Radvyda Vaišvilaitė, the Lithuanian Studies Department Chair, has worked at LCC International University for over 20 years now. Radvyda found LCC while looking for a job as a Spanish language teacher. Radvyda’s career instead took her on the path of teaching Lithuanian language and literature courses, a career path she had never expected to follow. Now, Radvyda is teaching approximately 150 students each year, has traveled around the world, and never gets bored in the international environment of LCC.
Radvyda, initially you came to LCC wanting to work as a Spanish language teacher. How did you learn Spanish?
20 years ago the idea of volunteering was absolutely crazy, especially for people in Lithuania. After finishing my MA at Vilnius University, I decided before starting a "serious life" I wanted to do something interesting and different. When I was studying in Vilnius, I got to know some nuns known as The Assumption Sisters. They started a program allowing young people to travel as missionaries and work abroad. I traveled to Spain for six months and I managed to learn Spanish while being there. Then I spent eight months in Chile working as a volunteer. It was an unusual experience at that time. When I came back to Lithuania, everybody was curious if I really worked without pay as a volunteer, and also why I came back home.
How come you were looking for a job as a Spanish language teacher, but eventually ended up teaching Lithuanian language to foreigners?
I was born and raised in Klaipėda. When I was looking for a job in Lithuania, I found LCC and thought that they might want to hire a Spanish language teacher. However, it turned out they needed a Lithuanian language teacher, and for me, it was an even better option than teaching Spanish. Now 20 years later, here I am teaching at LCC and enjoying my career. I can say that I am glad that I found LCC by a lucky accident.
Over the years what major changes have you seen at LCC?
I have seen changes in the number of students, especially international students. In the early years, we had North American students who only spoke English. Now, we have students from 50+ countries, most of whom are multilingual. In general, the students now are more open-minded and come from a variety of cultures, traditions, and backgrounds. At LCC we are in a constant state of change and adaptation because many people come for a semester, a few semesters, or a few years. It is a huge gift to be here at LCC. It is never boring. This is why I have enjoyed being at LCC for more than 20 years now-- there is always something exciting going on.
You teach Lithuanian Language I and II to students as well as staff and faculty. How do you manage to create teaching programs that help students learn the basics of the Lithuanian language in one or two semesters?
Of course, within our department, my colleagues and I use various books to create this language program. The best way to teach a language that is usable and practical is to adapt to your students’ needs. There are many exercises that I created myself which we use in the classroom. I have students that are international, Study Abroad, Erasmus, and those who come to the Summer Intensive Lithuanian language and culture courses. I can usually predict where they might have questions or what will be a bit harder for them to learn. It is always good to have a teaching plan and follow it, but be adaptable at the same time.
When you started work at LCC 20 years ago, what was your first impression of LCC?
The teaching methods and the relational aspect of LCC was different than what I was used to in my university. My experience was more within a hierarchy system. Here at LCC, we are a family within the faculty, staff, and students. Even though I have worked with nuns and in some other Christian organizations, I had never seen a Christian university that takes time to understand how its mission can be presented and fulfilled. What was different and what is still important at LCC is that we address each other with our first names here. I do not know if there is another university in Lithuania where I could call the president of the university by the first name. It is unusual and I think it is part of the charm of LCC.
How do you combine faith in teaching?
When teaching language, grammar, and vocabulary, there is no way that I can include faith explicitly. I think the most important way I can communicate my faith is my attitude towards my students. It is respecting those I teach and serve as an example of how students should treat others that I make the most influence. In general, Lithuanians are reserved people and we do not talk too much, especially about our faith. One way we can show our belief is through our actions and attitude towards the people around us. Our actions show our values and what kind of people we are.
How has your LCC career impacted you personally?
When I started working at the university my dad told me, “You will never get old.” I did not understand what he was talking about. However, now, I understand what he meant. In the classroom, I have to always be energetic, and be able to share this energy and desire to learn with my students. Of course, I get a lot of energy from my students as well, and they bring me joy. I am absolutely thrilled that people want to learn the Lithuanian language. It gives me a feeling of pride in my country and my language. Working at LCC has created many possibilities for me. I have expanded my connections, gained many friends, and met wonderful people. It is a huge blessing to be working in an institution like LCC. I live in Lithuania, a small country some people do not know about. I live in a small city, I teach in a small private university. The main reason I have stayed at LCC for over 20 years is that everything happens in such a diverse and international environment. Yes, I stay in one place, but people come here from all over the world. They open the window to many possibilities and they bring something new with them. This is why it is never boring here. The international environment gives me the perspective of the world. It does not matter where you live; what matters is how you look at the world. Most only look at it from a narrow point of view. However, here at LCC, through the students, staff, faculty, books, journeys, and stories of other people, I have a window to the whole world.