Once again, srabos: welcome to the International Horizons internship abroad blogs, and this time it’s off to the Baltic States. I’ve been there several times, to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. And today, it’s time for my return to Lithuania!

The first trip was in 2011, and the second almost 10 years later, in 2019! A few years have gone by, but I’ve had two very different experiences, and I still have very fresh memories. And there’s been quite a change in Lithuania. Read to the end or you’ll never want to set foot there aha. The first time, I didn’t get a kick out of it, but the second time, I loved it. Here we go, off to Lithuania.

Stay number 1 in Lithuania

It was with my mate Jennifer that I set off for the first time. Basically, I’d just flunked my IRA exam (sheh!) and, pumped up by this failure, I decided to go on a more or less split European tour. And, in Lithuania, I set off with Jennifer, on a whim. We arrive relatively late, it’s already dark and we’re off in the middle of February to face the snow, catch a bus and arrive at a youth hostel right next to the city center. Just 5 minutes away. The receptionist is very nice, the atmosphere a little less so: during my stay I had quite a few negative experiences:

  • I met a black man from Reunion who cried in our arms for help with his shopping as the locals refused to sell him anything. I have to admit, it didn’t put me in the best of moods.
  • In the restaurants, very few people spoke English, so it was difficult to make ourselves understood, as there were a lot of Russian speakers. And some of them didn’t speak to Jennifer, only to me.
  • Two guys, one of them in his fifties, offered me a 3-way in a nightclub for a fee, and I have to admit I was pretty surprised, and downright disillusioned.
  • I almost got beaten up and ripped off in a Russian market because I refused to buy a shirt.

However, I did have a few positive experiences, including a visit to a museum that to this day remains one of those that has had the greatest impact on me – with Budapest’s Museum of Horror, which is absolutely incredible. I visited the genocide museum there. In context, it’s the day after a bender, but you get up because you absolutely want to do it. The museum is very, very tough, but incredibly well done. It allows you to discover the history of the Second World War from a completely different angle than that seen in Western countries, and to appreciate the suffering of the Lithuanian people at the time. It brought tears to my eyes and made me want to puke; it was a truly life-changing experience for me and my friend. We won’t be eating anything all day.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the city under the snow: it’s really pretty, quite dynamic despite the polar cold, and above all, it’s very affordable: restaurants, bars, but also second hand shops. There are lots of them, with great brands and clothes for 1, 2 or 3 euros. Lithuania is really nice, but my experience remains very mixed, even rather negative. What I enjoyed the most during my stay, apart from the museum I mentioned a few lines earlier, was moving to Latvia for a few days: the capital, Riga, is incredibly beautiful. I swear, I say wallah. However, I’m never left with a bad impression, so a few years later I decide to go back. My second, cooler stay, I can tell you about it day by day! A little tip: take the tourist bus, which lasts 2/3 hours from memory, but at least you learn to find your way around the city, and you want to see the essential cultural points, you get a few explanations on the history of the country. It’s a bit underrated, I think: leaving with a backpack on the run is nice, but knowing the history to understand the people and their culture is important 🙂

Stay number 2 in Lithuania

One Ouigo + one family Ryanair, 2 books later, and I’m already in Vilnius! Full summer, 21 degrees, it’s nearly 11pm when I leave the airport to tend to my future lung cancer. Already, 21 degrees brother: I’m wearing a tshirt in the Baltic States, unbelievable. Anyway, I take the bus to the city center, and there’s a pleasant surprise: 1€. Yes, they have the euro, and yes, it’s really cheap! In 15 minutes, I’m in the center of town and discover a Vilnius I didn’t know: lively (until 00:00 a.m. after that it’s dead unless you go clubbing), with people in the streets… and tourists! Well, quite a lot of tourists, and that’s the first change! Back then, I was in the middle of winter, but it still felt very lonely. But here, the change is truly radical: the restaurants all have English menus, and you can hear every language spoken in the street…!

Day 2: Exploration

I’m too lazy to tell you about the professional meetings, so I’m going to concentrate on Lithuania instead; in hindsight, it didn’t produce much, apart from a group that came to Nantes in 2023, i.e. a few years later! I go out early for a coffee, a fag, a bread and butter on the terrace: total cost of the operation: 10€, including packets of malbac. I wander around the old town as soon as I can, and quickly notice that the European wind is blowing across Lithuania and gradually pushing Russia out: the clothes, the cars… you really are in a European capital! The people I meet speak good English, which was definitely not the case in 2011.

But the big surprise is the architecture: it’s all renovated, and what’s more, there’s no snow for this passage. I discover very colorful buildings, churches everywhere, naturally, and it’s splendid. There’s as much color as in Prague and Copenhagen, and a lot of life. I’m very surprised by the atmosphere in the streets, it’s very cheerful and dynamic. What a change! Summer really brings a breath of life to the city, and I’m taking full advantage of it, baby! I’ve done a lot of sightseeing in the city, visiting the artists’ quarter, the Cathedral and two churches. The city takes on a whole new aspect in the sunshine, and I’m delighted to explore every part of it, to convince myself that the country has changed.

Day 3: Departure

Yes, it’s already time to go, the stay was quick. And I’m disappointed: I loved it this time! I did take the time, of course, to explore the local Montmartre: a small district full of surprises. The artists’ quarter is quite impressive, and very unexpected. I did it the first time, in the middle of winter, but it was dead as a doornail: here, it’s packed with people and entertainment, and it’s really quite enjoyable. I’m already looking forward to coming back to Lithuania, and I’d recommend it to all of you: plane tickets don’t cost a thing, life there doesn’t either, and the country is evolving so fast that it would be a shame not to take advantage of all this summer good cheer!

All in all, this return experience in Lithuania is two in one: and I loved it, the second time around. There’s really been an impressive evolution, whether in terms of mentalities, welcoming tourists, adapting infrastructures… it’s really top-notch. If you’re tempted, or if you have any questions, I invite you to contact us, or to consult our FAQ on internships abroad. International Horizons only offers destinations that our team has visited. As for the high school students we send to host families, please note that they are always visited twice by our French team. We take every precaution to ensure that you have the best possible stay abroad! And if you’re here just to enjoy our feedback, check out our reports from Georgia, Italy and Malta! There are plenty more, so I invite you to have a look around the site: you’re not the one spending 45 minutes making redirections in every direction ?And for your internship abroad, sign up and a member of the team will get back to you within 48 hours to build your internship abroad project.