Morgannne, Outbound to Lithuania

It’s definitely past time for a journal. The time since my last journal has been busy, full of more ups and downs than I have experienced in a long time. The last time I was writing, I had just returned from a trip to Spain, and life was great. In Lithuania during the month of November, my exchange was going well. My Lithuanian language was getting much better, I had found places to volunteer, I felt close with my host family, school was going well, and everything else that was a component in my exchange was how I wanted it to be. During this time though, there was always something in the back of my mind; my sister in America was becoming quite sick. On November 8, she arrived in the hospital, (Now I won’t go into lots of detail about my sister’s situation, but rather on how this affected my exchange.) and this was difficult for me. It’s very hard to continue to love being on exchange, to be excited to try new things and meet new people; when you know that someone important to you at home is not okay. Of course, I had people in Lithuania to help me. My host family and friends were very supportive. But really what was quite difficult for me, was not only my own need of support, but the fact that I was not in America to support my family. It was difficult for me to accept that I was on exchange, with the ability to have a really awesome time, when the three most important people to me were going through an extremely hard situation at home without me. I continued on with my exchange as best I could. I made Thanksgiving dinner for my family, which was great. My host family really allowed me to make it feel like Thanksgiving; not only did I make the traditional dishes, but we also went around the table with each person stating what they were thankful for, just like my family in America.

During November I also mushroom picked, went to a concert (a popular Lithuanian band), I visited the capital city to see other exchange students, and went to the capital of Latvia with my host family. Riga was wonderful, the city has a very beautiful “old town” area, with brick roads and detailed buildings. November also allowed me to experience even more cold!! Everyday, I wore three pairs of socks… However, the warmth I continued to feel from my friends and host family was enough for me :) (cliche I know).

Then December came, which was the difficult month. I had to go home. My parents called me and said that the doctors had advised me to return home, as Mallory was not doing well. Of course, I had no desire to leave Lithuania and everyone I had met, but it was something that was not really a choice, I needed to be with my sister and family. With the help of a lot of amazing Rotarians, I was on a flight home the next day. When my friends in Lithuanian found out I was leaving, it was something I would call amazing. People who I had known for only three months were coming to my house to say goodbye! The people who weren’t able to make it to say goodbye wrote me messages with genuine words that made me smile. Leaving Lithuania was difficult, and it came with a lot of tears. But I’m thankful for all the love and support that Lithuania gave me during that time, which I certainly wasn’t expecting. Once I was home though, I was in a strange place. I was able to be there for my family, which made me feel better. It was still odd though, returning home early when you had prepared to be gone for much longer. I was stressed out and confused; unsure if I was happy or sad to be home. My family was telling me I would return to Lithuania, when I was unsure if I could. BUT, this journal does have a better ending, which is somewhat of a miracle. After a difficult week at the hospital, Mallory began to recover, which no one was expecting. She was on a long road to a full recovery, so I was still unsure if I wanted to go back to my exchange. With lengthy conversations with my family, we decided I would return to Lithuania! We decided that my exchange was something I worked really hard for, and my parents did not want this to hold me back. I must say though, it was much more difficult to leave my family the second time than the first. I was, and I still am worried that my sister could take a turn for the worse again, but we will cross that bridge if we reach it.

Returning to Lithuania was interesting. I had arrived December 21st, so school was already on holiday. I spent time with my host family, we went to Latvia to see the Christmas village, which was lovely. Christmas was also lovely, I celebrated with my host family and friends! Interesting though, we celebrated Christmas more on the 24th than 25th. December 24th was the family day where we had a large meal and opened presents. Christmas Day, I met my host grandparents for the first time, and afterwards my host sister and I had a party with friends. For me it was a bit strange to not spend all of Christmas with family, but it was still really great. :) The day after Christmas my host sister and I embarked on our trip to Milan, Italy, which was so much fun! I ate every Italian food you can think of; cannoli, pizza, tiramisu, ravioli, spaghetti, and lots of coffee (the Italian way of course). It was great to go to Italy and spend time with my host sister, as I moved to my new family a few days after returning to Lithuania.

Moving families is interesting. It’s not quite the same as moving into the first family because you are not a baby, so the second host family doesn’t need to help you as much as the first. Although the routine and independence that you have already gained in your country is great, I think this can make it difficult to get to know and adapt to the second family. In my first host family, I needed help with everything, so I spent a lot of time with them. With my second family, more effort is needed to get to know them; I think this is really the time for every exchange student to not be couped up in their room, but with the family who opened their doors for you. So far, I really like this family! I again have one host sister the same age as me, and I think we will get along well. My host parents are also lovely; they know a bit of english so I’m doing my best with only speaking Lithuanian, which i’m a bit behind in after going home for a while.

I know this journal is quite long so I’m going to stop here. I really think this journal is an example that exchange is not perfect, but full of ups and downs. I’ll keep you updated on my new family, and my return to school in the next journal! Thank you for all your help my lovely Rotary!

Viso Gero!

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