Summer schools around the world have been facing similar challenges this year: adapt or get cancelled until better times. Vytautas Magnus University (VMU), which has been hosting Lithuanian Language and Culture Studies for foreigners for 19 years, intensive Lithuanian studies for Lithuanian teachers from Lithuanian schools abroad for three years and other summer courses in its Baltic Summer University, has also faced many challenges and cancellation of the contact courses. But when life gives lemons to VMU, it… goes online! Course organisers have decided to use this time to explore the opportunities to teach Lithuanian culture and language courses online and apply the most successful practices in the future.
So why people want to study Lithuanian culture and learn this notoriously difficult language? There is a variety of motives from the Lithuanian roots, centres of the Baltic studies operating abroad and promoting these studies around the world, family ties with Lithuanians, new relationships or simply a long and unique history of this language.
“After all, Lithuanian language is special because it simply survived. Just like Lithuania itself, which could have perished from the geographical and political surface of Europe in the twists of history, our language could have fallen behind and disappeared from the linguistic map of Europe. Therefore, promotion of all things Lithuanian happens in two distinctive ways: by encouraging the foreigners to study Lithuanian language and culture, becoming the ambassadors themselves, and through Lithuanian schools abroad – important beacons to support Lithuanian language and culture in Lithuanian communities abroad.” claims Ms. Vilma Leonavičienė, Head of the International Relations Group of the Academy of Education at VMU’s International Cooperation Department.
The pandemic did not stop the teachers from Lithuanian schools abroad to improve their Lithuanian, pedagogical and other skills, exchange good practices with Lithuanian educators, and representatives of culture and art. As many as 18 teachers from 10 countries of the world will study Lithuanian and get inspired to unite all things Lithuanian online this summer. The programme offers a variety of different topics from didactics, history, cultural studies to virtual excursions and good practice day dedicated for teachers to share their experience with fellows from Lithuania, discussing the matters of identity with VMU’s World Lithuanian University team and representatives from other institutions of education and culture of Lithuania.
While we all miss the social proximity, this new yet previously unexplored summer course format will have certain advantages: it is like leaving your comfort zone, encouraging to find new ways to explore Lithuania and our own immediate environment, rather than bring it back from Lithuania and keep it on the shelf like a souvenir. Online studies will provide an opportunity for those who could not participate in courses due to physical restrictions as well.
This year, the course will take place from the 26th of July to the 24th of August. It is estimated to welcome over 100 students from 31 countries around the world. Students participate under a variety of programmes: the project of Ministry of Education, Science and Sport of the Republic of Lithuania “Inovacijos lituanistikoje: nuo mokslo iki praktikos” (Innovation in Lithuanian Studies: From Research to Practice), Erasmus+ programme, initiatives by the centres of Baltic studies, students and teachers from the institutions of higher education around the world who have submitted applications to the Education Exchange Support Foundation and those who simply want to learn Lithuanian for a variety of different and unique reasons. Therefore, VMU continues its mission: not only the promotion of all things Lithuanian continues, but also the spread in new directions too.