We are nearing the end – approximately 11 more days in the semester, 19 until I see my family, friends, and boyfriend. This downhill stride is one that is full of excitement anticipating those reunification’s, however, it comes with a pit in your stomach knowing you must leave the place you have called home for FOUR whole months.
This semester has taught me many things – personally, relationally, and spiritually.
#1. Intentionality: I have learned the importance of being intentional in relationships and friendships. I have also learned who from back home were intentional about hearing and experiencing the things here in Lithuania with me. I was amazed at how creative some got in their letters, packages, and even text messages in attempting to show their love towards me. I found that relationships can in fact make it despite the distance. You learn how to adapt to the time difference, although, ask me the first month I were here and I would have most likely shed a tear from exhaustion and frustration.
I have also learned how important it is to be intentional with myself. I am firm advocate for self-care and living a healthy lifestyle. That, of course, can take many forms depending on the person. I admit, my body was not happy with the changes that were occurring around me. I needed to find a new routine that worked for me and not feel guilty for taking an hour or two by myself to recuperate.
#2. Communication: I had assumed I was a good communicator prior to leaving, hah, think again Cam. It wasn’t until leaving until I realized I actually suck at communicating and needed to learn how to effectively do so. I was grateful for the patience that my friends and family had with me through the process, even the friends here with me. I learned that with being miles away from home, communication is all you got. You cannot physically go and hug that person after a rough day, you have to simply talk about it. Although it was difficult, I would not have it any other way. This semester has shown me what strength in relationships looks like. There is such beauty in debriefing with your significant other or friends about a rough day and being able to share with that with them by simply ‘talking’ about it and reflecting on your day.
#3. Self-confidence: This semester has taught me a greater appreciation for myself as an individual, and as a daughter in Christ. I have embarked on journey’s this semester that I would have never in a million years imagined I would have experienced. Who would have thought I would be navigating Russia with a group of once-strangers? I have seen myself go from anxious about navigating airports and cities to one struttin’ confidently through international airports and the city of Klaipeda. I have experienced the heaviness of being away from family and friends, who I once depended on to uplift me and remind me of my worth. But, I was forced to rely on myself and my God in Heaven for the reinforcement of my worth. I began to understand how transformative separating oneself from ‘comfort’ can be in one’s life. I am so grateful for the newfound confidence I have in myself. I am incredibly proud of myself for willingly choosing to step on that plane in Washington and head to a country I knew nothing about.
#5. Cultural competency: For this one, two stories are needed. Back track a couple weeks and I find myself sitting in the 3rd floor kitchen when a boy walks in. We start a conversation which leads to talk about faith and religion. He proceeds to tell me about his Muslim faith and asks me to articulate my beliefs for him. All of a sudden he blurts out, “Ya know, I just feel the need to tell you that not all of us are terrorists. We are actually really peaceful people.” My heart sunk and I still remember that moment like it were yesterday. The realness in his voice struck me. I of course knew that already but his words were so personal and real that it pierced through me. Here was a freshman from Afghanistan feeling the need to defend his religion and his people to some irrelevant American girl. I was honored but I also was taken back all at the same time.
Despite all of the ups and downs this semester, it has been one of the most invigorating and fulfilling four months of my life. I have created such incredible relationships here and back home, but most importantly, with myself. I continue to amaze myself everyday here.
I encourage you to say “yes” more than you say “no”, dive head first into the semester even though you are uncomfortable, go to chapel, go see the sunset on the beach, and so many other things!
~ Cameron, Messiah College