Overall cost of trip: majority covered by the university
I’ve been on a bit of a writing hiatus but I’m finally back to tell you about my last few trips! I’ve been really enjoying Krems, so when it came time for my group project to Lithuania, I was a little sad! The weather has been amazing, so I’ve been biking a lot lately, especially by the water. Having the Danube so close is a dream. It’s always so busy with people, so it’s nice to see so many people on their bikes or walking along the water.
From April 5-10th, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Kaunas, Lithuania alongside 4 of my classmates and professor to work on an assignment using an Oculus Rift. At the beginning of the semester, we were given the option of companies to work with, and this was the only groups with the opportunity to work hands on with a company! Trying to never turn down the opportunity to travel, I excitedly joined the group. My mindset going into this was, “when will I ever travel to Lithuania?” To me, it was a pretty random destination, but such a cool opportunity!
Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania and it is one of the three Baltic states. It is located on the South-East part of the Baltic sea. The official languages are Lithuanian and Latvian and they use the Euro.
I set off Tuesday morning by catching the train at 5:20 am from Krems to Vienna airport. We flew Air Baltic from Vienna to Riga, Riga to Vilnius, and then we took a train from Vilnius to Kaunas. To be honest……..the train ride to Kaunas made me pretty skeptical as to where I was going to spend almost a week. It was completely off road, and very much in the country. The views from the train were not what I was used to and it made me really question where I was actually going.
Our hotel was about a 15 minutes walk from the train station and it was in a pretty run down area/ not very developed area. I think I’m pretty quick to judge, but I saw it, and the first thought in my head was “whaaaaaaat have I gotten myself into?!” We finally got to the hotel, which was actually pretty nice, so I was feeling a bit more reassured. We settled in and set out for the town to familiarize ourselves with it and get some food!
We were near this huge blue and white church, which was actually really beautiful, but the “new town” part of Kaunus was all under construction, which meant it was all dirt road from the Church, and half way through the shopping strip! I definitely didn’t get a great first impression, and same with the rest of my group. As we kept walking (the road became paved again,) it was actually a nice town! The streets were lined with stores and huge trees in the middle.
I spent an afternoon later in the week exploring through Kaunas and it was nicer than expected! It took us about 30 minutes from our hotel to walk into old town. The stores were really quaint, and it was not too busy. We walked to the Kaunas Castle, which was a lot smaller than I thought, but still really nice. We then walked to the river, through Stamkos park. At the end of the park, where the two largest rivers in Lithuania, Nemunas and Neris. This is the largest body of water Lithuania, and these two rivers meet and connect! It was so cool to see, because the current on one side of the park was different the on the other side, and one side was significantly darker than the other.
The purpose of the trip was to get a head start and some background information for our actual presentation for our group project. We met at the Kaunas Technology University (KTU) to work with marketing students from there, and work with programming and software students from Dortmund University in Germany. As Business Administration students from Krems, we were responsible for the project management aspect.
We were given two local businesses in Kaunas, a plant nursery and a vet clinic, and we had to design games and pitch the idea for companies to invest in an Oculus Rift for a stronger marketing tool for their business. We were separated into three groups and the IMC Krems students were all divided. I was the only student from Krems in my group, which was a little challenging in the beginning because I’m not actually a Business student, nor have any experience in project management. I’m a Communication Studies and Cultural Studies student so this was quite the experience. As well, I was the only native English speaker in my group, as everyone’s first language was German, so, you know, that was fun too.
This was a huge learning experience for me, which I really benefitted a lot from. The first task we had to do was a creative brainstorm of five different types of games that we could create for each one of the companies. We presented all ten ideas to the rest of the groups, and we then narrowed it down to which company we were going to work with. From that point, we picked our top two game choices from our company.
My actual work in this group was not as demanding compared to the German students because I had absolutely zero experience or knowledge about coding and programming and whatever else they were doing on their computers. I was responsible for actually articulating what the purpose and goal of our game was, how the company would benefit, and I had to create and present a ten minute pitch to the rest of the groups and professors.
It was really cool to work with students from a completely different academic field from me, and from a different culture, as well. It definitely makes you more open minded and more aware of what you are saying, to make sure you are including everyone and that everyone understands what you’re saying. I learned a lot of patience, and I’m becoming more articulate when I speak. The only thing I think I truly need to work on is talking slower!! Knowing me, I talk more than a mile a minute, so when I’m speaking and people are staring at me like I’m insane, it’s not because they don’t understand English, but because they can’t even catch half the words I’m saying! It’s easy to assume that when you’re talking to your friends who share the same first language, you don’t have to worry about little things like this. But, it’s a good reminder when working with others!
This was also my first trip on my exchange as the only Canadian! It was actually really funny, because everyone I travelled with was from some part of Europe, so being from Canada is basically like being from another planet. I have never been asked so many questions before about Canada itself, the weather, the culture, the food, and why I chose Austria. Having conversations like this truly make me miss home! I love bragging about much I love Canada, and I have so much pride being Canadian. I sometimes out Canada myself, with the flag ironed on my bag and then rocking a Drake/Toronto shirt. Honestly, the most common asked question which I’ve been asked maybe four times now, is if I know Drake. It’s so funny! I wish Toronto was that small that I did…
I spent April 5th to 10th in Kaunas, and in that time I had two mid term assignments. A couple nights were spent in the hotel room getting through the assignment, as we were at KTU from about 9 in the morning until the evening. It was a lot of work, but it was really worth it! We had a flight on Sunday evening from Vilnius, so we spent the day there! It was a lot more lively and built up then Kaunas. We walked through the new and old town and visited the castle on the top of the hill, which is in every picture for Vilnius.
The food in Lithuania was very similar to Poland, so no complaints. It was very reasonably priced and fresh! It was a lot pierogi based dishes and a lot of fried meats. The famous soup is the cold beetroot soup. Yup, you read it right. COLD. I tried it with hesitation, but when in Lithuania, obviously I had to try. And it was delicious!!
I benefitted a lot from the trip because I was open minded and willing to try new things. That’s what brought me here in the first place! Being on exchange is really about putting yourself in situations that you wouldn’t have the opportunity to do back home, and stepping out of your comfort zone, and losing the fear that “it’s too different from home” and you want to stick with a food, country, language that you’re familiar with! Nope! Not when you’re here…We aren’t in Canada anymore…I’m abroad and living every moment to its fullest! (….except right now because I’m sitting in my bed writing this.)
Until my next adventure,