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.

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