Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saying Goodbye

My last week in Lithuania was pretty crazy, like I mentioned in my last post. On Monday morning we had a new professor in our Marketing class and found out that we would be doing a case study on H&M and would be presenting a 20 minute presentation on Thursday. It was a lot of work and so we worked on it every day during class and also in the evenings, along with working on our project management project. It was worth it though for two reasons one of which is that Denise and I had the chance to work with two of the Portuguese guys, Joao and Guilherme (I have no problem spelling the names but I still can’t pronounce them the way they are supposed to be).  We often discussed more than just H&M, we talked about how in Portugal they learned that there are only five continents as opposed to seven (they combine North and South America and do not include Antarctica), we showed them pictures of Denver and the mountains, they showed us pictures of Porto and the beaches, and they taught us how to say “Onde รจ a casa de banho” (where is the bathroom) and “amo-te” (I love you, I figured that since I knew what it was in Lithuanian, I may as well know it in Portuguese).  The second reason the project was worth it was that our professor told us afterwards that we had done a good job, especially having been such a mixed group.
Part of the reason we study abroad is to have a cultural experience but before I came the only cultural experience that I thought that I would have would be with Lithuanian culture. In reality I got so much more than I expected. I did learn a lot about Lithuania but I also learned a lot about Ukranian since we roomed with Maryna who is from Ukraine and also about Portuguese culture because more than half the class was Portuguese and many of them were staying at the same hostel as us. As important as everything I learned in class was, I feel like that was one of the most important things that I learned while studying here. I could keep going on and on about all the different cultural aspects that played into our day-to-day lives while we were there but then no one would finish reading the post. I think that you get my point.
In addition to the presentations that we did we also had to study for our final exams. Needless to say besides the afternoon venture to the Duke’s Palace that I told you about, most of our evenings the last week were pretty dull consisting of studying and more studying. In the end we all felt pretty good about our International Project Management final but the International Marketing final was much tougher than we imagined. Regardless, we were all very excited to be done with the classes. That night all of us got together with Maik and Ruta, the two people who ran the program and whom we all got to know pretty well. They presented all of us with certificates for being the first every ISM Summer University students and we had a bittersweet night of reminiscing over the last three weeks and saying goodbye.

The next day was my last day in Lithuania and I was finally able to go to Trakai, the Island Castle. Maryna and I enjoyed walking around the castle thinking about the fact that real people used to actually live here in these rooms that we are walking through. We also walked around Vilnius more, up and down streets that we had never been on, getting lost but not really caring. That night Denise and I walked Maryna to the bus station and bid her farewell then walked around Vilnius more taking night pictures. When we got back, around midnight, the Portuguese invited us to have one last dinner with them (yes, they were having dinner at midnight). 
At four this morning a cab came and picked me and three of my Portuguese friends up to go to the airport and I had to say goodbye to them all as well. As I was boarding my flight to leave Lithuania I looked out and couldn’t decide if I couldn’t believe that it had already been three weeks or that it had only been three weeks.  Either way, I saw my last glimpse of Lithuania before it all disappeared under the clouds when we took off. Goodbye Lithuania, until next time!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Palanga and a Palace

It has been such a crazy week and I never got to tell you about last weekend!
Last Friday we got on a bus and drove four hours to the small beach town of Palanga. The first thing when we got there (no, it wasn’t go to the beach) was go to a small brewery. A woman (she might have been a brew master but I am not sure) who works there is a former graduate of ISM so we got a tour of the brewery. I couldn’t help but compare it to the tour of the Budweiser plant back in Fort Collins because it was very different. When we first got there we sat down at the restaurant and they gave us different beers to sample along with this fried cheesy bread that is one of their specialties. They also gave us this drink that was pretty much bread soda. We found out later that when they make it they let it ferment for only two days as opposed to three weeks so essentially it is beer that is weak enough for even children and pregnant women to drink. I did not like it though because it was very sweet tasting. So they gave us a tour of part of the plant, which in comparison to Budweiser is very, very small. Although it was small it was very interesting to hear the business side of it. The tour guide told us that in the peak season they will brew two tons of beer each day. The most amazing thing is that they don’t bottle it and sell it in stores. Pretty much all the beer that they brew is sold in their restaurant. That goes to show just how popular this place is, and let me tell you why. It is not just a brewery; it’s like a small scale amusement park as well. They have a huge adventure course that you can do along with tons of shopping. I opted out of going on the adventure course (not really my thing) but had fun watching my friends do it.

