So at some point in time I reached day 250 of my exchange and, as a result, the big countdown is on. There are now 100 days until I catch a 9am flight out of Oslo and my life in Norway comes to an end. This year long exchange is now five sevenths through and the reality of actually coming home is starting to dawn on me and I no longer really understand how to feel about it.
I spent roughly the first three months of my exchange looking forward to going home, to being with my family again. I was homesick and nothing would’ve pleased me more than being able to magically shorten my exchange and just go home. Then I gradually began to enjoy being in Norway, the freedom I had, the crazy new experiences and the unbelievable opportunities I was getting. The idea of going home became one of indifference. Sure, I was happy to have an end date and to be getting closer to it every day but it was no longer something I looked forward to with a sense of desperation. I I was fine with being in Norway until January and I was fine with going home afterwards. This brings me to the stage I’m currently at. I don’t really know how I’m going to leave Norway and come back to Australia. I have a life here, just like I did in Australia, and I legitimately like who I am in Norway. I wouldn’t mind seeing my parents again but I’m dreading having to leave this new life for forever. You build a life for 15 years and leave it for 11.5 months. You build a life for 11.5 months and leave it forever. Which one is harder? The reality is that once my exchange is over this new life will be over too. I’ll never be a Rotary exchange student again and, even if I return to Norway, it won’t be the same as it is now. I’m terrified to return home, just as I was terrified to spend an entire year in Norway the minute I stepped into the airport. It’s hard to explain why exactly the idea of home scares me so much now but I’ll give it my best shot:
I’m worried I’m not going to like who I am in Australia. There’s a whole lot of talk about self-love these days. The idea that you should love yourself isn’t exactly a new one but in the last 5 or so months I’ve actually begun to understand it. I know I’ve changed whilst being in Norway, I’m not as ridiculously stressed, less intense and happier in general. This person I’ve become is someone I legitimately like. I admit when I’ve made a mistake and don’t spend 24/7 worrying about everything and my head is just a less scary place to be. I’m so happy with who I am, mentally, at the moment and I guess I’m just worried that the minute I go back to Australia I’m going to go back to the way I was – new and improved me will just disappear. I’m scared that going back to having a seemingly endless amount of expectations placed on me will just show me that I haven’t changed at all. I didn’t not like the person I was before but I can’t go back to being like.
I’m worried I won’t fit in anywhere. In most situations this year I’ve been ‘the exchange student’, not all the time but most of the time. I try my best to fit in and I think I’ve managed to almost shake the title at school but, at the same time, it’s not something I’m ashamed of. Fitting in at the start was incredibly difficult, people around me were complaining about school work and all I could think of was just how lucky they were to be going home to their parents every night. There were all these menial complaints they’d have that would make me feel like no one could ever understand what I was going through (how can they complain about an assignment when I’m trying to navigate a different culture and a different language?). Gradually I got over this and I know that the people that I spend a lot of time with don’t consider me to just be that exchange student anymore. The point is I’m not quite sure if I’ll be able to fit in with my old friends and classmates anymore than I did with Norwegians. I have now got this new perspective for life but their lives have just continued as though nothing is different (it isn’t for them). How can I fit in when I feel like my entire life has changed and none of my friends can understand what a year long exchange was like? I’m scared to find out that I don’t fit in with my old friends anymore and even more that there is no one at my school or in my teams who I can communicate with without feeling like they are immature.
I’m worried I’m going to suck at cricket. I tried to find a better way to explain this one but it is just as I said it. Cricket has been a massive part of my life for the last 5 or so years but I’ve only bowled 3 balls whilst being in Norway. I’m worried that when I get back I’m going to be so incredibly bad at this sport that I love and that I’ll never get back to the same level I was at. The first cricket game my team is playing after I get back is on the 12th of January – I get back on the 5th. I don’t know if I’m expected to play so shortly after getting back but I can’t deny the fact I want very badly to get back out onto that cricket field. Nevertheless I’m still scared I’m going to bowl an over of wides or drop the simplest of catches (I would add getting out for a duck to that list but that wasn’t unusual even when I was training 3 times a week).
Most of all I hate the fact that the end of my exchange will mean the end of this new life in Norway, a new life that I love.
I know they all seem pretty ridiculous but they are legitimate concerns for me when I think about going home.Anyway, this post has, so far, been seemingly negative and that’s not exactly what I was aiming for so I now present you with a new list, one consisting if all the things I’m looking forward to in the next 100 days.
A school trip to Åland. My class is going on a week-long trip to the island of Åland in a few weeks as part of an international cooperation between child and youth services classes in Norway, Sweden and Finland. I’ll be able to meet students from the mentioned countries as well as participate in various workshops and, of course, sight seeing.
At least 5 basketball games. My teams has a fairly large amount of games lined up as the start of the season nears and I’m excited to get onto the court and play (I also finally got around to ordering my own uniform so I’ll be able to wear that in a game for the first time).
Playing in the Autumn concert with other musicians from different skolekorps groups. All the local skolekorps ensembles are getting together and playing a series of pieces together (including a piece called ‘Festival in the Hall of the Mountain King’- it’s insane, google it!). I’m looking forward to meeting some new people and playing with such a large band.
The Oslo Christmas markets. I’ve heard they’re good and even just the setting makes it worth it (snow, ice skating rink, Christmas market= pure magic).
Potentially going ice skating. I’m rubbish at it even by Australian standards but that doesn’t mean I’ve ruled it out completely as the colder weather approaches- how many people can say they’ve been ice skating in Norway? (*NOTE- question doesn’t apply to Norwegians*)
Doing work experience at a preschool as a part of my school course. After spending so much time learning about how to interact with kids and how to enhance their development I’m excited to finally get a crack at it.
Snow!!!!!!!!! It is coming !!!!! It is already snowing in a fair few places in Norway and the weather here is significantly colder than it was so it’ll be soon(ish).
Christmas in Norway. I have no idea what I’ll be doing but the thought of it is still incredibly exciting.
Attending more meetings with my District Governor. I’ve already been to one meeting with him and I’m going to go and speak to two other clubs with him. My job is to explain what exchange means to the people who participate and convince them to join the program (and to tell them they aren’t too old). I love being able to do this because, as I realised midway through my presentation to the first club, I truly and wholeheartedly believe in this program and its ability to change lives.
The Autumn holiday. It starts on Saturday and I’m super happy to have a bit of a break and also catch up with some friends.
*note- this one was added after I initially finished writing* Reading Tante Ulrikkes Vei for my Norwegian class. We just go the book and, whilst when I first saw it was 430ish pages long I wasn’t looking forward to it, after reading the first page I’m now determinded to finish it before I leave Norway.
These are only 10 things and without a doubt there are more things I’ve probably forgotten. These things I’m looking forward to span from next week to around a week before I leave, needless to say time is going to fly!
I don’t want this post to be too long (my brother told me he hates them cause I write too much) so I’ll just finish with this quote as it sort of explains what I think I’m feeling at the moment:
“It’s a funny thing about comin’ home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald
Until next time,