Summer Learning in Lithuania
by Caroline Roistacher
During summer 2023, Cal Poly architectural engineering (ARCE) students had the opportunity to travel to Vilnius, Lithuania, for a six-week summer study abroad program. This program connects American and Lithuanian students in a collaborative work environment and gives students an incredible opportunity to learn, travel and explore Lithuanian culture while staying on track academically. The Lithuania summer program was developed by ARCE faculty member Edmond Saliklis in 2012 and is run in partnership with Vilnius Tech, the biggest technical university in Lithuania.
ARCE students are not typically able to study abroad given the time constraints of their rigorous curriculum. However, this program allows students to study abroad in the summer between their second and third year.
Saliklis will lead the program with ARCE faculty member John Lawson this summer. The program will host 24-32 students and tentatively costs $9,600. This cost includes tuition, housing, meals, and excursions, such as this year’s trip to the Baltic Sea and simultaneous participation in ecotourism.
Three courses are offered in this program for a total of seven units of Cal Poly credit. ARCE-302: Structural Analysis, ARCE-352: Structural Computing Analysis and ARCE-371: Structural Systems Laboratory will be taught in English by Saliklis and Lawson.
The program provides students the opportunity to work in small groups with their classmates and professors, allowing them to make genuine connections. Alex Trujillo, who attended the trip in 2023, describes this experience as “like office hours all the time”. The program also puts students a quarter ahead of their prospective graduation term and is desirable to out-of-state students because it is cheaper than their quarter Cal Poly tuition.
Student receiving their Vilnius Tech certificates
One main benefit of the study abroad program is that Cal Poly students are in the classroom with Lithuanian students. This provides opportunities to create new friendships and bonds, as the Lithuanian students act as their hosts, showing them around the city and helping them with their academics.
For Trujillo, interacting with the Lithuanian students was a key part of his experience.
“It was definitely cool seeing how different our learning style is compared to the European students,” Trujillo said. “They also helped us find our way around the city and helped us out with any questions we had about being in Vilnius.”
As the nation’s capital, Vilnius has a historic and preserved old town where students live, work and explore.
ARCE faculty member Peter Laursen, who accompanied students on the Lithuania trip in 2023, saw immense value in the excursions students attended.
“We tried to make [excursions] relevant to the country so students understood not just the city of Vilnius, but also the countryside, the coast and some of the heritage,” Laursen said.
Saliklis believes that there is real power in learning abroad and that Americans need to experience being in a foreign environment occasionally.
“When you go to a place and you don't speak the language and you don't understand the customs, you're out of your comfort zone,” Saliklis said. “That's how you learn.”
Studying abroad in Lithuania gives students a prime opportunity to get away and see the world. Laursen also emphasized the importance of learning independence through an experience like this.
“A lot of students felt an enormous amount of growth personally just from having been away,” Laursen said. “They felt more comfortable about things that they were unfamiliar with: places, countries, habits and food that are all different.”
Top: Vilnius Palace of Culture and Sports
Bottom: Gediminas Castle in Vilnius, which sits atop a hill in the center of the cities
Studying abroad, in general, provides a range of opportunities for students.
“I think that it honestly changes people's lives being able to have that experience in college,” Trujillo said. “It's such a unique experience, and it's so great for kids to get out there and experience what it's like to be overseas and study abroad.”
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