At the beginning of the New Year, people usually review the things they have gone through in the past and the things that are waiting for them in the future. Even though the SoMus, the students of the international joint-degree master study programme Sociolinguistics and Multilingualism, are on holiday, they found some time to share their memories about the autumn semester and their expectations for 2015.
Maria, Karolina, Vilma, and Ella were studying at Vytautas Magnus University, while Frederik was enjoying the semester in Stockholm.
What was the most interesting thing(s) that you found out this semester?
Maria Jefimow (1st year SoMu): That one can share a room with two others without killing each other (smiles).
Karolina Lenkutytė (1st year SoMu): It was really exciting to discover differences between the cultures as I have had the possibility to communicate with students from Germany, Nigeria, Poland, and Latvia.
Vilma Mikašytė (1st year SoMu): The thing that probably surprised me the most is the life and problems of Roma people. While other minorities fight for their rights and want schools to use their native language of instruction, Roma do not want to have that because this way outsiders could learn their language.
Ella Walter (1st year SoMu): Living together with two other girls in one room is fun.
Frederik Bissinger (2nd year SoMu): Lots of things: the Espresso House café is conquering Drottninggatan; don’t order a winter-frappé to go – you cannot drink an ice cube; in case you ordered a winter-frappé to go, go to Kungliga Djurgården (a nice park on the Djurgården island) and enjoy the open fire while melting your ice cube frappe; a long dark Scandinavian winter isn’t that bad; the Lithuanian language is still challenging but also fun to learn; language café is a good institution for improving linguistic skills, meeting new people, and drinking some coffee for free; participating in choirs is not only fun, but also helps you to improve your language skills; butterflies and sharks fit well together – go to Haga Park and take a look; rumours that two members of ABBA live on Lidingö (the island I lived on); the entrance to Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum) is free on Wednesdays from 5pm; Swedes like to wear dark colours in autumn and winter.
What was the most intriguing/difficult/interesting assignment that you had this semester? Why?
Maria: The assignment to write a research proposal was both interesting and difficult. The topic itself was interesting, but it was difficult because of the lack of time we had. It was intriguing to see how much work must be put into a research proposal: many things have to be taken into account to make the research really worthwhile and possible to investigate.
Karolina: The most interesting and challenging assignment was writing a proposal for my suggested research topic. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ruzaitė allowed us to choose the topic quite freely; thus, we could come up with various ideas related to sociolinguistics and multilingualism. During the day of the final presentations I was surprised by a variety of different but really interesting ideas that my colleagues came up with during the course.
Vilma: The most interesting assignment was the investigation on linguistic landscapes. I chose to carry out a research on linguistic landscapes on T-shirts. The most difficult part was to collect my data, for which I went out to Kaunas streets and asked people if I could take a picture of their T-shirt. Some people were very nice and helpful; however, I also experienced that gathering one’s dataset might also be rather challenging because quite a few people were rather rude and unwilling to participate in my research.
Ella: There were several interesting assignments; for example, the research on linguistic landscape. This task was so nice because it was interactive and you were able to get a new outlook on your environment. Another very interesting and fun assignment was the conduction of a sociolinguistic interview. This was a new task where you learned a lot about your interview partner as well as about your role as an interviewer.
Frederik: The most interesting assignments this semester were my presentations about the language situation in Lithuania Minor and the German-Lithuanian language contact situation in Lithuania Minor. The available sources were numerous and linguistically diverse (English, German, Lithuanian, and Swedish) and, hence, the task was challenging. Nevertheless, it was very interesting and I could learn a lot. Unfortunately, I did not dare to consult the Lithuanian sources, but this might be a future task when I have deepened my knowledge of Lithuanian language.
How many hours per day were you studying?
Maria: Difficult to say. There have been days when I felt I was studying probably up to six hours, but also days when I was studying for two hours or less, as well.
Karolina: I think it would be easier for me to answer this one: “How many hours per day was I NOT studying?”
Vilma: Frankly, not as many as I should have. It is very hard to combine a job with studies and stay alive (smiles).
Ella: It depends… Sometimes even six hours or more.
Frederik: You do not really want to know – two advanced language courses and seminars where you work on your own small projects take some time (smiles).
How many hours per week were you socializing?
Maria: 24/7, because when you share a room with two other students, it is kind of impossible not to socialize.
Karolina: Enough not to leave my friends behind and make friends with the new colleagues at the university.
Vilma: As many hours as our classes took.
Ella: All the time. There wasn’t a lot of time for yourself personally because you were surrounded by people most of the time.
