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Understanding Lithuania through a Foreign Student

 

   
   

This year, for the first time, a foreign student from Lithuania came to study at Dongguk University. As the foreing exchange program has not yet fully developed in Korea, Lithuania is a country that is veiled in mystery. Lithuania is not a country that Koreans hear about daily. Located in North Eastern Europe, Lithuania is a country with beautiful churches and castles. Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union along with Estonia and Latvia in 1991. To learn more about Lithuania the Post sat down with the exchange student, Dziugas Petruskevicius.

The Post: Could you please introduce yourself?
Dziugas: My name is Dziugas Petruskevicius. I am from Lithuania. I studied at Vytautas Magnus University and I am majoring in Management. I am a junior this year.

The Post: Could you tell us more about your country, Lithuania?
Dziugas: Lithuania is a country that is located in the center of the European continent. Although it was under the rule of the Soviet Union for two centuries, Lithuania used to be a country with large territory reaching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. It is a country with a thousand year history and we speak our own language.

The Post: What are some sightseeing places and attractions that you could recommend in Lithuania?
Dziugas: There are many distinguished structures such as Catholic churches, towers, and castles. First, St. Anne’s church, which is in Vilnius. It is a close connection to Napoleon. In the past, when Napoleon was leading the French army he saw this cathedral and remarked, “I would like to take this cathedral in my hands and bring it back to Paris.” This is because the cathedral is very beautiful. In addition, behind the cathedral there is another cathedral that was built by the student Yona. There is also a special castle called Trakai Castle. It is located in Trakai, which is surrounded by three lakes. When you see pictures, or visit the castle of Trakai, the castle looks as if the castle is floating on a lake. At night, it becomes even more marvelous because you can only see the shining Trakai castle and the castle’s reflection in the water. Thus, you can see two shining castles.

The Post: Lithuania is known to be a country that has been influenced by other European cultures. Where are the traces of other European cultures that can be found in Lithuania?
Dziugas: There are lots of cities that you can visit that show other cultures. First, if you go Vilnius, you can see an old section of a city. Here you can see how Europe looked like in medieval times. Because this city has diverse buildings such as cathedrals, Vilnius is also called the “department store of cathedrals.” In the past, Germans lived in Lithuania’s city, Klaipeda. At this time, Klaipeda’s atmosphere is very different from other regions of Lithuania and you would think the city is a German city.

The Post: Koreans are very proud of Hangul, the Korean language, because of its inventor, King Se-jong, and the fact that it is a scientific writing system. We show our appreciation of Hangul by celebrating Hangul Day on October 9th. What about Lithuanians? Since you have your own language could you tell us more about it?
Dziugas: First of all, our language is an old language in Europe. Lithuanians are very proud of this fact. The main reason why we are proud is because we have kept our language despite the fact that Lithuania is located in the center of Europe and has long been a military strategic point that many countries have fought over. We were invaded by foreign powers and under foreign rule for a long time. Even under these circumstances, we were able to perfectly keep our language intact until the time of our independence. We feel proud that we have been able to preserve our language. We celebrate this and our identity on Independence Day.

The Post: Your culture sounds very interesting. I would like to ask you about Lithuania’s university life. Are university festivals held in Lithuania and what is special about them?
Dziugas: University festivals in Lithuania are similar to university festivals held in Korea. We call this festival the “Spring Festival.” During this time, a lot of singers and groups come to universities to perform. Also, many famous people come to our universities to give special lectures for students. Moreover, students hang out in bars and clubs while attending university just like they do in Korea. Sometimes we have to pay entrance fees but they are pretty cheap.

The Post: What kind of club culture is there in Lithuania and what is special about it?
Dziugas: We have many diverse clubs at our universities, but they are related to studying. For example, there is a Baltic Language Club, Spanish Language Club, Economist Club, and Political Club and so on. I think this is similar to Korea in the way that students are interested in joining studying clubs. I think being interested in studying is special.

The Post: How are university lectures given in Lithuania?
Dziugas: Our lectures are very different with those in Korea. I experienced culture shock about this. First, in Korea, professors call out students’ names and check their attendance. However, in Lithuania, there is no concept of “attendance.” This is a concept that I learned in Korea. There is no attendance policy because listening to lectures is up to the students. We think that because it is “you” who have paid for the lectures then “you” are the one who should attend to learn. Hence, professors let students come to their classes of their own accord. Also, another thing that I have not understood until now is “professors.” In Lithuania, no one thinks that professors are perfect. Instead, students and professors should have an open mind. This atmosphere allows students to have freer discussions.

The Post: How do university students in Lithuania spend their free time?
Dziugas: Students usually enjoy basketball. Most European countries enjoy football. However, in Lithuania, people are crazy about basketball and everyone makes an effort to see basketball games. Students wear T-shirts, or jerseys, that are related to their favorite basketball teams and watch basketball games together. If there are no games on TV, then we play basketball.

The Post: Finally, is there anything that you would like to tell the students of Dongguk?
Dziugas: I want to say that I love Dongguk very much. Studying at Dongguk University is one of the biggest events of my life so far. Living in Korea and studying at Dongguk has made me a stronger and braver person. I have become a better person and I will love Dongguk for the rest of my life.

While Lithuania is a country very different from Korea, with its own unique culture; it is still shrouded in mystery. Through interviewing Dziugas, an exchange student from Lithuania, the Post and Dziugas hope that students’ awareness and knowledge of Lithuania have increased and hope that students become interested in learning more about Lithuania in the future. We also hope that the number of Lithuanian students attending Dongguk University will increase in the future.

Kim Ji-yeon  tj703@dongguk.edu

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