Being a freshman from Utah, I chose to come to UTD because of the opportunity and resources provided to help students achieve. I could not have made a better choice. It was only the first semester of college for me, but I was fortunate enough to become friends with three very intelligent and encouraging freshmen in the business school at UTD. We formed a team to submit into an international social business competition called Creative Shock. A few submissions and all-nighters later, we were informed that our team had made it into the Top 10 submissions out of hundreds, and were invited to compete in the finals in Vilnius, Lithuania! It was the first time I had ever been out of the United States, and I truly did not know what to find on the other side of our eighteen-hour plane flight. When we arrived and finally got out of the airport, I was not disappointed.
Our short trip was largely consumed by the competition, which was hosted by ISM, a business college in Vilnius. Teams came from all over–Thailand, India, Germany, Norway, Canada, Georgia, and Lithuania itself. The competition was not all work though; it was largely centered around a celebration of culture and humanity. We had socials where we mingled, danced, sang, and educated one another about the different cultures we each came from. Guest business owners were brought in and each had a chance to speak in a conference about their businesses and how they were contributing to social entrepreneurship. Each business was trying to do something different for humanity–employ the blind and mentally disabled, house the homeless, and even put all profits towards providing clean water for those in Malawi. In America, people are more than willing to address social issues and are happy to cater to small businesses attempting to provide quality products. However, certain places in Europe, such as Lithuania, are still working on getting the public involved in these pursuits. Slowly, but surely, they are succeeding. It was so fulfilling to see that we as people are all quite alike, regardless of where we live. We want to help and serve others, and I was honored to be involved in the social business efforts of those at Creative Shock.
When we weren’t competing, we took every chance possible to go out on the city. Everything in Vilnius, from the people to the food, is down-to-earth and beautiful. Food and bought goods are cheaper, people drive compact cars, and the streets are cobbled. The buildings are often tall, old, and constructed in close proximity to one another. Christmas was alive there: The souvenir shops and restaurants were illuminated by the lights strung above the streets, and a humongous tree was erected downtown. The people had set up a sort of food rendezvous, where locals served authentic food from different cultures underneath separate tents. I had a Belgian waffle and potato cakes. To add to the excitement, the man serving wine was overly interested in my team members’ individual romantic lives…
Which brings me to the people! They initially give off a dignified and quiet vibe. Once you get them talking though (most of them know English), they are very real, honest, and friendly. Not even the constant snow keeps them indoors. They love food (their two traditional dishes are a pink, cold beet soup and potatoes stuffed with meat), and are humble in the lifestyle they live. They love to party, and drinking along with smoking is quite common. They find happiness in the simpler things in life–meeting and interacting with others, working a respectable job, and taking pride in their culture. I LOVE the people of Lithuania and thank them for all of their hospitality.
-Shay Smith, Creative Shock Finals in Vilnius, Lithuania, Fall 2018