Thoughts.

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Reflecting on our most recent trip to Russia, I can’t help but think of what I felt before we went. I had in my mind a cold and dark country, with a cold and dark past of oppression and violence. Now, after our travels there, I feel my mindset and previous stereotypes have expanded into a much more robust cultural outlook–there is so much more to the country than what my narrow worldview had previously allowed! Russia is a country that thrives, alive with people and culture and stories. Here are some of the unexpected things I learned:

Russian people are deeply shaped by their history and heritage. For them, their history, no matter its corruption and oppression, is still a part of who they are–as people, families, and as a nation. From what I observed, Russian people—especially the older generation, who have lived through war and totalitarian regimes—are accustomed to suffering as a part of the human existence, not necessarily running from it but showing strength and perseverance through it. When our tour guide in St. Petersburg told stories of his grandmother surviving the siege of St. Petersburg, it was inspiring to me how she lived through such a horrible experience and still survived, showing incredible strength. This for me was a contrast from American culture, which tends to “numb” suffering by materialism and pursuit of pleasure. I loved seeing the strength of this Russian spirit displayed throughout their history.

Despite their tumultuous history, the strong Russian spirit is clearly evident in their culture. When we traveled to St. Petersburg, we saw the marks of a culture that was very much alive—displayed in the architecture most of all. As I walked through the Hermitage, I couldn’t help but gawk at the opulence of it all, wondering how manmade creations could be so beautiful. After spending some time in the cathedrals, I came to appreciate how they used earthly materials to create a space that was created to cause the one entering it to be immersed in beauty, reverence and awe, resembling heaven in a way that I never would have thought before. When we visited the Kazan Cathedral during a service in St. Petersburg, I sat down and closed my eyes, listening to the beautiful music and imagining how it would be to finally enter God’s presence in heaven, how awe-inspiring it must be to be able to be where he is for the very first time. Being able to envision heaven in the cathedrals has caused me to view eternity in a different way and gives me a fresh sense of anticipation for the future.

I enjoyed my time in Russia immensely, not only because we saw so many beautiful sights and experiences, but because it allowed me to expand my previous mindset and view culture more objectively, being able to critique it but also find the incredible beauty in it. Hope to see you again soon, Россия. 🙂

On the New & Unfamiliar

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“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” -C.S. Lewis

I can’t help but think, as I sit here reflecting on the past month of my experiences in Lithuania, about this influential quote. As we begin something new, there is always a tendency to think about what we have left behind—how comfortable, safe, or known it was—hanging there as a constant cloud of doubt. We are aware of the new risks and challenges and hopefully rewards we are taking on as we begin our adventures, but we can’t help but think, “Will this be better than what I have left behind? Will I be able to be comfortable, safe, and successful in a new place?” How easily I forget that life is all about experiencing new, unfamiliar things–the dynamic nature of life is what challenges us and pushes us towards growth. In light of this, here are a couple unexpected lessons I have learned this month:

It’s Okay to Live in the Unfamiliar

It’s natural when we delve into a new situation to resort to familiarity. We want to experience new things, but when push comes to shove, our natural instinct is to retreat into what we know. This is not bad, however, I’m often so focused on feeling comfortable in a new place that I forget that real growth and learning happens when I choose to be uncomfortable—choose to talk to new people, choose to try new food, and choose to say “yes” to new experiences. I’ve learned to be accepting of living in the unfamiliar—it keeps me on my toes and forces me to expand my thinking.

Friendship is Tangible

Communicating and connecting across cultures can be difficult, no doubt about it. However, we often make it out to be a larger barrier than it actually is. I have found what helps the most in communicating with someone of a different culture is simply being their friend. Friendship is universal, and people understand friendship not by a feeling, but by action. And how do they know you want to be their friend? By what you do—the tangible ways you can show someone that you care about getting to know them as a person. This is something I’m working on—not just intending to reach out to other people of different cultures, but acting on those intentions.

