I have roughly one week left in Riga, Latvia, and I am feeling quite unsettled about my departure. The friends and colleagues that I have gained from my time interning in Riga will not be forgotten. As I sit here today, partially wondering how I am going to fit all of my newly acquired souvenirs in my suitcase, I can’t help but feel like time has gone by so quickly. I understand that this is a cliché of sorts, but I am dumbfounded; It seems like I just arrived. But, I can tell that time has passed because my personality has changed dramatically since I first touched down in May.
I had been to Riga, Latvia before during my freshman year, and I had thought that the second time around would be more relaxed and straightforward. I found this to be an outrageous distortion of the truth. I have been challenged far more than I was when I came here at the age of 18. Undertaking an internship shocked my current way of living and thinking. I was tasked daily with assignments that were placed outside of my comfort zone where I was accustomed to classrooms and theory rather than the practical application of my education. Further, this was my first experience living alone. My previous times abroad and even back home in West Virginia, I am always accompanied by a roommate, a host family, or my own loving family. Solo living was more of an adjustment than I thought, and while it is nice to relax and find solace in being alone, it deprived me of a comfortable social setting that I had grown accustomed to maintaining.
While there were inherent challenges, there were even more rewards. I feel for the first time in my life that I am an adult. In Riga this time around, I have greater responsibility and more expected of me. At my internship, projects were assigned to me with deadlines, which could not be avoided or pushed off like any other homework assignment, yet I tackled them head on. Furthermore, I discovered that some of your greatest friends can come from the office. Every day I looked forward to eating lunch with my colleagues, learning about their pasts, laughing at their daily blunders, and making plans together for the weekend. I also gained the capability to be flexible. As an intern, I was required to assist in the day to day operations of the office, and in my work at the Embassy, I was expected to change what I was working on at the drop of a hat to complete another assignment within a given time frame. While this was at first frustrating, it taught me the value of time management and planning to account for such shifts in operations when they occur.
Lastly, I developed a deep rooted understanding and connection to the culture that I have spent years studying. I interacted daily with my neighbors, friends, co-workers, pedestrians, etc. that added to my knowledge and passion for Eastern Europe. I have learned of the past through my host mother’s conversations with me about her grandparents. I discovered the hope for a brighter future from my friends looking to build on their education and start a lasting career in the Baltics. Most importantly, I learned the value of listening, attempting to understand and grasp the language, struggles, and stories of a population that has endured so much for their freedom and well-being.
Overall, I am lucky to have been able to return to Riga, and I am already counting down the days until I can come back.