Wow, what a semester I’ve had. Now that I’m home, and have been for a week, it feels like living in Norway was just a dream. It seems like I’ve simply woken up, and can only recall the details of my experience in a haze. Since I’m reflecting on my trip as a whole, I’m going to be honest. These five months weren’t easy ones by any means.
While my brother thinks of his time in Norway as one chunk, I think of it as two. I don’t know why my brain has decided to separate it but I can’t fathom it in any other way. The first chunk begins when I first arrived and ends when my boyfriend Keegan came to visit in mid-October. The second chunk begins when Keegan left and ends when I returned home.
As I said, I’m going to be honest in my reflection. Regarding the first chunk of my time in Norway, I absolutely hated it. My brother doesn’t understand how I could ‘hate’ living in a country like Norway where it’s developed, peaceful, beautiful, and clean, in addition to my living situation where I had my own room and comforts, etc. I have to explain to him why I felt that way and also why I feel no guilt about it. Going to Norway through PLU was a wonderful experience, and one that I’m immensely grateful for. The hate came from my overwhelming discomfort in doing something that I had never done before.
My brother has a much more easy going and laid back personality. He found settling into a new country an exciting adventure. I’m the opposite and found the whole thing more synonymous to ‘ordeal’ or ‘process’; I love having control and being organized, knowing steps 1,2,3 and plans A, B, and C. Traveling outside of the country (by plane and train, methods of travel I was very unaccustomed to) to a place I had never been before, and without the presence of my family or friends sounded terrifying to me from the get-go. My first thoughts about studying in Norway weren’t excitement, but fear. I didn’t want to go and even talked to my advisor about the consequences of not going. In the end I had enough sense to not let my fear influence my decision, and obviously I ended up in Scandinavia.
My fears were justified to some extent. Those first two and a half months were pure discomfort, sadness, and anger. I was completely uncomfortable being outside of America and having to adjust to a new way of life. I struggle with change anyway and this was a big one. My sadness and homesickness was the most I had ever experienced in my life. It was a physical ache in my body. I was also angry that I was stuck; I had to endure five months of living in a place that I didn’t want to be in. Every day I wished that someone would offer me a ticket to get home. But I’m so glad that no one did.
The reason why I hated that first chunk of living in Norway was because it forced me out of my comfort zone and forced me to grow in a way that I never had before. Being able to look back on its entirety, I am not only incredibly grateful for the magical moments that I experienced in Norway (such as making lifelong friends from around the world and meeting distant relatives in a fairytale snowy town) but also for the way that living abroad made me mature and grow as a person. The quote “Grow through what you go through” has never resonated with me more.
Despite my initial feelings, I can say that the second chunk of my time in Norway was much better and quite enjoyable. I felt more at ease and I had a lot more fun with my new friends and with my brother Colten. I think the reason for my change in attitude had a lot to do with my boyfriend visiting. We had a great week together and it acted as a reminder that I wasn’t actually stuck in Norway like I felt. We weren’t on separate planets or divided by an impenetrable barrier. I could and would return home, just like how Keegan came to visit and then caught a flight back to the States. Seeing the familiar face of someone I loved also helped rejuvenate my spirits. I was less ‘down in the dumps’ in the weeks to follow.
Time was also a factor in my change of perspective. Keegan’s departure marked the halfway point of my time in Norway. I think I realized that if I could make it through the first half then I could definitely make it through the second. In fact, that second half flew by. I could feel the days slipping away and propelling me toward the end. And with Christmas approaching, I was much cheerier in general. My classes came to a stop, and I could listen to Christmas music and watch Christmas films. Before I knew it, I was already back in Washington State sitting in my boyfriend’s car, and holding the flowers and chocolates he had bought me. Strangely we both agreed that it felt like I had never left. Nonetheless I know what I went through because I am changed by it, and couldn’t be happier to celebrate Christmas at home after a long journey, both literally and figuratively.
To wrap up my final blog post, I will give some advice that I wish someone had given me before my journey. What I would say to someone who is anxious or scared about doing anything out of their comfort zone or control is to just do it and go with the flow as best you can. The pain or stress will pass eventually and you will be better for it. Sometimes taking a short cut isn’t the best way, though it might look it from the outside.
I’m so proud of myself making it through this fall semester in Norway and I look forward to being back at PLU for the New Year.
I give warm winter wishes to you all, and write one last time:
Thanks for reading.