Kyle Brewer, sophomore student from Cedarville University, Ohio, USA spent his Study Abroad Spring 2019 semester at LCC International University. During the semester at LCC, Kyle made friends from all over the world, and had a chance to visit Russia, a country of his interest. An aspiring International Relations student, Kyle is coming back home to the USA with a fresh view of the world and new hopes for his future career in diplomacy.
Why did you choose LCC as your Study Abroad destination?
I chose LCC International University as my Study Abroad destination because I have an interest in Eastern Europe and Russia. Also, LCC offers a lot of opportunities for travel in the region that many other study abroad opportunities did not offer. I absolutely love this program and it has been so much fun. As Study Abroad students we got to see a lot of Lithuania, which has been amazing. I have traveled to many different cities around the country and the region. I love LCC and my classes. It has been really neat getting to experience classes and living with people from other countries, which is very different from my experience in the U.S. I have learned a lot especially through living with people from other countries. It has made me think a lot more critically about where I come from and who I am. In terms of classes and their structure, they are very similar to my classes back home. The definite benefit of LCC classes is the international community. This semester I had a Cold War History course and I am one of two American students in the class. To be with students whose families lived through the Cold War in the Soviet Union brings very different perspectives and I have gotten a glimpse into that period of time from other people’s points of view, which is extremely valuable. It is not just reading stories about other people’s experiences, it is talking to someone about what it was like for their parents and grandparents living here during that time. It will be amazing to bring that understanding and those stories back home to the U.S.
What are some of the benefits of choosing this program?
I think one of the most important things about studying abroad is that it takes you outside of your normal context and really forces you to think about who you are outside of that. In the U.S. we tend to be almost oblivious to what is happening in the rest of the world. We stay in our own little comfortable circles and allow ourselves to be defined by what we have around us; our friends, our relationships, or the things we own. When you come to a place like LCC and take yourself out of all of that familiarity, it is an incredible period of growth and discovering who you are. Before, Lithuania was just a picture in my mind, but now being here I know that whenever I read about Lithuania for the rest of my life I will be able to think about my friends here. It makes studying the world and thinking about it much more concrete and tangible. That is something you cannot get unless you go, see it, and make new friends.
You mentioned your interest in Eastern Europe. Where does this interest come from?
I study International Relations and the reason I got into that field is because I love learning about new people, cultures, languages, and have an interest in working in government. When I started my studies I began to look to Eastern Europe. It is an interesting place with rich history and a lot of culture that I think is very unknown in the U.S. Russia is obviously one of the major players in the world today and getting to understand it beyond just what you see in the media is really valuable and interesting. This last semester I did a lot of study on the conflict in Ukraine. I was performing an academic exercise and trying to understand words, numbers, and relationships. Now I am good friends with Ukrainians who are living through this situation, which is a daily reality for them and their families. This adds a whole new dimension to understanding the situation and it gives me motivation for understanding it more. It also made me remember why I want to go into international relations and work in diplomacy. It is not just an academic game, it is affecting real people, real lives.
As part of the Study Abroad program at LCC, you also had a chance to go to Russia for a week. Can you share more about your experience there?
It was absolutely incredible, even though it was a very busy week. We took a train ride from Riga to Moscow, which was 17 hours long. We spent three days in Moscow and then four days in St. Petersburg. Of course, we were running all over the place trying to see everything we could during the week, but it was really good. There is so much to do and so many beautiful things to see. We were in touristy areas for most of our stay, but there were times we were able to get out of that a little bit and just those interactions that we had with the local people were really impactful to me. I was amazed by how excited everyone was to show us their country and make sure that we were getting a good experience in Russia. I do not know if I really came into the Russia trip with any major preconceptions about what I would experience. I think the more you travel the less of those preconceptions you have, which is an encouraging thing. But I was blown away being there by just how friendly and open and happy everyone was. There were people laughing all around, families with their children in parks and walking the streets, and it was all very positive. Historically in the U.S. Russia has often been portrayed as very different or even opposed to our own society, and yet there are so many similarities in how people live, which surprised me a little bit.
Has this experience changed you or your perception of the world in any way?
For sure! I am a lot more confident than I was before I came here. I love traveling, I love seeing things but I also like to be in control of everything and in travel you have to give that up a little bit. Coming to Lithuania and getting to travel has really gotten rid of anything that was holding me back and it has been amazing to see that change. This experience provided me with a deeper understanding of how much there is in this world. There is so much culture and history that you do not see unless you leave your comfort zone. If someone is thinking about doing Study Abroad or an Erasmus program, I can tell you it is 100% worth it. It is incredible how much and how quickly you learn. It was really intense when I first got to Lithuania and I was tired all the time because everything was new. There is a new language everywhere, new culture, new university, new people that you are trying to get used to and it can all get a little overwhelming. Then you realize that you can do it and you can handle that, which is a really empowering and enabling thing. I think a lot of people are afraid of taking that first step (I definitely was), but when you do it opens up so much of the world, so many relationships and possibilities that you never even thought could exist.