After the tour and lunch at the restaurant on site we went to our hotel which was only a couple blocks from the main strip. We walked down the strip that is loaded with street vendors and at the end of the strip the street turns into a pier that goes out into the Baltic Sea. It was cold and windy but it was very beautiful. We didn’t do much of anything the whole weekend besides lie out on the beach, shop, and sleep (partially because most of us girls were starting to get colds). I loved the beach though. I have never been to that sort of beach before and just loved how soft the sand was. Sunday morning was the best, it was cold and windy still but that just made the waves even bigger and more beautiful.

After our relaxing weekend we had to go back to our last week of classes. In between classes and studying on Tuesday we went to the Duke’s Palace. This palace is under renovation and is not open to the public for tours but an Uncle of one of the students that is in the Summer University program is on the renovation committee and got us a tour. We found out that the building standing now is not actually on original structure but is modeled after a palace that stood there in the sixteenth century but was completely demolished. After I think they said twenty years of research and excavation and another ten years of building they hope to have part of the palace open next year.
In the cellars they do have some original brick walls as you can see in the picture along with a well that dates back to something like the thirteenth century. The two things that I liked best were the furnaces and the tower. The furnaces were very decorative (as you can see in the picture) and were different in every room. In the top of the tower you could see over much of Vilnius. I think that Vilnius is beautiful from the street view but from up above it is even better.

I hope that someday in the future I can come back to see the completed palace because from the looks of it, it is going to be an amazing place.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dienos patiekalas (Dish of the Day)

Ah, the food. First of all, every day we have breakfast provided for us and every day it is pastries. The pastries have been different but they are always pastries. Some of them have had cheese, some fruit filling, but all this week they had cheese, corn, peppers and ham. One of the girls from UNC, Carly, is gluten intolerant so she cannot have the pastries but every day she would ask how they were. I didn’t realize that every day I would answer the same: interesting. Not that they are bad but one thing I miss is my breakfasts: oatmeal, eggs, waffles.

We are also provided lunch every day. We go to the same restaurant every day for a week and get the daily special. (Side note for potential travelers: Lithuanian restaurants will have a daily lunch special that is less expensive than the regular menu. The thing is, the sign is only in Lithuanian so tourists will buy off the main menu but locals will buy the daily special and spend less money.) Most of the time what we eat consists of four things: meat, sauce, potatoes, and a cabbage salad (with cucumbers). One of my favorites was a pork chop with a bright green sauce. I am not sure what it was but someone said it may have been spinach sauce. Today we got a dish that was very different than what we have gotten before. I am fairly certain that it is what they call Chicken Kiev. It reminded me of Chicken Cordon Bleu but not quite as tasty because in the center it just has oil rather than cheese. Also, instead of the cabbage salad it was some sort of beet root salad. Lastly, we had French fries instead of mashed potatoes! They were actually very good!

A couple nights ago we went out to dinner with some first year Lithuanian ISM students. They took us to a restaurant called Forto Dvaras that serves traditional Lithuanian food. First we had a mushroom soup that is served in a rye bread bowl. Then I ordered a dish that was some sort of potato casserole with chicken wings baked inside. The soup was really good but the main dish left something to be desired.

Out of all the food that we have eaten my favorite has actually been in Estonia. We went to a place that was very hidden, you had to walk past the restaurant, through a gate, then back through a garden. The service at this restaurant was the best that I have had in Europe. The menu was small but what we ordered was grilled chicken over a salad with potatoes and a creamy dressing. The salad didn't seem like it was going to be much but it turned out to be absolutely delicious. Also, they brought us a platter of bread with butter that was amazing. To make it all even better, the waitress brought us still water, a bottle to refill our glasses, and even a glass of ice!

