Sydney Garrison

 Norway

Hometown: St. Augustine, Florida
School: St Augustine
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club: Coastal St Johns County, Florida
Host District: 2260
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Kløfta


My Bio


Hallo, jeg heter Sydney Garrison! Hello, my name is Sydney Garrison. I go to St Augustine High School, where my favorite subject is international history. I'm 15 years old and in the tenth grade. I was born in Minnesota and lived in southern Wisconsin until third grade, so I've always felt very connected with Scandinavian culture. I live with my mom (Leslie), dad (Derek), and younger brother (Rowan) in St Augustine Beach, just a short walk away from the beautiful Anastasia State Park. My friends and I like to go to the beach, walk downtown, and organize themed parties. For example, we have an annual Eurovision themed party where we all dress up in cultural costumes and score each performance. My parents both taught English in Taiwan after college and travelled all around southeast Asia, and have instilled in me a love of travel and language. I’m a French 4 student and have already started studying Norwegian! I’m also very interested in history, mythology, and literature. I’m not just academically oriented though, I also love the outdoors and hope I can spend some time skiing and hiking. Tusen takk (Thank you very much) to Rotary and to my family for providing me with this amazing opportunity. I can't wait to see what new adventures I'll have!

note my stylish Helly Hansen life vest
  • Sydney, Outbound to Norway

    Click HERE to read more about Sydney and all her blogs

    I’ve been in Norway for more than two months now, but it's gone by so fast. I guess they do say that time flies when you’re having fun. The exchange has been amazing so far. Although I’m having a little trouble getting used to the cold (especially during outdoor gym class), I really enjoy seeing this country and its beautiful nature. I’ve gone berry picking twice, and I walk my host family’s dog every day. I love seeing the leaves change. In Florida, we really do miss out on the whole “seasons” thing. I also really like my class. I feel like I’ve moved past just being “the American” and my classmates are getting to know me and become friends because of my personality, not my country. I still eat lunch with the same group, but I spend breaks with lots of different people.

    I was able to meet the rest of the Rotary exchange students in Norway during introcamp, which was on the west coast in Sola. We learned some basic language and culture (okay, mostly trolls), and got to know each other. We took the bus one day into Sandnes, and we went to a children’s museum and walked around downtown. Some friends and I got ice cream and walked to the marina, and a few stores. I was also one of the few students brave enough to swim in the ice cold ocean at introcamp- it was fun but freezing.

    Last week was fall break (called høstferie) and my third host family took me with them to Stord, a small island on the west coast where my host dad grew up. The drive was eight hours of breathtaking scenery (we went across mountains and along fjords) and sharing a bag of Norwegian candy with my future host sister Sigrid. We stayed in a house that has been in the family for generations. It was really fun, and I was able to get to know my future host family better. Sigrid and I made tacos one night, and another night we ate fish we’d caught ourselves. Going out fishing was great. We had coffee and skoleboller on the boat, and I was able to catch two fish. On the last day before I flew back, we took the ferry into Bergen. We went to the top of a mountain overlooking the city and its harbor, and then came back down to walk around the cute old houses and shops downtown. Unfortunately, Bergen ended up living up to its reputation of the rainiest city in Europe, and we spent most of the late afternoon looking for cover from the downpours.

    Last night, I went with the president of my host club, his wife, and another exchange student to see the Barber of Seville in Oslo, Although the show was in Italian and I couldn’t understand much of the plot, it was super enjoyable. Plus, the opera house in Oslo has really nice architecture. Tonight, I’m seeing Annie in Jessheim with my host parent’s granddaughters, so I have more live play experiences to look forward to.

  • Sydney, Outbound to Norway

    Click HERE to read more about Sydney and all her blogs

    So I’ve been in Norway for about a week now, and I’m still shocked at how beautiful everything is here! Everywhere I look there are green open fields or forests. Wildflowers grow on the sides of the roads and I haven’t even seen a billboard yet, so car rides in Norway are definitely different than the US. Another thing that’s different- my host club sings at the beginning of the meetings, which my sponsor club definitely doesn’t do! Luckily they keep lyric books on every table, so I was able to follow along.

    I go to a school in Jessheim, which I have to take 2 different buses to get to. The school building itself is new, and it’s really nice. It’s definitely the biggest school I’ve ever attended. I’m having difficulty understanding some classes, but my classmates have been really nice and accommodating in helping me understand. In English class, we’ll be covering “American people and culture”, which should be interesting to take as an American. The textbook has Bruce Springsteen lyrics for students to read and understand the American working class. I’ve made two good friends in my class so far, Hedda and Mozhgan. I’ve also been in communication with my future host sister Sigrid.

    My neighbor Julie has also been a really good friend. She taught me how to eat like a typical Norwegian teenager (ketchup on pizza and Pepsi Max), and I went to an activity park with her, her boyfriend Casper, and their friend Ivar. The activity park was really fun, even if it physically could be a challenge for an out of shape American like me. Afterwards, we shared an apple cider and talked about music. Her friends were very fun, and had a similar sense of humor to my friends in the US.

    Also, my host family has a dog! This is really exciting to me, because I’ve always wanted one and my brother is allergic. His name is Elvis, and I’ve really enjoyed walking him in the forest by my house. I also got to see my host parents’ grandson’s band play at Jessheim Storsenter, and they were really good. They did covers of some songs I’m familiar with- Johnny B Goode and Communication Breakdown.

    The other day, my host mom took me into Oslo. We had coffee and ice cream on a peninsula on the fjord and went to the Viking Ship Museum, the Fram Museum, the Kon Tiki Museum, and the top of Holmenkollen. Holmenkollen was amazing- you could see everything from the top. But my favorite had to be the Kon Tiki Museum. I’d heard about Kon Tiki, but I didn’t really know much of Thor Heyerdahl’s story. It was so fascinating!

    So far, Norway has been a dream come true. I would like to thank Rotary as well as my amazing families (both host and biological) for making this possible. I would also like to leave you for now with a Thor Heyerdahl quote that greets you when you enter the Kon Tiki Museum, and has made me think a lot about my exchange “Borders? I have never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of some people.”

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