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Language is Key

Language is one of the binding forces of any culture—it is the “glue” that connects people and is the very foundation of communication. I don’t think I have ever paid much attention to how language can bring people together, but here at LCC, where many languages are spoken, it is evident. Even though I won’t become fluent by any means, learning the language of another culture and using it (or trying to use it) can signal to someone else that you are interested and invested in getting to know them.

These are just a handful of the unexpected lessons I have learned so far. Stay tuned for my next post on our trip to Riga & Tallinn this past weekend! 🙂

~Christine

5 Tips for Future Study Abroad

As this semester is coming to an end, I thought it was time to pass on some helpful tips that will help you adjust to being a study abroad student at LCC. While I know 5 tips is not a lot, (I could spend days giving you tips!) these are the ones that I wish I had know before coming to Lithuania. 

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1) Make an Effort with your Roomates

These are the people you will be sleeping next to for the next four months. While they may not become your best-friends (I was lucky that mine did!) they will be a big aspect of your experience at LCC. Always make time to ask them how their day was and to really try and get to know them. And if for some reason you don’t click right away just give it a few weeks, most Europeans take about three weeks to fully open up!

2) Get Involved at LCC

So this one sounds a bit cliche, but I am serious when I say GET INVOLVED! Nothing is better than becoming part of a group and feeling like you belong. Whether that is helping out with tutoring or any of the other fellowships offered or simply becoming a mega-moose fan and going to all the games! LCC hosts tons of fun events every week so if you miss out on one you can always go to the next thing planned! Also, go to your pod events no matter how corny they are!

3) Make Friends That Aren’t American

This one is tricky because while it is important to bond with your study abroad cohort, it is also important not to ONLY spend your time with them. What I said in tip number one, about Europeans taking a few weeks to open up and really become friendly, you can help the out by opening up to them first. People will notice when you are being genuine with them and really making an effort to become their friend. I highly recommend finding a balance with your time so that you are spending a good amount of time with other Americans as well as Europeans.

4) Try New Foods

I am one of the most picky eaters but my goal for my semester abroad was to try a new food at least once a week. I can now say I succeeded my goal and could not be happier. Lithuania may have some different eating habits and a variety of  foods that are not in the United States so there is no time but the present to try them! You may just find your new favorite meal or snack!

5) Always Say Yes

LCC is definitely a ‘yes’ school. With students from over 20 countries, there is so much that you can learn and experience from all over the world at this one place. If someone asks you to read over a paper for them, do it and then talk to them about their perspective on the topic they’re writing about. If you are offered the opportunity to visit someone’s home with them, take it. Some of my favorite memories have been from times when I almost said no but chose to say yes instead and I will always remember that.

7 Ways to Get Involved at LCC

When you choose to study abroad at LCC, you are not only choosing to become a student here but also an active member of the community. Study abroad students have found numerous ways to get involved in one way or another and have been welcomed by the community here with open arms. Below are some of the great ways that students have gotten involved; you might just find somewhere that you belong!

1) Worship Band

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetFor those who have some musical talent this is the spot for you! The Wednesday chapel band is always looking for singers, guitarists, bassists and pretty much anyone who is willing to participate and can hold a beat!

2) CMAP

cmapCMAP (Community Multicultural Awareness Program) focuses on raising awareness for international human rights issues to Lithuanian high school students. Students enjoy games, a formal session, tea and cookies, and group discussion. For those interested in working with high school students in the area this is right up your alley!

3) Study Abroad Social Media Interns

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If you have a love for blogging or photography than this is the spot for you! There are two fellowships that the Study Abroad office offers: one as the official SA photographer and one as the blogger (AKA me!)

4) Roots of Justice

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This is a student-led, grassroots organization to raise awareness and take action against human trafficking on LCC’s campus and throughout Eastern Europe. Roots of justice hold events on campus to educate students and faculty about trafficking. This semester, they worked with the Klaipeda Women’s Psychological Organization to plan a human trafficking conference in Vilnius.

5) Orphanage Volunteering

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This is a great chance for students to get involved with not only LCC community but with the Klaipeda community. On Saturday morning students go to a close by orphanage and spend time with the children. Whether reading to them, teaching them a little bit of English or just playing with them. Students will also go more frequently than just one day a week.

