At Home Abroad

Somehow traveling across the world, by myself, in a country where the first language is not my own (thankfully most everyone here speaks english anyways), I feel at home now. I arrived a week ago and several days before anyone else, so the initial sense of isolation weighed down on me. I spent the first day and a half in my bed at my hostel jet lagged, travel sick, home sick, and depressed. Being in a new city with nothing to do but find your own motivation to explore forces you reflect inwardly and question the choices thus far. With several thousand miles under your feet, completely surrounded by strangers in a large city, you can’t help but feel small, insignificant, and lonely. Eventually I decided there were certain things I needed to do to make me feel more at home.

The first was establish a true home and stop living out of my suitcase. The hostel was a decent place to lay my head and stow my things but it was not truly a home. After struggling through 3 nights at the noisy hostel and five flights of windy european stairs, I was rewarded with an incredible and massive apartment. Over the next few days I continued to nest by unpacking my suitcase, buying groceries, and finding a hair dryer (which you would think is outlawed in this country). At this point I feel for the most part I have everything I need to survive comfortably when I come home to the apartment.

The second was make friends. Meeting people in a hostel is always interesting and the first night I actually went out I was accompanied by two girls from South Korea. Unfortunately for me they left the following morning. Without a drink in hand it can be a little difficult to talk to strangers and make new friends quickly. So I held out, knowing that I would meet the seven other girls in my program in only a few days. To my great pleasure we all get along very well! We are all bonded by this experience and our mission here in Oslo and yet we all bring something different to the table. Not only within our skillsets but within our personalities.

The last thing I needed to do to make Oslo my home was to understand and acclimate to the Norwegian culture. None of us have ever been to Norway, none of here speak Norwegian, and some of us (myself included) have never even been abroad, so trying to figure out this new culture was somewhat of a challenge. Fortunately, we have had the blessing that is our Norwegian culture teacher, Lene. She has not only taught us about Norwegian history and government but about the social nuances that help us properly approach individuals for our interviews. The more I learn about Norway, the more I can’t help but agree with their government policies and philosophy on life. Norwegians are on average introverted, try not to bother others, and believe that everyone is equal and I can’t help but feel that my own personality and ideals fall right in line with theirs. Which is incredibly comforting. At home you can feel out of place being introverted, unobtrusive, and preaching total equality but here that is the way of life.
Overall, I am glad that we have an entire month to settle in and really get to know this city and its people. Everyone I know who has traveled abroad has said it has changed their way of thinking and perception of the world and it is fun to finally experience that change firsthand. And I consider myself incredibly lucky to have my first experience abroad in a place I truly feel safe and comfortable in.