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As Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) student Ana Sophia Aragon (21) from Guatemala travels the world, she has a good opportunity to learn about the culture and traditions of other countries. But she says the Christmas traditions in Guatemala are different than those from many other countries.
Gedimino pilies bokštas
Gedimino pilies bokštas
© Sivestro Samsono (Lietuvos nacionalinis muziejus) nuotr.

The holiday celebration begins at midnight on Christmas Day, which continue until the early morning hours. She said fireworks are lit at 00:00 and then family members hug one another wishing each other a Merry Christmas.

“We gather to pray - to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Then later we open gifts and our family “dinner” usually feature leg of pork, is at 1 a.m. Can you imagine?” She says. Aragon, who has also spent 5 years living in Muscat (Oman), is now majoring in Organisational Psychology at MRU. She recently moved to Vilnius and agreed to answer a few questions about her life and experiences. She calls Vilnius home now; despite that she has already lived in Muscat and Guatemala City.

- Why did you choose to study at MRU Vilnius?

- I was planning to study in Europe. One of my neighbours, Rūta from Kaunas, was Lithuanian. She told me that Lithuania was a beautiful country.

I checked the internet for study programmes and, of my findings, MRU is one of the few places in Europe that offers a Psychology Degree in English. I applied and got a quick response. Additionally, my parents were open and supportive in allowing me to go and study abroad. They consider my studies in Europe in a positive light.

Ana Sophia Aragon
Ana Sophia Aragon
© Asm. albumo nuotr.

- What did you know about Lithuania before coming here?

- I knew what my neighbour had told me. She mentioned that it was a cold country. Then I saw Lithuania featured on a TV show in Oman. Someone during that TV programme mentioned Lithuania, but I didn’t know where Lithuania was. I soon found out.

- What is your country famous for?

- We are known as the country of “eternal spring” because everything is very green. It's a beautiful country, very multi-cultural, and it’s fun to be there when I am able to go and visit friends and relatives.

- Oman is a very different country from Lithuania and Guatemala? What did you notice as far as the differences are concerned?

- The weather and extreme heat is the biggest difference. Sometimes it would be very, very hot in Muscat, too hot to be outside during the day. It’s a very open, international country with many foreigners. My father was working in Oman so that is why our family originally went to Oman.

It’s a general rule to cover yourself when you go out. Alcohol is not freely available and I never saw any drunk people during the 5 years I was there. I was in an international school in Muscat, so I studied with pupils from many different countries. Overall, living in Oman changed me and made me a more self-confident person.

Ana Sophia Aragon
Ana Sophia Aragon
© Asm. albumo nuotr.

- How do you find Vilnius and Lithuania in general?

- I’m kind of an extremist weather-wise (she laughs). I went from Oman where it was about 50 degrees to Vilnius where it is about -5 right now. I find it hard to communicate with the elderly people in Vilnius because most senior citizens don’t speak English and I don’t speak Russian. But,I can say that Lithuanians are very welcoming people – especially the youth. I have not been here that long to make further comparisons.

- Do you miss life in Muscat or maybe Guatemala City?

- As I mentioned, living in Oman changed me as a person. You learn a lot about yourself in that type of setting. You don’t have your extended family to lean on, as I did in Guatemala, so you have to be open to experience new things.

I miss Guatemala, but as the years pass, you get more detached from places. Currently Lithuania is my home and I feel very comfortable here. I am also very independent here in Vilnius. I need to take care of myself and I’m more aware of the things that I do.

- What are some of the Christmas traditions that you have in Guatemala?

- We have a Christmas tree. We decorate it before Christmas holidays, so this can even be as soon as in November. We open Christmas gifts at 00:00 not necessarily waiting until the morning of the 25th. Basically, the order - at least in my family is that at 00:00 we blow up fireworks and hug each other wising one another a Merry Christmas. We tend to eat the Christmas dinner in the early morning hours - at about 1 a.m. Usually leg of pork or turkey is served.

Ana Sophia Aragon
Ana Sophia Aragon
© Asm. albumo nuotr.

Yes, we also eat national food such as tamales. It is a custom during Christmas Eve to sing Christmas carols. The children usually play with kid-friendly fireworks. We go to church on Dec. 24th and 25th. Christmas is a very happy, joyous holiday!

- What are your future plans?

- I am working on my Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Psychology because I plan to work for an international company in the future. One of the advantages of studying at MRU is that, at the University, I can meet people from so many different countries – Colombia, Mexico, Italy, Germany, France. You learn about the cultures from the students from those countries.

My plans in the future include traveling for work, or even living in many different countries.

Hopefully, I will be able to keep traveling and expand my view of the world. Mykolas Romeris University has put me on the right path, giving me the knowledge and tools to be successful in the future

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