6) English language institute

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Being from the States is a very usual thing here at LCC. Students are always asking native English speakers to edit papers and what not. So if you are particularly good at teaching others, than this is the fellowship for you! Students who participate will get the chance co-teach a class of junior high students

7) Academic Success Center

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If you are interested in tutoring but the idea of teaching a whole class makes you nervous have no fear! You can volunteer at the academic success center and help fellow LCC students edit their papers for any of their classes, you could be the reason they go up a grade!

10 Helpful Phrases to know in Lithuanian

1) Labas!

Hello! The most important word to know whenever you go anywhere!

2) Ar jūs kalbate angliškai?

Do you speak English? This phrase comes in handy OFTEN as you will end up using it anywhere and everywhere you go

3) Aš nesuprantu lietuviškai.

I don’t understand Lithuanian. People will assume you know Lithuanian so you need to let them now that you don’t

4) Mano vardas…

My name is … Coming to LCC you will be meeting a lot of people and it’s a nice gesture to be able to introduce yourself in their native language

5) Ačiū.

Thank you.  You will be doing a lot of thanking in the first few weeks while you are trying to get adjusted to the culture and surroundings

6) Taip/ Ne

Yes/ No. Two of the easiest words to learn and use in conversation

7) Atsiprašau

Excuse me/ Sorry. Just like thank you, you will be doing a lot of apologizing and excusing for almost everything you do until you get adjusted

8) Nežinau. 

I don’t know. A phrase that has become frequently used in my daily vocabulary!

9) Kur yra tualetas?

Where is the bathroom/toilets? Bathrooms are not as clearly marked like they are in the states. If you are ever stuck and can’t remember this phrase, just look for the door marked WC!

10) Ar galite man padėti, pasiklydau!

Could you help me, I am lost! It’s very hard to get lost around LCC but whenever you are travelling to a foreign country you should be able to ask for help in case the situation presents itself

An open letter to the students at LCC: thank you.

To my fellow students at LCC,

Some of you may or may not know this, but the motto of the study abroad program is “I am a risk taker”. I think it’s meant in part to encourage us to be the kind of person who takes risks, who goes outside their comfort zone, travels to a part of the world many Americans know little about and learns to live in another culture. When I came here in August I thought I knew what that meant. After all, I was leaving behind everything and everyone I knew to come to this country that I’d only recently located on a map. I was pretty brave.
10678539_10152766004176518_8294223133076396788_nThen I arrived in Lithuania and was hit head on with what it meant to be completely helpless in a foreign place. I couldn’t say anything that wasn’t English or Ačiu. During the first days of classes, Radvyda asked everyone in our Lithuanian class to say what languages they spoke. All of the Americans quickly listed English and maybe French or Spanish. It took everyone else in class a bit longer though, as some listed up to five different languages. FIVE?! My brain couldn’t comprehend that. How do you speak five languages? It was one of many clues that helped me realize I was studying alongside some pretty remarkable people. As the weeks passed and I saw how hard my friends were working at their schoolwork, my admiration for you grew. I still had trouble remembering basic words in Lithuanian. You were writing and expressing complex ideas in English, which for many of you is your second, third or fourth language. I saw your tears and heard your sighs of frustration. The one thing I never saw you do was give up. Even when it was extremely difficult, you never treated the chance to be here at LCC as anything other than a gift. I have learned so much about determination and perseverance from watching you. You leave your families and countries to study in a foreign country for four years, in another language. You’re the real risk takers and you’re going to do amazing things.

10698391_10205166702551329_5679942568192338595_nNot only that, but you showed me an entirely new perspective of relationships. I am shy person by nature and I sometimes struggle with reaching out, especially in new situations. I’m sure some of you felt equally uncertain when you first came here. Yet, what I saw at LCC was a community of students who were willing and open to embracing others. Even the weird American who didn’t wear shoes and was only going to be here for four months. You loved me as if I was going to stay longer and made me stop and rethink the value of a few short months.

