As part of the Erasmus+ project, we (Jolina, Maria, Lavinia, Melda and Ariana, accompanied by Mrs Diekers and Mrs Uffelmann) spent a week in the Lithuanian city of Kaunas. Kaunas is the second largest city in Lithuania and the European Capital of Culture this year. Together with students from Lithuania, Turkey, Romania and Belgium, we worked on the topic of "women in science" and explored a country that we might never have visited without Erasmus+, even though it has so many exciting things to offer, as we were able to experience during this week.
Monday - welcome to Kaunas
The first day of the Erasmus project in Lithuania started at 9am in the auditorium of the school in Kaunas. First we introduced ourselves by giving our name, something that describes us as a person and the team name of the country. Then we played a special get-to-know-you game, where we had to say our name again and also a hobby, while throwing a roll of yarn to each other to create a big net that connected us all. Afterwards, we gave different presentations about our respective city and school as well as about a famous scientist from our own country.
After this task, we were shown the school, which is laid out in the shape of a circle. As the school is Catholic, it has its own small chapel, a large cross in the schoolyard and some pictures of the Pope. The pupils wear a school uniform. What was also different from what we are used to were the cameras mounted on the school gate, monitoring the school throughout. The school also has a canteen, a library, an athletics field that is shared with the local community, and many other areas that we learned about during our tour of the building.
Our final task of the day was to work in mixed groups to find as many questions as we could that we would like to ask a woman in science. Finally, we collected these, with the best ones being chosen for the upcoming interview on Friday. (Lavinia)
Tuesday - going to university
Tuesday started again at 9am at school. First we were supposed to write down our impressions from the previous day in our diary, which we were supposed to create and keep especially for this week. Then we went together by bus and visited KTU University and Santaka Valley and had a look at some of the inventions on display there. After this interesting introduction, we were given a special tour of the Faculty of Chemical Technologies at KTU University. We then drove closer to the centre of Kaunas and had lunch in a restaurant there. After lunch, we briefly visited a viewpoint and then continued to the old town of Kaunas, where we got a detailed sightseeing tour. Together, most of us went to the local shopping centre Akropolis afterwards. (Maria)
Wednesday - Vilnius
For us, an excursion to Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, was on the agenda today. There, our large international group split into two smaller ones to take part in parallel guided tours of the old town. Our tour guide, an elderly lady from Lithuania, led us from Vilnius University, where she gave us insights into the long, eventful history of the university, through various churches to a small artistic quarter that offered a stark contrast to the rest of the old town. We were allowed to spend the subsequent lunch break on our own. We from Germany decided on a vegan restaurant nearby and ate what were probably the best vegan burgers in town. Strengthened, we made our way to the Grand Ducal Palace of Vilnius, which we now visited together. Here we learned a lot about Lithuania's history, for example that in the 15th century the country stretched from the Baltic Sea south to the Black Sea and east almost to Moscow. We picked up real swords and shields, marvelled at the impressive halls of the castle, where government visits sometimes still take place today, and enjoyed the view over the city from the observation deck. At the end of the day, we strolled through the beautiful city centre of Vilnius in small groups and collected the last impressions before returning to Kaunas by bus. (Ariana)
Thursday - essays and Trakai
Like every morning, we started Thursday with the so-called "diary time". We wrote down our experiences and impressions from the previous day and then went into the international groups to write essays. Here, the topic of the week "Women in Science" was again the focus, and various questions were answered in short texts. After the editing time, we had a lunch break and then drove together as a group to Trakai. The special feature of this town is clearly the castle there. It is surrounded by water, and as the temperatures were very cool, we had the opportunity to see an impressive winter landscape. The castle was thus completely enclosed in ice, giving the surroundings an overwhelming atmosphere. There was now the opportunity to join a tour with a guide. Everyone found the tour of the castle enriching and was fascinated by the historical fragments on display there. After some group photos, we finally started our journey home and spent the rest of the day in Kaunas with the other exchange students. (Melda)
Friday - time to say goodbye
The day started at 9 am, just like the last few days. The first item on the agenda was an interview with a lady from BASNET (Baltic States Network 'Women in Science and Technology'). We had already prepared the questions for this on Monday. She told us about her work as a scientist and her life experiences. Afterwards, we wrote our last diary entry, exchanged diaries with each other and went to a nearby small church that is regularly used by the school community for church services. As a final programme item, we listened to Lithuanian music - the school's own choir sang for us. We were also allowed to try our hand at Lithuanian folk dances together with the music group following our certificate presentation. The programme was over sooner than we thought. Lavinia, Ariana, Melda and Maria now had free time and partly visited the handicraft market that took place in the city that weekend. I (Jolina) went with the Belgians to the Fort Nine concentration camp. After the little excursion, everyone met up at the market. (Jolina)
The trip to Lithuania was a very successful experience for all of us, as we not only learned more about the country, but also gained exciting insights into several cultures at the same time, got to know the most diverse people and made friends, as well as being able to deal with the important topic of "women in science". We would recommend everyone to take part in trips like this and network with students worldwide.