Labas! Currently, I am writing this journal on a trip back from Spain with my host family. This vacation, besides being beyond enjoyable (full of beautiful views and delicious food) (BIG thank you to my awesome host family for bringing me along), it also made me realize some things about my exchange. As I was walking around Spain with my Lithuanian family and friends, I realized I was visiting Spain not as an American, but a Lithuanian. Although it has been just two months in Lithuania, I already feel connected enough to the people and culture that leaving for Spain made me feel as if I was leaving my home. Now, as I am on my flight back to Lithuania, I feel as though I am on my flight back to my home. This is crazy to think about, because again it has only been two months. How will I feel about Lithuania during month 4, 7, or 9?? Clearly, you can tell by my writing that I am still loving Lithuania. Another month and a half has passed since my last journal and I have made stronger connections with my host family, local friends, and exchange friends.
My host family has begun to feel more like my true family, not just a place to live. My host mom yells at me when I don’t wear socks, and I’ve learned my host sister is not a morning person. I feel more comfortable with them, I can ask them for anything if I need help. I will always be appreciative towards them for how they have welcomed me into their home and have made me feel a part of their family. In addition to the trip to Spain with them, we have gone to a play, a 25k hike by the sea, and a shooting range. My favorite times with them however, are when we sit at the dinner table together, and they try to understand the little Lithuanian I know. Those times are filled with smiles and laughter that are irreplaceable!
School has luckily become much easier, I’m not nervous to go to class anymore! I have lots of people to talk with in the hallway and eat lunch with. The goal has also been accomplished to be invited to things outside of school, which is always a lovely feeling!! (Thank you to those awesome friends for making me feel so welcomed at school and in the community). At school, I’ve given several presentations about myself and America. It’s interesting to see what the other students know or don’t know about America. At school I also had the opportunity to teach the English classes for a day! I gave a lesson on English slang, which I think everyone enjoyed. Currently we are on fall break, so I have a week off of school. :)
My exchange friends and I have also grown close to each other. (There are only 12 of us in Lithuania because it is so small) When we are all together, we only have laughs and good times. I’m personally very happy that I’m with a small group of students because we are able to grow close and support each other. The other exchange student in my city (Fanely from France) and I have gone to the capital city where most of the exchange students are to visit a few times now. We all usually just walk around the city looking like a really strange group of people. Two Americans, four Brazilians, two Frenchies, two Mexicans, one Taiwanese, and one Italian provide for a very odd looking group of people! We are also all going on a skiing trip together at the end of November, which should be quite fun.
The first two months have been quite busy for me. There have been a lot of things going on in school, stuff happening on the weekends, after school activities, and of course studying Lithuanian. One thing that has begun to happen to me however, is I do not feel like I have truly accomplished anything meaningful in Lithuania yet. Yes, I have done everything I have needed to make my exchange go well and be enjoyable. I have had lots and lots of fun, but I would say I am someone who is used to having a lot of responsibilities. I was involved in sports, had a job, and studied hard in America. Here in Lithuania, I don’t have to study much in school, so it’s almost like I’m going a little crazy only having fun. Therefore, I have a few goals this month. I’m going to work harder on studying Lithuanian, and try to find volunteer opportunities in Lithuania through rotary or another organization. I would like to make my exchange about helping people and doing something meaningful, not just living “for myself” while I am here. I’m also going to try to teach myself guitar, so that should be interesting! I will keep you all updated on how I make my exchange matter. ;)
My language is of course one thing I also really need to work on. The more I learn Lithuanian, the more I realize I need to learn more Lithuanian. I think I’m saying something totally correct and then the person I’m speaking to says, “well, actually it’s this....” This has proved to be very frustrating for me. I was expecting to understand more than what I am understanding at two months with the amount of work I have put into studying Lithuanian. Of course, I cannot give up, so I will be studying even more this month. The goal is that by the end of November, I will be able to understand and use twenty verbs correctly in the past, present, and future. I am also going to work on understanding and being able to change the endings of nouns. (I will explain what I mean by this) In lithuanian, they don’t use words like “in,” “on,” “of,” etc; they change the endings of the noun that those words would refer to. For example, if you say “I am going home,” you say “Aš einu namO.” But, if you say “My home is there,” you say “Mano namAS yra ten.” There are seven different variations of each noun, with some variations that are extremely difficult to understand because we don’t have the concept at all in English. This is why Lithuanian is not only difficult to speak, but also difficult to understand. I may learn one form of the noun, but may not be able to recognize it when someone is speaking because they are using a different form of the noun. This means, to truly be able to use and understand one word, I need to know seven words. However, I am working on it!
Although I really miss my family and friends, I would not say that I am homesick. I think of my parents and sister every day and I wish they were here to experience certain things with me. (I love you guys so much) However, I’m still experiencing lots of new things, and enjoying my new life. One thing I am a bit worried about is seasonal depression. It is only the beginning of November and it is dark at 5:30 at night. I started to take vitamin D though, so hopefully that helps with it. I’m also starting to exercise more, I was so focused on trying a lot of new foods that I put a couple extra pounds on. ;) But as my host sister always quotes from the movie Eat Pray Love, “So this is what I'm going to do, I'm going to finish this pizza and then we're going to go watch the soccer game and tomorrow we're going to go on a little date and buy ourselves some bigger jeans.”
Thanks for reading my journal! I again recommend exchange to anyone, so far it has been full of only good experiences. I’m always thinking about how one year ago, it was me reading these journals, thinking about how crazy it would be if I actually became an exchange student. Now I’m on exchange, and sometimes I’m still thinking that it is crazy I am really here! However, Lithuania is the only place I can imagine being. I am happy (and cold)! Until next time, viso gero!
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