Emily, outbound to Norway

Alright, where to begin… 5 months.. 5 months since I stepped foot onto Norwegian soil. Soil which I’m now deeply rooted in. I can’t quite explain to you the feeling of leaving the life you’ve known behind, to become part of a place you know so little about, to invest yourself into a new culture, and learn a completely new way of life. But that feeling, whatever it may be, has changed who I am forever in such a small amount of time, and I can’t help but find myself happier than I’ve ever been.

My first four months I was lucky enough to spend with an incredible host family. I mean moving across an ocean and into the home of strangers isn’t always easy, but because of this family it couldn’t have been easier. It took only a few weeks for me to realize that I am truly a part of their family. From my host dad’s cheesy jokes, great taste in music, and love for pølse (like hot dogs but SO much better) to my host mom’s big heart, warm hugs, and beautiful confidence. But I’m especially thankful for my host sister who showed me what it’s like to have a big sister who I can look up to. Because of them I now know what it’s like to jump into freezing waters and feel complete numbness, what it’s like to receive a meaningful birthday surprise, and really just what it means to be part of a Norwegian family.

In our last month together they made a lifelong dream of mine come true and took me to England to visit my host sister who is studying at a University in Essex. We spent 2 days in London being as touristy as possible, then 2 days in Colchester the city next to my host sister’s University. England was everything I had a hoped for and more. I moved out of their home the last week of November, and although it was difficult, I’m settling into my new host family quite well. But before I get into that I should tell you about school.

I’m in the second year (there’s three years of high school here) music line at Greveskogen Videregående Skole. The school system here is fantastic; there’s so much freedom and room to breathe. To start off, at the beginning of the year students get to pick what “line” they want to be in and each line focuses on something specific, while having other regular subjects. So for example, I’m in the line they call 2MDA (M standing for music and D standing for drama), but I’m specifically in the music half. In my schedule I have normal classes such as Math, History, Norwegian, and Science but I also have music classes like Music in Perspective and Music Theory. I get the great opportunity to have a vocal coach and piano teacher too. We get about 15 minutes between each class (that’s 10 more than I had back home) and some days I start later and end earlier than others.

The teachers here are just as great as the school system. They really find ways to connect with the students and they’ve been so patient with me.. giving me things in English but also challenging me a little to make sure I work on the Norwegian. Which if you were wondering, is slowly but surely becoming easier to understand, not so much speak, but I’m getting there. The friends I’ve made in the past few months mean more to me than anything. I thought it would be hard to make such great friends in such a small time, but on exchange I’ve learned that some things I thought were impossible, really aren’t.

Now I’ll finish this by telling you about my second host family and the Norwegian Christmas holiday. I moved in November 30th and I can’t say that it’s easy adjusting to a new family and a new routine after having grown so accustomed to one. But I now have a host brother, who I got to know pretty well before moving in, so that made things all the more easy. Now I mean it when I say Norwegians don’t hesitate to start celebrating when it comes to Christmas. From day 1, it’s decorations and traditions all around. I’ve been to more Julebord’s (directly translated: Christmas table) in the last two weeks then I could count on both hands. Julebord’s are these wonderful Christmas dinners where you dress up and have the most delicious traditional foods such as pinnekjøtt and ribbe. I love them, but I think I gained at least 5 pounds this month.

In Norway they open presents and celebrate on Christmas eve, not Christmas day, so that was an interesting yet exciting way to spend Christmas. After having spent such an important time of the year with my new host family, I grew closer to them through it. I’m starting to get that feeling again where I realize that I’m really becoming part of the family.

So if you were wondering how I’ve been, and just how AMAZING Norway is so far, I tried my best to sum it up. But words don’t do this place justice… you have to see it for yourself.

I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am to RYE for giving me the chance to know what it feels like to really live. Exchange is such a beautiful thing and I don’t want this year to ever end. But I won’t get ahead of myself, because I’ve still got 6 exciting months ahead of me, and I will be sure to share more in the time to come.
Vi Snakkes! Oh yea, Happy New Year!!
-Emily

To see my hone page and some photos click HERE