All in all our trip to Lithuania went really well. Taking a minibus and a ferry down to Siluté was a good idea, it wasn’t very expensive and it was also environmentally friendly. The program we had in Siluté was also very good and I think it could be the same every year we visit also because we will have different students every year.
To our surprise we noticed that for students and their parents traveling to Lithuania is not the same as traveling to Denmark. Students are so young and inexperienced in traveling that they are biased and tend to judge things they don’t know. In this respect traveling to a lesser known country and seeing what it is like makes them more tolenrant and ready to face new situations and people that are unlike themselves. Wanting to travel to a country in order to know its people and culture should be our first goal, and this we should try to prepare our students for. Global Education Course does not arrange tourist trips to foreign countries and we teachers are not tourist guides and the host families are not hotel personnell. We should try to prepare our students for that and emphasize the fact that if you are not willing to understand the culture of the hostfamily maybe you shouldn’t travel at all. I’m sure most of the students would still like to travel but they would be better prepared to face the differences if we talked about it in advance.
In a trip like ours the students have four different levels to work with in coping with the different situations:
- his/her inner world: how am I feeling today?
- his/her own language group: how do we Finns get along with each other?
- his/her Lithuanian & Danish peers: how do I get along with the Lithuanians and the Danes?
- his/her surroundings: I’m supposed to learn about environmental issues, how does this what we’re doing now help me understand the nature?
I’m sorry to say that this year some of our students didn’t get past even the first level – they didn’t want to travel because they would in general prefer to stay in a hotel than in other people’s homes. Most of our students didn’t get past the second level, they didn’t feel at ease with other language groups and they wanted to stay together with their Finnish friends all week, even to the extent that they pretended not to understand the instructions when they were told to work in mixed groups or they provided excuses why they weren’t doing that. In our remaining classes this spring we will discuss this with the students and Titta has drafted a self-assessment form for the students to reflect upon their behaviour.
Even though this year we encountered more problems in adjusting to traveling, we can still happily conclude that there were a handful of students who managed to pass all the way to the fourth level and did adjust to the Lithuanian culture, wanted to get to know the people and see how the live. They spent all their free time with their Lithuanian and Danish friends and didn’t sit all week sulking in their rooms. They managed to get life long experiences and understand something more than they ever could by just sitting in a classroom. Some girls were crying in the bus for a long time after we left Siluté and have volunteered to host next year also even though they will not be students in our school anymore.
All and all, I can just conclude that we have a very good cooperation going here and it is wonderful to be able to provide our students with expriences like this. As we teachers get more experienced in planning everything we do, we can also make even more students ready to accept the differences in other cultures.