More than 70 percent of the students who study at LCC International University are from international locations. The vast majority of faculty and staff at this North American liberal arts university in Klaipėda are also foreigners. Following the announcement of quarantine in Lithuania and the decision of the university’s administration to move the study process to a remote format until the end of the spring semester, students and faculty were offered the opportunity to return to their home countries. However, a good number of students and instructors were in no hurry to leave Lithuania. They already call Klaipėda their home.
The administration of LCC International University estimates that more than half of the university students remain in Lithuania during the quarantine. Currently, 140 foreign students live in the residence halls located on the university campus, while others are in self-isolation or have found accommodation in Klaipėda on their own. Of the 48 North American faculty members, only three returned to their native homes, while the others have stayed in Klaipėda.
Rob Bethke, a lecturer at LCC International University, came to our country to teach under the Fulbright program funded by the US government. Although he was urged to return to the United States, as the embassy instructed all Fulbright scholars to leave, he applied to the embassy with a request to stay in our country. "We appreciate the concern expressed by the embassy staff for American citizens abroad, but our family has decided to stay here in Lithuania and continue to support the LCC community during this pandemic. Although we have family in the U.S. and we are concerned for them, we also have gained new ‘family members’ in Klaipėda and we want to be here for them as well. We feel that we are safe in Lithuania and that we still have more to contribute to this community during the crisis,” wrote Rob Bethke in a letter to the US Embassy.
As the announcement of the quarantine in Lithuania was being made, LCC students were on spring break, during which time some students quickly decided to return to their home countries. Those who decided to return to Lithuania had to isolate themselves. According to LCC President Dr. Marlene Wall, “This stressful time also brought out the very best of our university community. Faculty and staff organized food delivery for students, helped set up places for self-isolation on campus, and have assisted students in their transition to an online campus reality.”
Emma McDonald, a student from New Zealand in LCC’s International Relations and Development study program, not only stayed in Klaipėda, but like university staff and faculty, actively contributed to the management of quarantine challenges and assisted students remaining in Klaipėda. "Even before the quarantine was announced, I offered my help to the university staff. I help answer students' concerns, try to keep them informed of changes and help with other challenges,” said the New Zealand student.