Amazing Race in Lithuania

8 students and 2 teachers from Prva gimnazija Varaždin, Croatia in front of the presidential palace in Vilnius, Lithuania

The students from Croatia, Finland and Spain gather in Laukuva, Lithuania to take part in the Erasmus+ project “Amazing Race”

One of the on-going projects at Prva Gimnazija Varaždin, Croatia is an Erasmus+ project, called Amazing Race, which involves three other partner schools from Lithuania, Spain and Finland. As the project is primarily based on the diverse issues connected with health, each mobility week covers one specific aspect. Mental health was dealt with in Croatia in October 2018 while physical health was the main focus of the mobility in Lithuania in May 2019, hosted by Šilales R. Laukovos Norberto Veliaus Gimnazija. The project will be continued in Spain in October 2019 and the last transnational learning activity will be held in Finland in February 2020.

Since Erasmus projects are quite popular, there were a lot of students at our school who were interested in taking part in the project Amazing Race, so it was decided that each mobility would involve different students. Marija Ilčišin, Sofija Ščapec, Gašpar Haramija, Lara Đaković, Marko Varga, Kristina Percač, Marta Bobek and Helena Labaš were picked for the mobility in Lithuania. The first time eight of us heard about our destination, we were a bit skeptical but after the presentation about Lithuania, we were dazzled by its beauty and culture and became more attracted to the trip itself. Therefore, we waited for the trip filled with excitement.

Croatian students before their flight at the airport in Zagreb

The first day should have consisted of two flights: Zagreb – Vienna and Vienna – Vilnius. However, there was a twist to it! Our flight from Zagreb was delayed and the plane to Vilnius took off without us. Consequently, we got an extra trip to Paris which we gladly accepted. After travelling for 19 hours, at last, we got to our Lithuanian host families who waited for us patiently in their local school in Laukuva.

The second day was focused on getting to know each other and learning about our partner countries, therefore, we had a couple of presentations. The highlight of the day was a folk dance evening when we had a lot of fun dancing different national dances. Afterwards, our hosts wanted us all to spend more time together, so we met at a local diner and tried their local food.

Lithuanian folk dances in front of Laukovos Norberto Veliaus Gimnazija

Next day it was time to focus on the physical activity as Lithuanians do it, therefore we had a 16 km long walk through the fields, over the fences near the cows, around the lake and all that, while it was pouring with rain. Our mission was to take photos of plants and of landscape during the walk in the rain so that we may create an album. Luckily, as the walk was long, our Lithuanian friends had lots of sausages and waffles and Spanish students played some music so we soon forgot about the bad weather and our fatigue.

The challenges of a walk in rainy weather

A short trip to Šilalė, the centre of the district municipality, was planned for the fourth day. Visiting a newly built school for children with special needs, playing with the children, reception with the mayor, learning something more about the county and, a special treat, spending time in the local parks, near the lake and in the social centre, made the day quite fulfilled and made us closer to Lithuanian culture as well as their everyday life.

Next stop was a daylong trip to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania and Trakai Castle. After we had a tour around the city, we went to famous see sites and had some free time to buy souvenirs made of amber. We visited Trakai by boat – as the castle is on a small island, surrounded with lake which is a great site for taking memorable photos.

The boat trip around the Trakai Lake

The highlight and the main event of this mobility was the “amazing race” itself which took place on Sunday in a park with a lake near Laukuva. Despite the fact that the race is a competitive event, the focus was on the team work and looking for the solutions together so that we could finish the race with the best time possible by supporting each other. Apart from running, many other sport activities were included, such as throwing balls, shooting out of a rifle, lava floor and so on. After the race, the rest of the day we had free time and most of us went to visit Klaipėda -a town on the Baltic sea, famous for its sandy beaches.

The last day of the mobility was all about the photo album, evaluation, a quiz about Lithuania and giving certificates, which had an interesting twist. Not only did we receive the certificates, but also we had to tell by what we were going to remember Lithuania, what we learned from this trip and finally, we had to fill the mobility tree with our fingerprints. The day ended with a barbecue at a cottage in the middle of the lake.

Luckily, the trip back didn’t have any surprise trips to other countries, only the visit to the Croatian ambassador in Vilnius as we had some free time before our flight. Finally, as the Croatian team gathered on our way home, we exchanged experiences and shared what we found curious and different from our culture.

All the participants after the final activity – “amazing race”

This journey enriched our life by a great amount, we were put into many challenging situations out of which we couldn’t just ran away, yet we had to adapt, to be tolerant and compassionate and put ourselves into others’ shoes. Not everyone could speak English well and therefore finding other ways of communicating was necessary. Although the language and cultural barriers were tangible, the challenge was accepted and we all benefited from this experience.

Written by Helena Labaš

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