We have also started doing some family style dinners with the Portuguese students that are staying in our hostel. Last night they cooked for us and it was really good. It was some sort of meat with sauce over rice. They told us after that it was not really a recipe they just threw it all together. Either way it was good. My only complaint is that the Portuguese eat really late. They had dinner ready to go at 10:30 p.m. whereas normally we are ready for dinner at 7 p.m. Tonight we are having American food and we decided that we were going to make tacos! I am fairly certain that no one other than the Americans had ever had a taco so we have had to explain what tacos and tortillas are to everyone. To finish it off next week we will have Ukrainian night. I hope I have made everyone sufficiently hungry. Bon Appetit!

School Days

I mentioned before I left that I would be taking two classes: international marketing and international project management. I now have been taking the classes for a week and a half meaning that in about a week and a half we will be taking the finals. We have multiple professors teaching each class. Our marketing class for the first week was taught by a Lithuanian professor and for the second week is being taught by a professor from Germany who also actually taught a class at UNC last year. Our project management class was taught by a Lithuanian professor as well named Alfredas. We were told that he was chosen to teach this course because he is one of the most liked professors at ISM. The picture that is below is of some of us UNC students with Alfredas on his last day of class.

International Marketing: Up until today this was my morning class. Parts of this class have been very different than the Global Marketing class that I had back at UNC. One thing that was very different is that we focused very closely on pricing strategies. I know that for me it was challenging but rewarding. In my other marketing classes we had only covered the basics of pricing but had not gone in depth into actually calculating pricing. There are also parts of this class that have been very similar to my class at UNC but our professor is able to offer a differing perspective.

International Project Management: This course has also been tough as well. The first day of class we were assigned a project including a 20 minute presentation that was due the next day. Since then we have presented another two times.  The project that we are working on is planning a project that we could (theoretically) sell to an institution that would be interested in implementing our project plan. I am in a team with Denise, from UNC and two girls from Portugal, Carolina and Rita (the same girls we went to Finland with). Our project is planning a bike tour around Vilnius. It has been interesting working on this project because we are planning it in a different country. For example, when I was looking up average salaries for travel agents the only numbers that I could find were for US agents. When I told my group members how much it was in Euros they told me that the amount was far too high for what people make in Europe. There were many more things that were similar such as looking up printing services and trying how to figure out how much it was in litas as opposed to USD. I suppose that is the point of the class though because it would be completely different if I were doing it in the US. The picture that I included below is part of our project called a Work Breakdown Sheet.

I am normally not in class every day of the week so it has been hard getting used to that but at the same time it is hard to believe that, besides the day of the final, we only have three days of class left! I will continue to keep you posted!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

