Accidental New Horizons at the North American University in the Heart of Europe

By Hannah Quinque

Pho­to Cred­it: Han­nah Quinque, Win­ter on the beach

Last fall, I had the priv­i­lege of spend­ing a semes­ter abroad. What bet­ter place to go for a North Amer­i­can Stud­ies Pro­file grad­u­ate than across the pond?

Even if said pond hap­pens to be the Baltic Sea rather than the Atlantic Ocean, my jour­ney did take me to the “North Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty in the Heart of Europe”, i.e., the Repub­lic of Lithua­nia. And if you’re ask­ing your­self: “What is it doing there?” or per­haps even: “What were you doing there?” let me intro­duce you to this one-of-a-kind place called LCC Inter­na­tion­al University.

LCC is sit­u­at­ed in Klaipė­da, the third-largest city in this small coun­try of 2.8 mil­lion peo­ple and is home to its major sea­port. From Ger­many and oth­er coun­tries bor­der­ing the Baltic Sea, you can get there direct­ly by fer­ry. This is an excit­ing way to trav­el to a fair­ly uncon­ven­tion­al destination.

The uni­ver­si­ty, too, is any­thing but the first thing younger me would have pic­tured for my semes­ter abroad. First off, it’s tiny. There are only a cou­ple of hun­dred stu­dents enrolled for both the B.A. and M.A. programs.

Pho­to Cred­it: Han­nah Quinque, LCC logo on the gymnasium/cafeteria/event venue over­look­ing the on-cam­pus dorms and fea­tur­ing clas­sic Klaipė­da weather

Sec­ond­ly, LCC is a Chris­t­ian uni­ver­si­ty. In fact, LCC stands for “Lithuan­ian Chris­t­ian Col­lege.” I was look­ing for a semes­ter of cul­tur­al exchange, and I can con­fi­dent­ly say: “I found it.” Nev­er before have I been in an aca­d­e­m­ic and pri­vate envi­ron­ment in which reli­gion was as present as right here. I’m just as skep­ti­cal of reli­gion as before – specif­i­cal­ly in com­bi­na­tion with edu­ca­tion – but now my crit­i­cism is based on a new set of experiences.

Shock­ing­ly, the most chal­leng­ing expe­ri­ences usu­al­ly are the ones that teach us the most. Noth­ing would be fur­ther from my mind than to uncrit­i­cal­ly pro­mote the incred­i­bly priv­i­leged ‘the-world-is-my-oys­ter’ lifestyle many (West­ern) Euro­pean stu­dents have access to. Still, for lack of a more cre­ative phrase, I def­i­nite­ly grew as a per­son that semes­ter. Not despite, but because of the lim­it­ed space in my 5‑person dorm room.

A big con­trib­u­tor to that expe­ri­ence is the sec­ond seg­ment of LCC’s name. The moniker “inter­na­tion­al” has tru­ly earned its place here. Apart from the vast major­i­ty of class­es taught in Eng­lish, the con­nec­tion to North Amer­i­ca is def­i­nite­ly notice­able in teach­ing staff. Also, there are quite a few Amer­i­can stu­dents on cam­pus as well as many most­ly per­ma­nent, inter­na­tion­al stu­dents. I lived and went to class with peo­ple from Ukraine, Hon­duras, Rus­sia, Lithua­nia, Geor­gia, Arme­nia, Latvia, Kazach­stan, Afghanistan, Kir­gis­tan, Sudan, India, Nigeria….

Pho­to Cred­it: Han­nah Quinque, On to new horizons

For many Ger­mans, what­ev­er lies east of the Pol­ish-Ger­man bor­der is a big blank when it comes to his­tor­i­cal and cul­tur­al aware­ness. I would have pre­sumed that most Amer­i­cans are even less like­ly to seek out this part of the world, espe­cial­ly for edu­ca­tion pur­pos­es. So much for presumptions.

The con­cept of LCC is obvi­ous and in actu­al­i­ty anoth­er case of assert­ing the hege­mon­ic pow­er of the Glob­al North and West­ern hemi­sphere. It does, how­ev­er, also pro­vide an excep­tion­al­ly and uncon­ven­tion­al­ly diverse set­ting for any­one who’s will­ing to open their mind and to engage with top­ics, peo­ple, and real­i­ties that don’t just affirm their own expe­ri­ences. By choos­ing this excit­ing­ly unknown option for my semes­ter abroad, I dis­cov­ered a place that extends toward hori­zons – far beyond what I had imagined.

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