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Rebecca in Lithuania

Rebecca, our first volunteer in Lithuania, reflects on her experience:

Before coming to Lithuania, a lot of people, including myself, asked 'Why Lithuania?' since so many other placements, for example in Brazil or Africa, can sound much more exotic and worthwhile, but I can honestly say that I am so happy that I came here. Firstly, it is a very beautiful place and lovely culture and language, but also I have really learnt so much here.

I think my main worries before I came were not having enough to do, not liking/not being able to teach or connect with students and being lonely.

The first worry has definitely not been a problem. The school is a very welcoming place, and people have been very open to me being involved in things, for example an international school conference, inter-school quiz, a French exchange and making the school crib with an after-school club. I think that next year there will be even more for English speakers to do as English will start to be taught from the first class and there will be an intensified English programme on offer. I also think that any talents a new volunteer has will quickly be discovered and put to use if you are willing!

My second worry about not being able to do the work here has also not been a big difficulty. The English department, other assistants and especially my mentor here have been a big help with this. I always feel I can ask for help with things if I'm not sure how to do something, and as an assistant I have rarely been left alone with a whole class. The work that I actually do during the lessons varies quite a lot depending on the teacher so it is important to be quite flexible about this, but I think it would also be possible to mention if you particularly like working with one age group or something. I have learnt a lot in this area as I had never worked in a school before or taught (or learnt!) English grammar. The atmosphere of the school is also helpful. There is quite a friendly atmosphere which helps you to get to know students and it is usually very nice to work with them.

My last big worry was about loneliness, and while I did and do miss people in England, I have also felt very welcomed by people here. I think it always takes some time to get to know people, but there are lots of opportunities to meet people here; the sisters, at school, in the Samaritan community, the Parish and other communities and people who the sisters know, and once you know some people making friends becomes easier and easier.

I have really enjoyed and learnt such a lot from my placement here. I have learnt some teaching skills and about a new culture and language, but I have also learnt a lot about myself, and especially about relationships with others and community. I think that the biggest lesson for me personally has been to see and be part of a real community day to day, at school with teachers and students, and with Sisters/Samaritans. The experience is quite challenging sometimes but very worthwhile. I am sure that different people would learn different things here, but if you are considering a placement in Lithuania, I personally really recommend it!