An Estonian Weekend and a Finnish Afternoon

I am currently sitting in the airport in Riga, Latvia waiting to board a plane to go back to Vilnius after spending a weekend in Tallinn, Estonia. We arrived here early Friday afternoon. In the taxi ride from the airport to the hostel I almost felt that I could be somewhere in the United States. Tallinn felt much more western than Vilnius. The taxi was much nicer, the roads were wider, and the buildings newer. We determined that it may be because, as opposed to Vilnius, Tallinn is a port city which may make it more modernized. The first think that we did was go to Tallinn University to have a short lecture on the history of Estonia. At the lecture we were told just how old Estonia was and that there are a lot of buildings that are left from medieval times. Through the rest of the weekend I found it interesting that while driving through Tallinn you might see a medieval-looking tower and in the same block a very modern glass skyscraper.
After the history lecture we went on a tour of the Skype headquarters. The tour was short but I think we all enjoyed it. Skype seems like it would be an amazing place to work because of the culture and the atmosphere. I have made a list of the top five things I liked best about Skype, here they are:
1.All of the office space was open with no cubicle walls or closed off manager’s offices. The woman who gave us the tour told us that they believe that employees should be able to openly interact with their managers and so the managers desk will be with everyone else’s.
2. You don’t have to share a desk. I haven’t heard of many places that you have to share your desk and computer with other places but we were told that Microsoft is one place. What this means for the employees is that they are able to make their workspace their own. What this meant for us is that we saw some very interestingly decorated desks!
3. They have made many rooms designed specifically for…. Skyping! Some of them have adjustable lighting and the acoustics set up for optimal Skyping. There are others that are just sound proof with comfy chairs that are perfect for just taking some time to you.
4.The color. That may not seem like all that important of a detail but I think it did. The office building itself was fairly old with many of the walls being plain concrete. They made up for this with some great decorating. There were so many random places with colorful cushions, pillows, beanbags, and couches. It made the whole building feel very inviting.
5.They had many break rooms with coffee, tea, and snacks and also a cafeteria where everything was free. We were told that they believe that by providing these things there employees will be more productive and that it has paid off because a lot of work really does get done in the cafeteria. While we were there they were actually in the process of construction of a new, larger cafeteria.
Even though it made for a busy and somewhat exhausting day I am glad that I was able to go to Estonia and see what Skype was like. It definitely has made me more interested in them as a company.
On Saturday the group of us decided that we were going to take a ferry to Finland. Half the group got on a the ferry at 7:30 a.m. but one girl from UNC, two girls from Portugal and I missed the ferry and ended up taking one that left at 10:30 a.m. The trip was only about two hours so that gave us about six hours for us to tour Helsinki. We walked around looking at all of the old, beautiful buildings and large cathedrals. We also toured an art museum doing a show about a Finnish artist named Helene Schjerfbeck and did some shopping. Overall we decided that Helsinki was maybe not the most exciting place to spend your day but we were definitely glad that we went.
Now we are headed back to Vilnius bringing my first weekend in Europe to an end!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Lithuanian Life

Labas Rytas! Good Morning! To all of my American friends Happy Independence Day! I arrived in Lithuania three days ago and have loved it. Vilnius is such an old, beautiful city. The design and the architecture are so different than anything that I have ever seen in the States. The last two days before class a couple other girls and I have gotten up early to come to a small cafe in Old Town Vilnius near where the school is. I just love sitting outside at the cafe surrounded by all of these beautiful buildings.

The first day that I was here I went to an open air museum that is about 20 kilometers from the city that is the Monument of the Center of Europe with Carly and Anson (two students that also go to UNC) and our Ukrainian roommate Maryna. There are 70+ sculptures and works of art made by artists from around the globe. We had fun looking at all the different sculptures and there was one of them that was called "Mobile Games" that we enjoyed because it was pretty much a playground for adults. Unfortunately the woman at the gate informed us that if we wanted to take pictures we had to pay more for a special ticket so I have no pictures to show for our adventures.

Last night I walked around town after dinner with Maryna, Denise Jessica (the other two girls from UNC). We went to the main square with the Cathedral Basilica which you can see in the collage that I posted. We were just in awe of how massive the church was and also how absolutely beautiful. We also enjoyed going around looking at all the different shops. There was not enough time to go to all the places that looked interesting but we do still have two and a half more weeks.

I must be off to class now but I will fill you in on how the courses are going in the near future! Once again I hope that you all have a fun Independence Day! Enjoy!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Getting Ready for the First Day of School

This time tomorrow I will be on a plane heading to Europe. I have now found out that over the next three weeks what classes I will be taking. The first class that I will be taking is International Marketing. Even though I have taken Global Marketing at UNC I am excited to take it at ISM as well. As much as I learned from Professor McCorkle at UNC I feel like I can also learn a lot from a professor that offer a view other than the American prospective. The other class that I will be taking is International Project Management. I do not know much about this course yet but am glad that I am taking it because it is a course that is not one that I would be able to take at UNC. I have received and started to read the materials that they sent to me for the courses. There are a lot of materials to read but I also have a long plane ride that I will need to occupy.