Summer last year, I took a Lithuanian Language & Culture Summer School in Vilnius University — located in Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania. The university is the oldest in the Baltics, and they offer this language learning program in summer and winter, both for 2 and 4 weeks*. I opted for the 4-week one, which took place in July 2018.
*If you actually live or stay longer in Vilnius, you can even take their Semester Course which is done extensively for 4 full months, or take the evening / daytime classes for 3 months and go to class for 2-3 times a week.
Being a former Soviet bloc nation, some people (including friends of mine) thought that Lithuanian language is Russian, which is not. Some Lithuanians might speak Russian — just like some Indonesians would still speak Dutch, for instance — but guys, Lithuania has their own beautiful language that actually derived from Sanskrit! Lithuanian is also the oldest Indo-European language that survives until this very date. The only similar language to it is Latvian, which is spoken in Latvia, Lithuania’s neighbouring country.
As an Indonesian native speaker, my favourite thing about Lithuanian is that it’s a phonetic language, just like Indonesian. Plus, it uses Latin alphabets, which means I don’t have to start literally from zero… learning new alphabets or writing system, before even starting with basic vocabularies 😀
However, the challenging part of Lithuanian language is its difficult grammar. I would say that English grammar is really easy compared to Lithuanian. I used to study Spanish as well, and I think its grammar is more complicated than English even though the words are easier to pronounce… but I find Lithuanian grammar to still be harder than that. The main thing about Lithuanian grammar is the cases or declensions — and later if you’re interested to know more details about this or the language roots, you can check this article in the faculty’s official site or even this one from our beloved Wikipedia 🙂
Let’s talk about the program now!
The summer school is organized by Vilnius University, Faculty of Philology. The campus is in the heart of Vilniaus Senamiestis (Vilnius Old Town), which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and also the best place to study if you’re new in town!
The duration of the 4-week program I joined was equal to 100 academic hours. Students had classes from Mondays to Fridays, and excursions to other cities in Lithuania on Saturdays. A normal day would consist of 2 language sessions and 1 culture class, where each of them is for 1.5 hours. Sometimes, we could also have 3 language sessions, and a small excursion by the end of the weekday to visit some places in town.
From my batch, we had 40 language sessions and 10 culture classes in total. For the full day excursions on Saturdays, we visited 3 cities: Trakai, Kaunas, and Druskininkai; while for the short excursions on weekdays, we toured around 6 sites in Vilnius: Vilnius University (tour of the house is a must yo!), Vilnius Old Town, Grand Dukes Palace, Handcrafts (shops/galleries), Europos Parkas, and KGB Museum.
Before the language sessions began on the second day of the program, some students had placement test on the first day. The test was only for students who had learned Lithuanian prior to the program, so the faculty could determine in which level they should be put into. I did not take the test since I was a pure beginner, so I was assigned to Level 1 class, where there were 11 other students in my group. I was really happy to meet my new friends from this course! They come from different countries: Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Austria, France, USA, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. From other groups, there were more students, literally from around the world: Philippines, Australia, Sweden, Hungary, Mexico, and so on… Oh, I also met 3 other Indonesian girls in the program! They were all beginners as well but assigned to another group.
My group had the lovely Mrs. Inga Daraškienė as our teacher, and we couldn’t be more grateful. She was always so thorough yet patient teaching the 12 of us in the class. I’m sure it’s quite challenging to teach a language to a bunch of pure beginners who come with different linguistic backgrounds, but Inga did everything so well. She’s such a gem. Our summer course wouldn’t be the same without her.
The main reason I went to Lithuania and learned Lithuanian is because my boyfriend is from here ♥ I met some students who also took the course because their significant others are Lithuanians. We surely want to understand the culture of the country and to be able to speak with our partners’ families 🙂
Other students have various interesting reasons why they decided to learn Lithuanian. Some learn it since their parents or grandparents are originally from Lithuania but migrated to USA, Australia, and some other countries… so they got interested to know more about their roots. Some found out about the program from friends and received a scholarship for the summer course. One student is a part of a choir back in her home country where the members are mostly Lithuanians, so they often sing Lithuanian songs… she wanted to understand the lyrics so she joined the program. Another student came all the way from far east just because he thought Lithuanian sounds like the language spoken in The Game of Thrones so he became determined to learn it! In fact – he’ll even come back for another course this July!
Beside the language, there’s a lot of interesting things we learned from the culture classes and excursions as well — from the history of the nation, the architecture of the buildings, to the country’s nature. Personally, my favourite session was when we got to discuss about Lithuanian everyday-life culture. We learned about how Lithuanians perceive themselves and the outside world, which can more or less explain the people’s interests, ambitions, personalities, and approach to certain things in general.
During this summer school, I could see how Vilnius University staff members can be really serious when it comes to studies and time, but I also noticed how full of fun they could be when they threw the farewell party for the 2-week program students! We had a lot of food, drinks, songs, dances, and games! I’d seriously recommend anyone who’s interested to learn a new language to come to Lithuania and study in this university. The program is very well prepared and each cent you pay for the course is absolutely worth it. The 4-week program I attended cost 666 Euros, and this price also included the transportation used for the excursions, along with entrance fees in the visited sites. In case you’re wondering how much the other programs cost, please check this page.
An additional info is, if you’re thinking of doing a degree program in Europe, Lithuania actually offers an affordable education that – guess what – might even be cheaper than in studying in developing countries! If some other countries in Europe have made you think that you will have to pay ten-thousands of Euros for a university degree, I have a good news for you – you can check this page to see the tuition fees for degree programs in Vilnius University, as an example. Please note that the list provided in the page is only for the degree programs conducted in English.
As you can see, the cost for a bachelor program starts from 1,906 Euros per year and a master program from 2,295 Euros a year. This is possible because Lithuania doesn’t normally differentiate the tuition fees between EU students and non-EU students. Even if they differentiate it for certain programs, the difference will be very little, approximately up to 1,000 Euros only. Well, if you’ve ever done some research on university programs in other countries in Europe, you would know that there are countries/universities that will charge 2,500 Euros a year for an EU student and 14,000 Euros a year for a non-EU student. What a gap, eh? 😀
I’ll just refer you to this cool video to see more of Vilnius University! I definitely love this university for the knowledge I gained and all the great memories I had there, and I’m looking forward to come back soon.
If you have any questions about the summer course or Vilnius/Lithuania in general, always feel free to leave a comment down below or hit me up via DM on Instagram @mishajoh ♥