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

 

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

Russia: Saint Petersburg Recap

After Moscow, the study abroad cohort spent the rest of Spring Break in SAINT PETERSBURG.

 

 

After our train ride from Moscow, we walked from the train station all the way to Soul Kitchen Hostel. It was like heaven entering the hostel and being greeted by such lovely people. Soul Kitchen definitely enhanced our time in Saint Petersburg and helped us to relax and unwind after our long days. Not only was it the coolest and most aesthetically pleasing place I have ever stayed in, every morning for breakfast, one of the nice employees baked us apple cake!! Did I already mention how this hostel was like heaven?!

 

 

During our time in Saint Petersburg, we saw so many sights and experienced a lot from the Russian culture. We explored the local neighborhoods and markets, seeing the homes of the main character and author from Crime and Punishment and trying local doughnuts along the way. Some of us were even excited to visit and buy souvenirs at the beautiful bookstore on the main road (which was also right next to Starbucks). I would definitely recommend stopping in!

 

 

Our days were also filled the visits to different museums, which were full of interesting information and collections. I visited the Kunstkamera, which is one of the first ever museums in Russia established by Peter the Great. It is an anthropology museum and also displays different scientific and anatomical finds of the time period. Other students visited the house of the Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova, Peter and Paul’s Fortress, and the Grand Maket Russia. Everyone could choose their own options, and this made the experience quite unique and intentional. We also visited the Hermitage in Palace Square, which was so impressive. There is so much to see there! I would recommend going during your free time to the main building and the yellow building (where we saw Picasso paintings). Even at night for free time, the museums were open until 9 p.m., and it’s sort of fun being there when there aren’t a lot of people looking around.

 

 

Our evening activities were just as exciting and spectacular as what we did during the day. We attended Feel Yourself Russian in Nikolaevsky Palace. We watched and listened to amazing dancing and singing performances in Russian. The show was very interactive, and it was so much fun to be clapping along with the audience. The next night, we all dressed up for the Russian Ballet. It was a lot like going to prom with everyone fixing their hair and putting on our fancy (and by that point our only clean) outfits for the ballet. We saw Swan Lake, and it was incredible, truly captivating.

 

 

Some other sights included the different churches: St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Kazaan Cathedral, and Spilt Blood Church. All were masterpieces and breathtaking both inside and outside. Some of us even chose to go to St. Catherine’s palace, which was again another impressively beautiful sight. If you like the movie, Anastasia, then I would recommend going to see this palace. I felt like a princess walking into the different rooms that portrayed the royalty  who once lived there.

 

 

On the last day in Russia, the cohort visited the sauna. This is an experience I will never forget, and I would definitely recommend to future study abroad students. Not only was it a local, cultural experience, we got to meet some really nice women and enjoy our time at the sauna with them. It was so much fun and relaxing! Afterwards, we were ready to sleep as we left the city.

 

 

There was so much to do and see in Saint Petersburg. From bridges to churches to colorful buildings, it was an amazing city. Although our feet hurt after the long days, our hearts were full of all the memories we made on this journey.

 

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The trip to Russia has so much to offer. It is a ONCE IN A LIFETIME opportunity. I am incredibly grateful for the experience and the work of our amazing coordinators. I bonded with different people from the cohort, saw things I had only dreamed of seeing, and felt a deep sense of happiness and fulfillment from this trip.

Russia, спасибо (thank you) for all of the memories!

 

~Megan

Messiah College

Preparing to TRAVEL

Preparing to travel can evoke many different emotions – anxiousness, nervousness, excitement, joy. Some of us are avid travelers, knowing the in’s and out’s of navigating international airports, knowing how to effectively sleep on an airplane (Come on, I cannot get comfortable to save my life. Kudos to those who can). But for some of us, studying abroad is our first real traveling experience.

When the date approaches that you finally get to embark on your journey, it is good to be prepared for whatever may come your way. I have faith that your experience will be ever so fulfilling, however, from personal experience, I have needed to pack certain items and mentally prepare.

  1. Packing the essentials in your carry on – Baby shampoos, conditioners, band aids, overnight/morning medications, lotion, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc. There have been instances where students lose their luggage and have needed to live out of what they packed in their carry-on. They made it work however it was not ideal.
  2. Making copies of your passport, ID, license, visas, and insurance cards. This is VERY important seeing how if you loose one of these – worst case scenario – you’ll be spending a little extra, and unwanted time, in that country.
  3. SNACKS – Whether that be an apple or a granola bar, it can make a huge difference on how you are feeling that day. Both food and water are important in traveling, especially staying hydrated for all the adventuring you will be doing!
  4. Comfortable walking shoes and backpack –  You will be embarking on a Spring Break trip, hopefully to Russia, where 14 mile hikes through the city are NORMAL. Make sure you pack light and take a backpack that is capable of being lugged through airports, bus/train stations, etc.
  5. You’re not here to look fabulous all the time – Yes, I said it. Everyone is going to be in the same boat you are, rewearing clothing and shoes and livin’ it up with dry shampoo. It was humbling for me to realize that I am capable of surviving without my assortment of clothing back home and variety of show options. I encourage you to focus on what is in front of you, whether that be the lake outside of Neumann Hall or the Hermitage in Moscow.
  6. Expecting new experiences – I encourage you to go into the trip, wherever it may be, not expecting it to be ultimately the best experience of your life, but rather one in which will bring about new experiences, new people, new scenery, and new memories.

