Zach Greenwald


Hometown: Ponte Vedra, Florida
School: Ponte Vedra High School
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club: Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Host District: 2250
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Klepp

My Bio

Hello! I am Zach Greenwald, and I'm heading to Norway! I currently live in Ponte Vedra, Florida and in 11th grade. I'm in love with both music and theatre, so naturally when their combined in to this magical thing called musical theatre, I'm definitely all about it! I have three dogs and a brother and sister, in which the latter is involved with theatre as well. Playing piano is also one of my main hobbies as well, as a big goal of mine is to end up composing soundtracks for movies and even musicals hopefully on that really cool thing in New York called Broadway! Now about my take on Norway, I was in disbelief when I heard that that's where I'd be heading as the first region that popped into my mind when I decided I apply for exchange was Europe, and more specifically Scandinavia. To me Scandinavia seemed like such an abstract place because I knew so little about it, but I did know people had lived there for a very long time and remained fairly isolated which would explain why they all speak different languages in each of the countries and implied a culture unique to that place specifically. I have incredible and amazing friends in Ponte Vedra that I will no longer be graduating with, but the biggest draw for exchange for me was the challenge of being forced to be outgoing and connect with people before I leave, being outgoing and fearless while I'm on exchange to defeat the language barrier, and use all the skills I've acquired to simply make new friends when I get back and for the rest of my life. I'm just so excited!

Journals: Zach-Norway Blog 2018-19

  • Zach, Outbund to Norway

    I’ve been in Norway for a little over a month now, which is unbelievably shorter than what it has felt like. Norway’s incredibly easygoing nature has made it easy to find a day to day week to week rhythm after less than five weeks. When I first arrived, I had spent a few days with my exchange counselor to sort out paperwork and wait for my luggage to arrive. That was the first time I was able to try ‘typical’ Norwegian food, which basically means bread with butter or jelly with any type and of meat on top for breakfast, then a 4:00 PM dinner with again some grilled meat and potatoes.

    Right now I’m living with my amazing host family in a small farming town called Varhaug. By small, I mean that 3,000 people live here and if you look it up on Google, the number one spot on the things to do list is visit the cemetery, which was actually a beautiful cliff side view. There’s a cow pasture for each direction you look with sheep just about everywhere in between. In the morning I take a 7:16 train ride to the city Sandnes, for school. In Norway there are thirteen years of school before university yet specialization in fields and lines begin in the 11th year in a casual high school like setting. Each day has a new set of classes that reconvene once to twice a week, such as history which I only have on Fridays. The classmates however, are the same for every class as we’re all apart of the 12th year drama department class which consists of about 28 girls and 4 boys (including me). Since we’re the drama class most of or courses consist of various theatre related classes such as theatre history, theatre production, and theatre and movement. There is absolutely no competition among peers for grades, but rather a pass-fail type system to weed out the kids that even show interest in moving on to universities which often isn’t the case as many can get a sufficient degree for jobs right out of high school.

    I got an amazing opportunity to travel to the southern tip of Norway in a town called Lyngdal, where I met the other 32 exchange kids to Norway. 17 of those kids are from Canada and the USA with the rest coming from various South American and European countries. Our common situation made bonding unbelievably easy. In between the Norsk language lessons by the exchange officials, we got to explore the area through mountain hikes and visits to salmon farms. Most of the time however, was spent swimming, first in the Fjord until the French exchange student named Thomas got stung by a jellyfish, then in the hotels indoor pool, which has been the only place I’ve actually gotten warmed in the otherwise unflinching 40-50 degree summer weather.

    It would take pages to even scratch the surface of the differences between Norway and the USA as most are within the casual subtleties of life. The nature of this experience however is to forget what everything I think I know about how people should generally and buy in to this Norwegian version of life as much as I can even if it means standing on the train everyday (because apparently if someone sits on one seat they claim the whole row and they’ll passive aggressively show you their rage if you infringe on their unnecessary amount of space). It is with this attitude that allows me and my fellow exchange students to slowly everyday begin to see this obscure Northern European country as home.

    Click HERE to read more about Zach and all his blogs

  • Zach, Outbound to Norway

    A few weeks ago I officially passed the five month mark on my exchange which depressingly means I’m more than halfway done with this adventure. In four months time I’ll be back in PV preparing for my senior year of high school. It’s no exaggeration to say this school year has been the fastest of my life almost even to the point where it seems to be escaping me.

    The Norwegian language is tricky business because as much as I think I know, all it takes is a person who lives two hours away to remind me I can pretty much only speak and understand the language in Rogaland, the region I live in. I’m pleased nonetheless, as in class I can at the very least understand what the topic we’re learning is about. Talking with my friends isn’t too bad as they know they have to speak slow if they want me in on a conversation. Then there’s Phillip, my history teacher (Yes in Norway they call the teachers by their first name). This guy is German, speaks fluent English and Norwegian, and hasn’t said a word to me in English at all besides one time during an oral test. I know that he’s really just trying to help me with the language but some of my friends can’t even understand his way of speaking Norwegian. Luckily the class is basically a toned down version of World History at PVHS, so I haven’t really failed any test yet.

    Despite currently being with a Dutch host family, my Christmas was about as Norwegian as it could get. In Norway the day of Christmas is actually on the 24th, and on that day I went back to my first host family to celebrate during the day. We went inside a barn with a bunch of other families and waited until the “barn Santa” entered from behind the hay to collect his porridge and give gifts to all the little kids. He came with a classic Santa gift sack and one by one called the names of the kids who would collect their prize and give him a hug. Naturally I was called and by far the oldest of the group. During the night I stayed with my current host family and ate traditional Norwegian Christmas food and exchanged gifts which were mostly things I could use to keep warm as the array of clothes I brought were no match for the winter here.

    There’s actually a million things I could talk about in this last paragraph, but one thing in particular epitomizes exactly what I feel youth exchange is all about, and it happened yesterday (or the day before I wrote this piece 01/26/19). It was a Saturday and all I really had planned was to meet my fellow exchanger friends from Germany and Canada at the library in the city about a 25 minute train ride from where I live. I arrived an hour earlier so I could stop at a café and play piano in the libraries music room. The German girl arrived first and we waited for about an hour until finally the Canadian says she won’t make it. From that point the day just got crazier as we decided to grab something to eat and saw there was an Ethiopian restaurant not too far and ate there. Neither of us had ever eaten Ethiopian food before but it was basically different kinds of meat, beans, and sauce on an extremely spongy bread. After some more walking we stumbled upon a little studio with a sign that read “GRATIS AFRIKANSE DANSSEKLASSE” which means free African dance class. It started ten minutes from when we arrived and after some convincing I got my friend to go inside. We were just thrown into it and just began to copy the choreography which was mostly different ways of stomping on the ground to the beat of a drum. After a whole hour of this the leader of the group said we’d be moving in to a church to perform for a few people. A few people ended being roughly 150 and before you know it, it was an African dance party in a church with 150+ older Norwegian folks on a Saturday. This is exactly what an open mind and a plan-less day can get you here in Norway and I’m hoping for a few more days like this one.

    Click HERE to read more about Zach and all his blogs

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