained phone batteries with taking pictures!
  3. PLAN everything so you’re not running around last minute trying to work out the small details–transportation, hotels, etc. Get it taken care of before you go so you can just enjoy your adventure!
  4. CHECK the weather before you leave and pack accordingly–getting caught in the rain without a rain coat or umbrella is unpleasant. Our Cliffs of Moher tour was a little damp and we felt like wet rats…

Although, the mishaps are part of what makes the adventure memorable so if you do have a problem independently traveling look at the bright side and laugh about it! And, if all else fails, the study abroad office is back at LCC waiting to help you out!


7 Tips For Future Travelers

Since we’ve all done quite a bit of traveling over the course of the semester, we’ve learned a few lessons the hard way. Here are our best tips for when you travel for weekend adventures across Europe! 🙂

  1. ALWAYS bring your ISIC card. You never know when this little piece of plastic will get you a discount–whether it’s on coffee at a coffee shop (super randomly), bus tickets, or anything in between, your ISIC will be your best friend.
  2. Exchange currency before you leave Lithuania. Yes, you can get it once you get there, but unless you’re super organized and know where the banks are (and speak the language), it’s easier to get it in Klaipėda before you leave. And, whatever you do, don’t exchange it in an airport because I guarantee you’ll lose money in the process!
  3. NEVER hand over your passports to ANYONE. Even if it’s a police officer, if you can help it, hang on to your passport when they check it. I’m not saying get physical about it, but when given the chance, keep your hands on it. It’s your most valuable possession for these four months.
  4. Don’t turn your backs on your things in a public place for a second. I come from a small Christian college at home where you can leave your laptop in the library unattended for an hour to go grab dinner and find it right where you left it when you come back. Americans can be seen as targets for theft in Europe, so don’t let your phone, wallet, or any other valuables out of your sight!
  5. Be aware of your surroundings. We are all heart broken to hear of tragedies all over the world, but living Europe makes ones like Paris and Brussels feel closer to home. You’re not in danger everywhere you go! But, with many of us traveling to the UK this weekend for Easter, we’re learning to be very attuned to our surroundings so we can be prepared for anything.
  6. Plan to spend more than you think you will. No matter where you go or how much self control you think you have, when you see that one perfect souvenir or really good looking pastry in the window, it’s all down hill from there. Budget these things in and plan for unexpected surprises. This is a once in a lifetime semester–live it up and buy that donut!
  7. Fully immerse yourself in the culture of the place you visit. Your time in Lithuania is about more than seeing everything and leaving–it’s about developing a new understanding of the world and its people. Even the small things make a difference when traveling. For example, avoid familiar places like McDonald’s and Starbucks and hit up a local cafe for lunch. People watch out the window as you enjoy traditional Spanish food and fall in love with the beauty around you for that short time. Believe it or not, even a weekend trip to Poland can steal your heart if you let it. 🙂

Lithuanian word of the week: bulvės — potato (the classic Lithuanian food product; if you see it on the menu, it will always be the best potato you’ve ever eaten!)