Lizzie, outbound to Lithuania

Right now, I’m looking at my final five days in Lithuania… I’m embarrassed I haven’t written in so long, but the past few months have flown by - it’s as if I blinked and the seasons changed from winter to spring to summer. At the moment, going back to the United States doesn’t seem real… even though I’ll be back in less than a week, I feel as though I have months left in Vilnius.

Remembering the past 10 months, I’ve learned, grown, and changed a great deal….
I’ve learned that life can be difficult, but without the challenges and bumps in the road, life wouldn’t be interesting.
I’ve learned that some of my best friends come from the most unexpected places.
I’ve learned to be open to anyone, anything, and anyplace, and to say yes to everything (within reason).
I’ve learned that while there are lows in life, those are temporary, and there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
I’ve learned that technology (i.e. phones, computers, internet, television, etc.) isn’t a necessity.
I’ve learned that sadness is self-inflicted and happiness is a choice.
I’ve learned to always stand up for myself and that my own problems are mine. I’m the only person who can work through them and face them.
I’ve learned I’m from the ‘United States’, ‘The US’, ‘The States’, ‘The USA’, or ‘The United States of America’, but not from ‘America.’
I’ve learned to eat with the spoon or fork in my left hand and not switch hands during the meal.
I’ve learned a new language and culture, and fallen in love with my new home.

It’s strange. My emotions lately have been a bizarre melange of sorrow when thinking about leaving, happiness when looking back on my experiences here, excitement to go back to the USA after such a long time, but also apprehensiveness to return to Florida. Over the past ten (almost eleven) months, I’ve made a home for myself in Vilnius, Lithuania, and a bit of my heart will always be here. It upsets me to realize that I won’t be able to walk along the cobblestone streets of the Old Town every day or go for runs in the green, green parks sprinkled throughout the city. I can’t believe I have to say goodbye to one of the most beautiful cities in the world…. I can’t believe I have to say goodbye to my new family members. That’s yet another thing I’ve learned here - you don’t have to be related genetically to be family, all you need is love for one another!!

Lithuania has given me more than I could’ve imagined, a lot more than I had expected, and I’m tremendously grateful for this experience. Thank you Lithuania and Rotary Youth Exchange for giving me this gift and opening my eyes to the world.