George Fox University, Oregon, USA offers Juniors Abroad trips to a variety of destinations worldwide. Dr. Philip Smith, a Philosophy Professor at George Fox, who initiated a visit to LCC International University during their trip around Baltic countries, and Jenna Richards, a junior in George Fox, shared impressions from their recent travels.
How did you learn about LCC and what prompted you to come here?
Dr. Philip Smith: I have been interested in LCC for a number of years. I had friends who have worked here, so I knew about this institution prior to the trip. George Fox University has Juniors Abroad trips for many different destinations, maybe 20 every year, so I thought why not planning a trip to the Baltic region. Naturally, I wanted to come to LCC, especially to have time for our students to interact with students here at LCC.
Jenna Richards: I found out about LCC from the faculty in Christian Studies Department who encouraged people to go to LCC as Study Abroad students. I also had a couple of friends who went to LCC and participated in the Summer Language Institute program. I am a junior Biblical Studies major, and I got interested in the Eastern Europe when I did a Study Abroad trip to Romania where I lived for four months. Thus, I have been interested in the religious and political climates of post-Soviet states. When this trip came up, I realized that I had an opportunity to see other parts of Eastern Europe, which was exciting to me. I think for Americans there is always this lure to go to Russia and in general this region of the world.
What countries are on your list for this trip?
Dr. Smith: First, we went to St. Petersburg, Russia, then to Tallinn, Estonia; Riga, Latvia; and finally we came to Klaipėda, Lithuania. We will be visiting Germany and Denmark afterwards. It is an amazing opportunity to be here at LCC, since, as I have mentioned, I know some people who have worked here. For example, Jekabs Bikis who was a Business Department Chair at LCC, and now is Dean of the College of Business at George Fox University. Out of those friendships and connections, I knew that LCC is a Christian university with students from all over Eastern Europe studying in English.
What is the focus of the Juniors Abroad trip at George Fox University?
Dr. Smith: The program focuses on simple intercultural knowledge. When we traveled to Russia, Estonia, and other countries, we visited obvious touristy locations in those countries, but we also pushed our students to write journals and to reflect on experiences they got there. One of the most important things I wanted our students to experience is worshiping in different churches during our trip.
What are the benefits of collaboration between LCC and George Fox?
Richards: Many Christian colleges in USA are denomination based or Evangelical. I think it is beneficial for students to be in the environments where they are around Orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, or Christians who come from the Middle East or other parts of the world. I believe that inter-sectional dialogue is important for American Christians and just Americans in general. This is a rare and a very valuable opportunity for a Christian student in a liberal arts university in USA. Also, while it is nice to have faculty members from George Fox come with us, to have had Viktorija, our group leader from LCC, who grew up in Eastern Europe, who is Lithuanian and who can answer a lot more interpersonal questions, has been an incredible experience.
Dr. Smith: The same thing applies in terms of nationality. USA is a large country and many of our students, like Jenna, have traveled a great deal outside of the country. However, for some of the students in this group it is the very first time they have ever left USA. For educated young people it is important to get personal experience of the rest of the world. This is the reason why George Fox University emphasizes Study Abroad and Juniors Abroad trips.