You have the remarkable ability to come together as people from many different countries and create a singe, unified student body. When people in town made hurtful comments about our fellow students from Russia I watched people literally running to put up flags and stand with them. And I saw what it means to love people over politics.

I could probably keep listing things for a long time, but there aren’t really enough words to express the gratitude I feel for this semester. Thank you, LCC. Thank you for the privilege and the joy of living here as one of you. Next week, I’ll go back to America, but I will never forget the people I’ve met here or the lessons I’ve learned.

-Hannah, from John Brown

Class — Political Economy

Hello Everybody! Today, I interviewed a few of LCC’s Study Abroad Students about their Political Economy class. Here is what they said!

1) What is your class about?

“Political economy looking at topics around the world in which politics and economics are inextricably linked and affected by one another. We study different key events, current issues, as well as history of development and current theories and happenings. We look at how war affects economics and how governments are formed and linked to the current economic markets.” – Alex Allen

2) How has it changed your worldview about certain topics? The more specific the better .

“I think the class has been really important for me while studying in Lithuania, especially since the country is about to join the Eurozone. Learning about the government, democracy, and communism in the world has been super important and very real since we are over here. Everything that I am learning has been super applicable because of where I am. We also talked about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. It’s been really neat talking to my Ukrainian roommates, as well as getting information from the textbooks. It’s also been really interesting being in class with so many different countries being represented.” -Emily David

3) What has been the most challenging topic for you to discuss and why? I dunno if y’all actually talk about tough stuff, but only answer as you feel comfortable.

“There have definitely been topics that I don’t feel like I can really speak about because I haven’t experienced them as much as many of the other students here have. I realized more from the class about my naivety to global topics, and therefore don’t have the authority to speak about them.” – Emily David

Classes — Marriage & Family

Hello everybody! As you may know, the theme of this semester for the Study Abroad department is global competency. One of the psychology classes here offered is Marriage and Family, which I thought could provide some interesting insights into how family dynamics differed across cultures. I asked my friend, Janine (who is from Germany), a few questions regarding the class. I hope that you will find her answers as insightful and interesting as I have.

This semester’s theme is Global Competency

“What type of material do you cover in your Marriage & Family class?”

In Marriage and Family the topic is exactly what the name says, we started to review our own family where we born in and talk about ways to work over bad experiences. Then we continued talking about finding a spouse and which questions you should address for sharing life. After this we talked about marriage and how this changes the life of the couple. Topics like conflicts and especially how to solve them where part of the class. Currently we look at the topic children, pregnancy and parenthood. We read about the topics, discuss and watch movies about it, which makes it more interesting.

“Has the information from your class changed the way that you view people/the world at all? If so, how?”

It was in many ways information I have heard before, but I just realized again that marriage and family is not part of life. If you get married it is the main point of life, which has shaped my decision-making. One sentence was important for me that it is easy to get married but to stay married is life long hard work, which should be worth it in the end! I saw this class as a kind of preparation for my own life and I guess it is a good preparation!

Global Leadership Summit 2014

Hello Everyone! This year LCC is hosting an event called the Global Leadership Summit (LCC) on campus! The Global Leadership Summit is a three day business workshop that is open to anybody that wants to attend it. This year, LCC has sponsored several of its student leaders to attend the conference in what promises to be a spectacular event. The GLS took place in the United States this past summer; however, the speakers have been recorded and their messages translated into several different languages (including Lithuanian!) so that the conference can be seen all over the world. Please enjoy these two videos about the GLS!

Words of the Week — ceļotājs/reisija

The words for this week are ceļotājs/reisija, the Latvian and Estonian (respectively) words for traveler. This weekend, the Study Abroad Lithuania students will be traveling to Riga, Latvia and Tallinn, Estonia. Riga is the European Union’s cultural capital of 2014, which makes me super excited to see the city! I will be posting more information about our itinerary/pre-trip information on Thursday (once I know more). We leave Thursday night at 10:30 pm and will arrive back in Klaipéda at around 8:30 pm on Sunday night. I’m super stoked for the trip! For now, enjoy this video about Latvian culture :).