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The Dayspring Blog

Jess Smoker '14

Dayspring Graduate Studies Abroad

April 12, 2018
Posted in: Alumni

The idea of studying abroad always intrigued me, but I did not know exactly where I wanted to go. I considered Oxford and even Italy, but when I heard about LCC International University (LCC) I was immediately convinced that was where I should go. LCC is a small Christian college of about 600 students and it represents 39 different countries so it is very diverse. The diversity along with the opportunities to travel throughout the semester really drew me to choose to study abroad in Lithuania.

Studying abroad provides a Dayspring student with a life-changing experience.

Near the port in Klaipeda

When I arrived in Vilnius for orientation, I was so excited and absolutely loved my surroundings. There were twenty-four other study abroad students that were a part of the orientation as well as four interns from LCC and a few of the study abroad staff. “Sensory overload” is a good way of describing my first few days in Lithuania, but I sincerely enjoyed every bit of it. Everything was new and exciting and the possibilities seemed endless. After our orientation, we headed four hours northwest to the port city of Klaipeda where LCC is located.

Settling in came with its ups and downs. I knew from the beginning that this would be a very different college experience than what I was used to. The dorms are set up quite differently and it involves a lot more interaction with those on my floor on a daily basis. My roommates have been warm and friendly. We are all from different countries, which has many unique perks. Spain, Iraq, Russia, Kazakhstan, and of course the USA are all represented in my room. I am beginning to put faces to the many different countries that I only hear about in the news. This has been an exciting development as I am beginning to see the world in a whole new light. Instead of seeing countries from a political or media standpoint I am seeing them through the lives of the individuals around me. I have never been this aware of culture before. I have also become so much more aware of the presence of the Lord. He is everywhere. This may seem nonsensical, but so often we box God into our own cultural or immediate context and I am learning that He is so much broader than that.

A Dayspring student experiencing a study abroad semester at LCC in Lithuania.

LCC’s campus

Living in Lithuania has been so exciting. There are many similarities that I see between Lithuania and home, but there are also little differences that constantly remind me that I am not at home. For instance, going to the grocery store can be quite the adventure. As I am learning the language I am better able to navigate through the aisles of food, but sometimes I have to whip out my trusty translator app just to make sure I am buying the right thing. I am taking a Lithuanian language course and am beginning to learn the language and be able to put it into practice with friends or when in town or when grocery shopping. I am an avid coffee drinker and there are a plethora of wonderful coffee shops here in Klaipeda so ordering coffee for the first time in Lithuanian felt like a great accomplishment. There is a lot of joy that accompanies learning a new language.

Another difference is that I take public transportation everywhere or just walk. This may not seem ideal, but this has been one of my favorite things about living in Klaipeda. I have a bus pass for the first time in my life and I walk to the grocery store frequently. Another perk is the close proximity to the beach. Sometimes I will walk or run to the beach and enjoy the breezes of the Baltic Sea. Visiting the port is also another one of my favorite things to do. Walking around Old Town and watching the boats is delightful especially in the cool fall weather we have had the majority of the time I have been here.

A Dayspring Christian Academy alumna studies abroad in Lithuania.

Life at LCC, in particular, has also been exciting and challenging. I am learning what effective communication looks like cross-culturally, which does come with frustration but is also very rewarding. I have had the opportunity to join the worship team here so I play in chapel, worship nights, church services, and any other service they might need me for. This has been a huge blessing. Worshipping with people from all around the world in unity is a life-changing experience for me.

Another regular thing that I participate in is volleyball a few nights a week. This has been a great opportunity to exercise and meet new people. Becoming involved on campus has been a highlight for me as I am gaining so much insight and knowledge from the people I interact with.

I have had quite a few opportunities to travel and explore while I have been here as well. I spent a weekend in Poland visiting Auschwitz, Krakow, and Warsaw. That was a great experience and one that I highly recommend. In September, the study abroad group went to Riga, Latvia, and Tallinn, Estonia. Both cities were full of rich history and were beautiful. Living in a post-soviet country and exploring other post-soviet countries is stirring and really sheds light on the contrast between the freedom that exists now and the oppression that once permeated this region of the world. Over fall break, the study abroad once again went on a trip, this time to Russia. This was an absolutely wonderful trip. We took a bus from Klaipeda to Riga and then a seventeen-hour train ride from Riga to Moscow. In Moscow, we visited the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Tomb, and went to a circus. From Moscow, we went to St. Petersburg— easily my favorite of the two. In St. Petersburg, we visited St. Isaac’s Cathedral, a ballet, Peter and Paul’s Fortress, the Hermitage, and several other cathedrals. I left this trip with my heart full of wonderful memories and sights that I hope I can one day revisit.

A Dayspring Student study abroad in Lithuania

Trakai Castle in Lithuania

All of these different aspects of my semester have made this semester one of the most memorable and life-changing. I have learned so much about the Lord, others, and myself that I would never have otherwise. On this trip, I have often reminisced about my days at Dayspring and the way that it prepared me for this semester. The principles and academic standards that were instilled in me throughout my years at Dayspring prepared me to approach this new experience with grace and confidence. I still recall the grammar lessons, history lessons, and theology lessons when I am doing work for my classes now. Dayspring not only shaped the way that I perform academically but the way that I interact with those around me and the way I view the world. Dayspring taught me that to be rooted in who God is and what He says in His Word is to be able to go anywhere in the world and make an impact and serve the Lord.

This is my last semester of my undergrad and as I look back on where I have been I am so grateful for the foundation that I received at Dayspring. I stand on this end of my college career and say with confidence that Dayspring helped me to get to this point. As a senior in college, I recall my days as a senior in high school. My senior thesis at Dayspring was all about taking risks for the Lord and even though I did not know it then, here I am in Lithuania, putting into practice what I wrote about four years ago. I truly am learning to be a risk taker.

Dayspring Christian Academy is a PreK-12 Classical Christian School in Lancaster, PA. If you’d like to learn more about Dayspring, please register for a personal tour or call Karol Hasting at 717-285-2000. 

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