The pictures down below are some of the study abroad students’ luggage and carry-on’s! The majority of us brought a large suitcase, small carry-on suitcase, and a backpack as our personal item. 

-Cameron, Messiah College

4 Festivals in Lithuania

During our semester abroad, it has been exciting to explore Old Town, try new coffee shops, and walk by the sea. But, if you are here during the Spring semester, I would recommend for you to go to all of these festivals! Not only are they fun for hanging out with friends, but these festivals can teach you more about Lithuanian culture and about living locally in Klaipeda.

  1. Palangos Stinta (Palanga’s Fish Festival): So, don’t judge the festival by its name. Yes, there were lots of vendors selling fish, but this festival was by far one of my favorite experiences in Lithuania! When we arrived in Palanga, there were vendors lined up the street and down the boardwalk. So many people were out, buying local products like honey, bread, meats, and of course, fish. This is a great opportunity to try out some local Lithuanian goods and even buy some to take home with you at the end of the semester. I loved all of the amber products, wood work, and soap, and I know many study abroad students were excited to buy bagels at the market! This is also a great experience to be around people who live in Lithuania, and it’s also a perfect opportunity to practice your Lithuanian too.
  2. Klaipėdos šviesų festivalis (Klaipeda’s Light Festival): This year, the light festival fell on Valentine’s Day weekend. The program ran from Thursday to Sunday evening. Again, this is another way to get out of the dorms and experience life, especially in the heart of Klaipeda in its Old Town. At the festival, there was a huge light display that was synced with different songs. Also, there were many vendors and food trucks on the road and in the square in Old Town. Definitely go on an empty stomach, because there are chocolate-covered waffles, tasty local deserts, and…you guessed it…kepta duona!
  3.  Kaziuko mugė (Kaziukas Fair for St. Casimir): The fair occurs throughout Lithuania early in March close to the day that St. Casimir died. Many sell rye bread, cookies, wooden utensils and décor, meat, honey, and fish. One of the popular goods is bouquets, which people will take with them to church for Palm Sunday. Again, this is a great place to purchase local products, made by people in Klaipeda. So many people flooded the streets of Old Town to buy these goods. I also was able to practice both my Lithuanian and Russian numbers when trying to buy some souvenirs for family and friends back home.
  4. Užgavėnės: Užgavėnės is a traditional holiday celebrated here in Lithuania. It happens around Ash Wednesday before Lent, the time period before Easter, and is often equated with Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. People celebrate the defeat (or burning in this case) of Winter and the welcoming of Spring. In order to scare Winter away, people dress up in costumes. Many celebrations occur in large public areas like City Center by the Theatre (right before Old Town) in Klaipeda. This past Sunday, we went into Old Town and watched the burning of the straw lady, which symbolized Winter. I really loved participating in a cultural event that many enjoyed and were excited to see. So many people were laughing and were very enthusiastic with their costumes and watching the event take place.

Looking back on this past month, I have definitely made some of my favorite memories of my time here in Klaipeda so far. I love being with people who live here and experiencing the events that they enjoy. I hope during your time here, you will go to one of these festivals and experience a part of what it means to live locally in Klaipeda.

 

~Megan

Messiah College

Five Things to See in Vilnius…

… before orientation or during a weekend trip! Vilnius is the largest city in Lithuania and the national capital, but we only stayed two days during orientation. During that time, we saw some incredible things, but having stayed there for a week, there is much more to see and do. More than can be managed in two days. Now, I cannot say that every orientation schedule is the same, but if you’re planning ahead, we went to the Museum of Genocide Victims (also known as the KGB Museum), Trakai, Palanga, and Nida during orientation. Going back to the museum is highly recommended to absorb the history and information that they have compiled inside. It’s sobering, but a deeply enriching experience to understand the history of Lithuania.

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Klaipeda Coffee Shop Guidebook

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One of things I am most thankful for as a student at LCC University is that we are surrounded by an abundance of coffeeshops in downtown Klaipeda. Even after three months here, I still haven’t visited them all 😂Here are our study abroad cohort’s favorite coffee shops….

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1) Coffee King

Address: H. Manto g. 13, Klaipėda 91246

Pros: Unique variety of themed coffees and teas including Marilyn Monroe and Bob Marley tea.

Cons: Because of Coffee King’s smaller size, it can get easily crowded during the weekday afternoons and prime homework time.

Recommended Drink: Elvis Presley Tea

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