Frederik: I met with my friends during breaks or after the lectures to enjoy some Swedish coffee or visit museums and parks in and around Stockholm. I also attended Lithuanian and Swedish language cafés, as well as English and Swedish choirs, which were in total six hours per week.
What was your favourite lunch dish this semester?
Maria: All kinds of pizzas at Pas Paolo (for sure one of the best places in Kaunas).
Karolina: I like the food which reminds me of home, so maybe chicken broth or chicken steak with mashed potatoes.
Vilma: I’d have to say buns with spinach and a large cup of coffee. It wasn’t my favourite kind of lunch but definitely something my stomach had to enjoy most often.
Ella: I didn’t have a really favourite one, but we went to Pas Paolo – an Italian restaurant – quite often and I liked the food there a lot.
Frederik: Homemade sandwiches made of two slices of polarbröd (Swedish soft bread), American sauce (from a tube, of course), fresh salad, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, Swedish hushållsost (“household cheese”), some pepper and salt. And to drink: coffee to go if there’s no time or homemade gilių kava (“acorn coffee”) if there is time for preparation.
What was your favourite leisure activity this semester?
Maria: Watching movies with my roomies and having a glass of wine with them, sleeping.
Karolina: Going to the cinema or chilling with my friends in the cafeteria.
Vilma: What leisure??? (smiles)
Ella: Going to the gym with friends. Exercising or dancing zumba was a really great opportunity to relax after the university.
Frederik: My favourite leisure activities were to go for a walk and enjoy the woods, lakes, and parks in and around Stockholm, have Swedish fika (a coffee break with some sweets, esp. kanelbullar, “cinnamon rolls”) with friends, attend language cafés, and – during the winter season – to go ice skating.
What was the most memorable event/situation/adventure this semester?
Maria: The whole semester was an adventure itself. I have got to know new people, a new city, a new country. The most memorable days were probably the weekend we spent at the seaside and enjoyed the beautiful landscape of the Curonian Spit. Lithuanian language classes were memorable, too.
Karolina: A short trip to Vilnius with Bettina and Vilma. We explored the city and museums. It was fun!
Vilma: One of the highlights was our trip to Grūtas Park, which I liked very much. When it comes to situations and adventures, I think we were trying to come up with ingenious ways to meet all the deadlines in time.
Ella: Going to Klaipėda and spending one of the nicest weekends by the Baltic Sea, but also many memorable and especially funny moments with the rest of the group.
Frederik: The entire semester was a memorable experience: I met lots of new people, became friends with wonderful people, improved my Swedish, Lithuanian and English skills, learned a lot about language situations, policies and contact situations, enjoyed the Swedish nature, and just had a great time, even if it was intensive work.
How are you spending your Christmas and New Year holiday?
Maria: I spend my holidays with my family and friends and work a bit to save up some money.
Karolina: With a cup of coffee and a good book! That is all I need after an intense semester.
Vilma: I’d love to say that I’m spending it with my family and friends but that wouldn’t be true. Since we found out that our Erasmus scholarships were reduced, I found yet another job in order to save as much as possible before going to Mainz.
Ella: I am using the Christmas and New Year holiday to spend a lot of time with my family and friends as I haven’t seen them in a while.
Frederik: I spent my Christmas and New Year with my family, meeting friends, writing my final seminar paper, and reading literature for my MA thesis.
What do you expect from 2015?
Maria: I hope that it will be an awesome year and maybe even better than 2014.
Karolina: Unforgettable experiences in Germany and Estonia!
Vilma: I hope that I will come up with a really good idea for my Master’s thesis. I also wish for our studies to be demanding and challenging. Since I won’t have the opportunity to work when I’m in Mainz or Tartu, I feel I can push my limits even further and achieve good academic results. And since my BA thesis was about wine labels, I can’t wait to try famous German wines and see what modes appear on their wine labels (smiles).
Ella: That it’s going to be even better than 2014.
Frederik: That it will be a year full of new but manageable challenges. I will write and defend my MA thesis and plan to continue my academic education on a higher level.
Would you like to share your New Year’s wishes?
Maria: I wish that 2015 would be a year full of new experiences, fun, and success in every condition of life for everybody.
Karolina: Do not wait until something changes your life. Only you can change it and there is no need to wait for a new year to pursue your goals. Start now!
Vilma: Let your past make you better, not bitter!
Ella: May 2015 be full of new and enriching experiences for all of us! I am really looking forward to spending the next semester in Mainz and Stockholm with my new friends.
Frederik: I wish everybody a happy, healthy, joyful, and successful new year. Live your dreams and be happy. Special greetings to my fellow students who are also writing their MA theses this semester. I’m looking forward to seeing you at the conference Multilingualism in Baltic-Sea Europe in Mainz in April.