Sveiki from Lithuania!

My time in Vilnius, Lithuania has been one of the best and worst times of my life. I met the most amazing people and saw amazing history and sights, but I also missed my family and friends, and felt isolated at times.

My GLI Global Theme is Inequality and Human Rights. While in Vilnius, I participated in a student-organized protest in solidarity with women in Iran, did research on LGBTQ+ in Lithuania (Lithuania is deeply conservative), and visited several museums on the occupations and murders of Lithuanians, especially Jewish Lithuanians. One of my goals for studying in Lithuania was to learn history from the point of view of the oppressed, and I think I was able to do that here. I also met with many like-minded people from other countries, and learned how they do activism there – specifically in Germany.

I was very aware I am American. I met maybe five Americans in all of Lithuania, though there were probably more. I was constantly reminded by others around me that I am American. It was funny but a little tiring to me that whenever I said I was from the US, people would often launch into a criticism of the US. It was fine, but it happened a lot. I also enjoyed Lithuanian food (a lot of potatoes and meat) and culture. Someone described Lithuanians as a “country of introverts,” which seemed accurate to me. People often said Lithuanians were cold, but I didn’t think so. Lithuanians don’t smile to strangers or make eye contact in public. But every Lithuanian I met was very kind with their gestures when I needed help. The cashiers would ask the people behind me if they had a loyalty card so that I could get a discount at stores, and the people just handed them over. That was incredibly surprising to me, and really nice. I think it will be hard for me to adjust to smiling to strangers again, it felt like a relief not to have to smile awkwardly at people you pass by on the sidewalk.

I learned a lot about myself on this trip. It was my first time living on my own so far away from anyone I knew. I stayed in the dorms my freshman year, but I have been living at home since the start of the pandemic. I also had to cook for myself in Vilnius and had no supplies, so it was a little difficult for a while. I had a few bumps in the road, but I overcame them and have more confidence in myself, which is one of the main things I needed to work on in leadership. I learned how to navigate intercultural exchanges on a daily basis with many different cultures, and people very different from myself. I am so grateful for this experience.

Organic Farming in Patagonia

Buen Día de La Granja Rocksheim! On the small organic farm where I spent three months as an intern, I experienced firsthand how the relationship between people and the technology they have access to differs vastly in Argentina versus the United States, which directly impacts resource use. Thus, this internship tied directly into my global theme, technology and society, and my global challenge, resources and sustainability. As these topics intertwined, I observed many principles of the circular economy model, even though the flow of Argentinian technology and resources through society overall is still linear.

Most people in Argentina don’t have access to technology we take for granted in the US such as the latest iPhone, reliable electricity, or clothes dryers. Because new technology is not available, people repair and reuse what they have instead of buying something new simply because it exists. Therefore, it is common to see cars from the 1980s and 1990s ambling around dirt roads. Their engines shudder and their brakes squeal, and their owners learn to repair them themselves to avoid the expenses of a mechanic. As a result, consumer demand for new resources is much lower and resources are used at a more sustainable pace. It isn’t exactly a circular economy, but valuing recycling and longevity of products is a step in that direction.

Below is the old farm van, used every week to deliver pollos, huevos, and other goods to the farm’s clients.

Living in a society with a “repair and reuse” relationship with technology instead of one in which the fanciest, newest technology is constantly sought out made me realize how toxic materialism is in the United States. While the Argentinian relationship with technology is a result of general poverty and not to be romanticized, some aspects are a good model for the circular economy. While taking apart a fence on the farm, I was instructed to save the half-rotten posts and rusted sheet metal and wire to be re-used. The farm owners lamented that the plastic cloth and chain-link fencing were too destroyed after years of service to be reused. I spent hours carefully sorting out all the materials and moving them under the trees to be stored safely for later use. When wire was needed to repair a fence, or sheet metal was needed to build a new roof for the pig enclosure, we would look first to the resources we already had.

The pictures below shows how palets were repurposed in a fence for the sheep pasture, an air b-n-b made from shipping containers, and a small earthship community.

True sustainability also existed on the farm: waste from the chickens and hens was valuable manure for the vegetable garden, and weeds from the vegetable garden were fed to the hens. Meat from the chickens, eggs from the hens, and veggies from the garden provided energy for farmworkers to care for all three. Many such ecosystem-like energy transfers existed on the farm to realize sustainable resource use.

Below are some thriving arvejas (peas), whose beds I dutifully cleared and fertilized before planting, and some repollo (cabbage) which survived the winter.

I usually consider myself a resourceful and sustainability-minded individual. I’m accustomed to composting my apple cores and checking plastic types to correctly sort my recycling. But the extreme reuse of materials in Argentina made me realize how lack of new technology lowers resource demand; if new technology isn’t available, people will reuse what they have out of necessity. In a circular economy, the purpose isn’t to grow and expand wealth, and Argentinian attitudes toward resource use are a clear example of why this is key to the circular economy model. The irony in Argentina, however, is that the lack of rapid expansion comes from lower socioeconomic standing.

After my internship, I was also able to spend some time camping and climbing in Frey, a couloir surrounded by incredible granite spires. I befriended climbers from all over the world and climbed Torre Principal with a few of them.

A South American Adventure: 12 weeks studying Spanish and journalism in Buenos Aires

Hello to all from chilly Missoula, Montana — quite a bit colder than Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I recently spent 12 weeks as a newspaper intern, soaking up all I could of the beautiful South American country. My name is Addie Slanger and I am a Franke Global Leadership Initiative graduate with a theme of Politics and Culture. In Argentina, I interned for Que Pasa Noticias Zona Norte, a newspaper covering the wider Buenos Aires province.

While in Buenos Aires, I focused on a series of stories about international holidays and how they related to Argentina and the U.S., as well as conducted a semester-long audit of my organization’s social media. As my Spanish proficiency grew, I graduated into more complicated stories and news coverage. I was able to use the expertise I gained in school and apply it in real life, in a totally different environment than I was used to. As a graduate of UM’s journalism and Spanish programs, I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to integrate the skills I’ve cultivated over the last four years of my undergrad. And the experience proved to be incredibly valuable. Although I was certainly not breaking international news or interviewing celebrities, I gained significant insight from my editors and improved my Spanish language skills more I ever had before, learning how to communicate and convey intricate concepts to an international audience. 

Living in a city with 12 times the population of Montana (yes, the entire state) — and working in an industry that pushed both my professional skills and language comprehension — was an indescribable asset for my personal, professional and academic development. Along with satisfying the last requirements for my GLI certificate, the internship was a perfect synthesis of my love of journalism and Spanish, and a way to explore a part of the world I’ve never seen before. 

My experience in Argentina perfectly exemplified my GLI concentration. My understanding of both the politics and culture of this country (and their contextualization in comparison to the U.S.) grew latently as I lived, worked and traveled there. Since both are so inherent to everyday life in a country, there was no doubt in my mind I’d reap generous rewards from this experience in regards to my global theme. And my internship paid off in dividends as well. Though I myself was not writing big news stories, I was sure to consume them daily, to stay on top of current events and ensure I was properly educated on the state of things there. Each and every day I engaged in conversations — with my host and her friends, my coworkers, my Argentine and international friends — that greatly augmented my understanding of culture (and politics as an element of culture) in Argentina.

As a direct result of this experience, I became more broadly informed, a more adept communicator, and more globally conscious, key objectives of the GLI program and absolutely essential in the functioning of a productive and ethical society. I’m excited at the possibility of taking what I’ve learned and using it to inform my future studies, bringing an internationally literate point of view and an ability to communicate nuanced, multicultural perspectives to each relevant situation.