Thursday, July 5, 2012

Week One

Somehow, this first week of classes seems to have gone by in an instant and lasted forever all at the same time. It's not exactly an easy or fun thing to be in class all day, but I'll manage. We've done so much in these four days; I'm glad we don't have classes on Fridays!
What notably stood out to me about this week is that we've all clearly seen a lot of cultural differences both in and out of the classroom.
First of all, the very classroom structure is different than at home. Back home, when a professor asks an open question for discussion, there is usually not a "right answer." As long as students contribute to the discussion and factually support their opinions and ideas, they are generally accepted. Here, professors will blatantly tell you, "No, you are wrong," seemingly without a thought, just because you didn't give the exact answer they wanted. While your idea might have immense value to the subject at hand, if you didn't take it directly from the professor's mind, you're not right. Additionally, things seem to lack a certain organization I'm used to. There was no syllabus handed out at the beginning of class, there was no rubric or guidelines for the presentation we had to give, etc. This all definitely forces one to adapt.
There are also differences in the cultures of the students. The majority of the students here this summer are Portuguese, followed by American. While the American students generally strive to be on time and focused, the Portuguese students lag behind a little and chat during classes. But I hear they're great to party with (although I'm not doing any of that). In how we answer questions, how we approach our case studies, and how we give presentations, certain elements and values of our cultures shine through.
Obviously we're all being exposed to every day Lithuanian culture as well. We've all shared several observations. Among things mentioned have been everything from the fact that Lithuanians don't smile often to the fact that there isn't much spice in their food. For both the Americans and the Portuguese students who are here studying, there has been a lot of unfamiliarity.
I think it's important to note these things about culture. It is also important to realize that just because these cultures are so vastly different, that doesn't make any one better than another. We're all different, and it is crucial for each and every one of us to give our best attempt at understanding and appreciating each other and the culture's we come from. This is not only something for the students studying here at ISM to do, but also something everyone should be mindful of.

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