Labas vakaras mano draugais! I am so happy here, and it has only been a week and a few days. Never mind the beautiful scenery or fun activities; the best thing for me so far on exchange is the kindness I have received from the people around me. It is unbelievable how loving people can be when they barely know you- when you can say only a few phrases in their language. There have already been so many moments where I feel a surge of happiness run through my heart due to the smiling faces of other people. Of course, it is also difficult. It is difficult to not be frustrated when you cannot understand what your host parents, friends, and teachers are saying. However, my Lithuanian has gotten better each day. My desire to learn Lithuanian is indescribable. I listen to the people around me speak, and it almost hurts that I cannot understand them (Lithuanian is one of the hardest languages in the world). Of course, the people here only encourage my efforts to learn their language; they are even surprised that I want to learn Lithuanian. This is surprising to me, as of course I want to learn the language of the country I will be living in for a year. I am writing down all the new words I hear on my phone to ensure I remember, and doing my best to only speak in Lithuanian.
Now of course, I will talk to you about my activities. I was fortunate enough to go on a tour of a few places in Lithuania with the rest of my exchange friends. We toured Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania (where 8/12 of the exchange students are staying). Vilnius is the biggest city in Lithuania, with 750,000 people. It has different districts, including the old-town and art district. I enjoyed the tour, and I am excited to visit Vilnius again. I however, live in a city called Siauliai. It is the 4th largest city in Lithuania, with 100,000 people. My city is much quieter; the people from Vilnius claim that it is boring! I am happy to be in a smaller city though, I think it is the perfect size. I am able to go downtown to get that “city” feeling, but when I am there I do not have to push through any crowds like in Vilnius. In my city, I have one other exchange student from France, Fanely. She is awesome- I can already call her my best friend! My host sister is my other best friend here- Vilte is beautiful both inside and out. We have already had many discussions expanding my outlook on the world. My host mom is great, we use google translate to talk to eachother- which I am sure you can imagine has provided for many laughs! I am currently writing this in my living room in my family’s apartment, which is beautiful. One thing that is quite cool is that in addition to the apartment, my family also has a house in the country. It is about thirty minutes from the apartment, and I think is going to be my favorite place. At the “homestead” there are chickens, bees (for homemade honey), and lots of trees. It is peaceful in comparison to the city that I will be spending a lot of time in.
My first day of school occurred today, which sure was something. I was fortunate that my host sister was able to show me around to all of my classes, and introduce me to my teachers. If she had not, you can bet that I would have been lost and very, very confused. My teachers all reacted to me in different ways; a few introduced me, and a few let me introduce myself. The stares I received from the other students once they knew I was from America was honestly a bit scary. I did receive a few smiles though, which were helpful to get me through my day. It was only the first day of course, so it can only get better from here! I am excited to make friends outside of my family and exchange friends. One thing that is interesting about school here is that you can have breaks in your schedule. During this time, you are able to leave the school to grab a coffee or something. Something else that is interesting is that we do not have the same classes every day. Some days I have three periods of Lithuanian with one period of biology, some days I have two periods of math with two periods of art, etc. Update: I am finishing up this journal the following day, so I have some more to say about school. The second day went much better. People talked to me in all of my classes, and three different people asked me to hang out (Goal ACCOMPLISHED)! Other than school, I am also getting involved in some other activities. I am going to take a Zumba class, and join a running team. I may also try traditional Lithuanian dance and guitar. I will update you on these endeavors once they begin to happen, of course.
There is so much more I could fill you in on. I could talk about how good the food is; fresh and homemade. I could say what the weather is like (already slightly cold). But the most important thing to say is I am happy. If you are considering exchange, DO IT. It is definitely a challenge, but exchange offers so many rewards. I would also like to thank my host rotary club, my sponsor rotary club at home, and my mom and dad. Thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity! Until my next journal, viso gero.
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