Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The students have arrived!

I realized I failed to explain the reason I am in Lithuania and what I am actually doing!
I am at LCC University which is a 4 year liberal arts university that is one of only two universities in English in the whole country. During the summer the university hosts a 3 week long summer language institute (SLI) for high school aged up to adult students (the vast majority of the students are high schoolers). The staff at SLI is made up of north american teachers and staff who are in Lithuania for one month. That's where I come in! I am part of the Student Life staff and act as a summer hall director. It is the same type of job that I do in the U.S.

SLI is an intense language institute where students take 6 hours of classes each day and have homework. So my job starts when the students are out of class. On Sunday we had two activities- we took students to the beach and had a movie night. We had between 50-60 students walk with us to the beach (see the picture above of us walking through the woods to get there) and about 35 come to the movie night. Yesterday we had a Tea and Games night (which will be every Monday and Wednesday night) and today we are walking with a group of students downtown to go to Max Cafe to get coffee! I have been very impressed by the students so far. They are very outgoing and even came up to me and asked me tell them about why I had come! That would never happen in the states.
The majority of students who come to SLI are from Lithuania, but we also have students from Latvia, Poland, Russia and Belarus. So when we had our opening meeting for the hall we had to have three separate meetings- one in English, one in Russian and one in Lithuanian. We would've had another one in Polish, but we didn't have anyone to give that one! All of the RAs I am working with are at least tri-lingual. And Max speaks 5 languages (Arabic, Lithuanian, Russian, English and Spanish). So they are amazing resources! 

I was a bit discouraged by trying to pronounce the students names. Here are a few examples of first names: Vytautas, AistÄ—, Girstene, Lyudmyla,  Mindaugas. But the most common females names are a bit easier: Kristina, Anastasia and Anna. I felt a lot better after I realized that the students themselves cannot pronounce each other's names! Some of the students aren't even able to speak to one another because they do not share a common language!

Since LCC is a Christian university, there is a spiritual life aspect to the Summer Language Institute (SLI). The students who attend are not signing up for a Christian camp, and many are not Christians. Because of this, there is no preaching in the classrooms. But there are optional "Journey Groups" (which are discussion groups based on spiritual topics) and Bible studies. The focus for the staff is to build friendships with the students so that opportunities for talking about Jesus Christ can come up naturally.

One thing that has been really neat for me, and a good challenge is the amount of religious diversity there is amongst the Christian staff. What I mean by this is there are people from Catholic, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Baptist, Evangelical, Lutheran, Non-denominational and Charismatic churches here. During training we were challenged to look at the things we have in common between or denominations instead of our differences. It has been good for me, since I have never gotten to work with this type of group. It has stretched my thinking about the "body of Christ" and what it means to live in community. I have also been thinking a lot about religious elitism- where one person/denomination thinks they have a corner on the truth- like the pharisees in the Bible. Not that there isn't truth, because there is. It is the Bible. But I want to make sure I don't present myself as the one who knows everything- but instead ask more questions and learn and journey with people. This is something I haven't done before, and makes me uncomfortable- but I think it is a great learning opportunity.

If you would like to see more pictures check out this facebook album:

No comments: