To my fellow students at LCC,
Some of you may or may not know this, but the motto of the study abroad program is “I am a risk taker”. I think it’s meant in part to encourage us to be the kind of person who takes risks, who goes outside their comfort zone, travels to a part of the world many Americans know little about and learns to live in another culture. When I came here in August I thought I knew what that meant. After all, I was leaving behind everything and everyone I knew to come to this country that I’d only recently located on a map. I was pretty brave.
Then I arrived in Lithuania and was hit head on with what it meant to be completely helpless in a foreign place. I couldn’t say anything that wasn’t English or Ačiu. During the first days of classes, Radvyda asked everyone in our Lithuanian class to say what languages they spoke. All of the Americans quickly listed English and maybe French or Spanish. It took everyone else in class a bit longer though, as some listed up to five different languages. FIVE?! My brain couldn’t comprehend that. How do you speak five languages? It was one of many clues that helped me realize I was studying alongside some pretty remarkable people. As the weeks passed and I saw how hard my friends were working at their schoolwork, my admiration for you grew. I still had trouble remembering basic words in Lithuanian. You were writing and expressing complex ideas in English, which for many of you is your second, third or fourth language. I saw your tears and heard your sighs of frustration. The one thing I never saw you do was give up. Even when it was extremely difficult, you never treated the chance to be here at LCC as anything other than a gift. I have learned so much about determination and perseverance from watching you. You leave your families and countries to study in a foreign country for four years, in another language. You’re the real risk takers and you’re going to do amazing things.
Not only that, but you showed me an entirely new perspective of relationships. I am shy person by nature and I sometimes struggle with reaching out, especially in new situations. I’m sure some of you felt equally uncertain when you first came here. Yet, what I saw at LCC was a community of students who were willing and open to embracing others. Even the weird American who didn’t wear shoes and was only going to be here for four months. You loved me as if I was going to stay longer and made me stop and rethink the value of a few short months.
You have the remarkable ability to come together as people from many different countries and create a singe, unified student body. When people in town made hurtful comments about our fellow students from Russia I watched people literally running to put up flags and stand with them. And I saw what it means to love people over politics.
I could probably keep listing things for a long time, but there aren’t really enough words to express the gratitude I feel for this semester. Thank you, LCC. Thank you for the privilege and the joy of living here as one of you. Next week, I’ll go back to America, but I will never forget the people I’ve met here or the lessons I’ve learned.
-Hannah, from John Brown