English major, philosophy explorer, and Camus’ admirer, Vita Klimaitė received the best English Thesis award a few weeks ago at the 24th LCC International University Commencement. Originally from Lithuania, Vita has already had a chance to spend time in Alaska, USA, travel around Europe and learn French. Vita’s experiences and encounters with people from all over the world led her to the literary path of exploring terrorism from a more humane perspective.
Vita, could you describe your experience as an English major at LCC?
I have been interested in many things over the course of years. Initially, when I was still in high school, my biggest passion was chemistry, biology, math, but not necessarily languages or literature. However, I always found value in literary exploration and philosophy that translated to larger pictures in life. Towards the end of 12th grade, I realized that I wanted to take some time to actually study the latter as opposed to just having it as a free-time activity. While it is interesting to read and to think by yourself, I feel there is a lot of value in sharing those thoughts and having quality conversations with fellow students and professors. There are obviously advantages and drawbacks to every school, every major, every subject and all of that. However, in the grand scheme of things it has been a great journey. Taking some classes in philosophy as an English major was probably one of the best choices that I have made here, it was very rewarding.
As a recipient of the Best English Thesis award, could you share more about your thesis topic?
Initially, I started thinking about writing a thesis on the nature of language and how people who speak different languages perceive various concepts in different ways. However, I was also interested in the concept of justice and how people whose native languages differ, understand what encompasses “just” differently. I wanted to write my thesis on something that would translate into the larger picture in the world substantially. As a result, I ended up writing a thesis on “Terrorism political narratives and fictionalization of a history in “The Just” by Albert Camus”. Upon considering what it is that I want to do in the future I realized that this topic is something that I care about. We can talk about terrorism as something that is gruesome and horrific, and it definitely is. However, over the course of years modern terrorism grew to encompass a slightly broader scope of conversations. My thesis topic was dissent terrorism, meaning terrorism targeting an oppressive government. I feel it is extremely important to understand where that need to employ these horrible violent means to fight something originates. Even now, there are many countries and governments that do not function in a way that allow freedom, improvement, and a quality sense of identity for people. Clearly people in these situations feel like they are not heard, so they try to find ways to fight that, and when those ways are violent it is destructive for everyone. My goal with writing my thesis was to look at terrorism from a perspective that helps people understand what is it exactly that leads other people to take on these horrible means of fighting and how does a social structure become so oppressive that people think that this is the only way to actually challenge it.
Why did you choose Albert Camus’ play “The Just”?
Albert Camus has been very dear to me in my early years. While he did not perceive himself as a philosopher, I think of him that way and I first encountered his book “The Stranger” perhaps in the 10th grade. Camus had interesting perspectives to offer about how to find the meaning of life in our own selves and in our material existence, which was refreshing and interesting for me. Nevertheless, I still have a lot of issues with how he perceives truth as relative, but I have retained the sentimental value that I attach to him as a thinker. I was not actually planning to write my thesis on anything that he has written. Partially because I have never actually read “The Just.” I have read a lot of what he had to offer in terms of philosophy and prose, but not so much the plays. I read it while learning French and at that time I connected the dots between what I cared about in the grand scheme of things, which was social justice and literature.
Perhaps Political Philosophy class with Tricia Van Dyk was the primary class that might have influenced my choice for the thesis topic. Taking this class was something that helped me understand more how I see the progress of social pressure. It helped me pinpoint what I see as viable approaches to understanding what works for people and how to try and create a society in which everyone will be happy. Upon reading some of the works that we analyzed in that class, I realized how much I care about the individualistic approach to cases as opposed to just attempting to produce some sort of universal framework that would work for everyone. I became interested in these marginal cases especially, as it relates to violence.
You mentioned that your thesis helped you see the future career direction you would like to pursue. Could you share a bit more about this?
While I am fascinated with literature and philosophy, I do not find fulfillment in doing just that. I want to do something that is more substantial, and translates more to the parts of society that might not even have access to education. Ever since my childhood, I knew that I could take on jobs that other people might find too emotionally difficult or even disturbing. It is not really easy to affect me and I’m very open to considering parts of reality that some people might not want to touch upon. These are the discussions that I thrive in and I believe that these are the discussions that matter the most. I am hoping to pursue my Masters in International Relations or International Security with a focus on terrorism and international threats.
How did your experiences of traveling around Europe and spending some time in Alaska, USA has contributed to your understanding of various societies and how they function?
After traveling and seeing different parts of the world, I realized that there is so much more to the world than just knowledge of certain things. When traveling to Alaska, I learned that some people do not find value in the same things that I do. Thus, talking to them for lengthy periods of time and being able to experience their lifestyle and culture, made me care about them. This is partially why I mentioned that I want to do something that translates to the parts of society that do not necessarily find as much value in, for example, philosophical or literary inquiry as I do. It is because they have so much to offer to the world in different senses that I want to try and dedicate my life to something that would help them do that without feeling threatened. With the amount of terrorism happening these days and all the news broadcasting about it, I see that it does not allow people to have the freedom they would like to have, or express themselves, and it makes me sad.
You have graduated earlier in the month. What are you taking with you from your LCC experience?
Even though I am not highly social and wasn’t very involved in a lot of what was happening on campus, I still find my years in this community very rewarding. Being at LCC and being able to connect with the people here, these jewels to talk to from time to time, people who come from completely different backgrounds that I have not had a chance to experience or perhaps never will, made my time at LCC an unforgettable experience of growth for me. It has been really rewarding to be a part of this community, because I feel like I had a chance to have the sorts of conversations that really help in understanding what is it that different people care about. It helped me to approach issues with that sort of well-rounded understanding of how to help someone for example that you like but whom you don’t really have direct connections with. You do not just come in and force your understanding on other people, you listen and you have conversations. So, all in all, I am grateful, and I am confident going into the field of international relations for my further understanding of the world, and continuing to build on the ground of knowledge that I received from LCC.