There are now less than 50 days until I hop on the plane and start my journey back to Aus. It is insane to think about just how fast time has gone (it seems like only yesterday that I was celebrating making it to the 1 month mark) and I know I haven’t actually come to terms with the fact that I will actually be leaving this beautiful country after New Years (and probably won’t until I become a crying mess at Oslo airport). I figured it was a good time to reflect on whether or not I have fulfilled my goals/reasons for going on exchange.
I wrote the following only a few days before I left Australia as part of one of my first blog posts ( ‘The Week Of….), regarding my reasons for going on exchange:
‘’So, I now present you with the reasons why I am doing it.
- I live in one of the least multicultural places in Sydney. Going on exchange presents me with an amazing opportunity to meet new people who come from everywhere. I want to learn to see the world through other people’s eyes or at least gain an understanding of what life is like for other people.
- I want to figure out who I really am. I have two very defining features: my height and my ability to do well at school. Those seem to be the things that define me, they’re what people sort of know me for. Going on exchange will remove both those aspects from me. I won’t be that tall in a Scandinavian country and no one expects me to do well at school when it is in a different language. Who I am, what sort of person I am isn’t really even known to me.
- I think I need to put my life into perspective. Different people have different values, that’s life but at the moment I think what I believe matters is sort of unimportant in the scheme of things. I care about school and my marks….. a lot. I value this far above social interactions and things of that sort. Let me be the one to say I think I need to focus less on school and more on living and I don’t think I’d be able to achieve that if I stayed in an environment where I know I’m expected to do well.
- I want to learn to be more independent. Like a lot of people, I rely on my family to support me in various ways. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this but, being a middle child, I’ve always had another sibling at school with me, doing the same extra-curricular activities as me and playing in the same sporting team as me. I love having sibling support but I also want to do something where I’m on my own and have to deal with it.
- Last but certainly not least, I don’t want to do what’s easy and comfortable anymore. I’ve only moved house once (when I was 3), I’ve never moved schools and I can’t remember doing something where I didn’t already know somebody. The point is, I don’t honestly believe I’ve ever pushed myself in a social way. I’m not particularly good with meeting new people but I’ve never really put myself in a situation where I needed to improve that. I have known exactly what I’m in for whenever I’ve tried something new. Putting myself in a completely uncomfortable situation can only build character.’’
It’s been roughly 10 months since I wrote my reasons and reading back over them makes me feel a little nostalgic for the young and naïve 15-year old me, little did I know back then just how much this experience would actually change my life.
Anyway, the reason I included this excerpt is because I feel now would be a good time to sort of address them now, after 10 months of my exchange with all my new knowledge. *note- the number corresponds with the number in the excerpt*
- I have, without a doubt, met people from all corners of the world in the last year. Norway probably doesn’t sound like the most multicultural place in the world but I was mind blown by the diversity of cultures in the community. My class at school for the first half of the year included 16 students, with 12 different ethnicities between us. My school is very diverse, both in terms of cultures and ages and so is Oslo, in general. I’ve definitely learned more about other cultures but also about the fact that none of us are really that different when it all boils down.
- I still don’t know exactly who I am, but I don’t know if I ever really will. This idea of self-discovery is really trendy but I think it is definitely more complicated than it seems. I have become more self-aware, in a lot of situations I am able to take a sort of mental step back and acknowledge why I’m feeling the way I am. The whole ‘defining features’ idea regarding my height and school makes me chuckle a little now though. I am still considerably taller than most of the people I meet and as a part of that I know I look older than I am. This looking older thing has certainly made it easier when I was in a class with 17-23 year olds when I was 15 but to be honest I still occasionally hate the way my height makes me stand out (what I would give to be average height). I have started doing quite well at school here in Norway (I receive high marks in most things I turn in) and this has led me to the conclusion that this ‘defining factor’ as I called it is really just my ability to work hard and my dislike for not understanding. Exchange has definitely provided me with some better qualities (more flexible, less stressed out and more confident) but I wouldn’t be able to say I know who I am, though that seems less important now that I’ve gotten the other benefits.
- Exchange has definitely given me a new perspective, one that can be best described by the quote ‘the sky won’t fall in’. I’ve been able to stop jumping to worst case scenarios and have a more positive outlook on everything, I am a strong believer that every challenge is a learning opportunity. I have undoubtedly gotten better at putting things into perspective school wise. Whilst I like to do well I now understand that there is more to life than school, university and a job. I have way too many ideas of what I want to do after school, exchange has shown me many possibilities, and now I don’t feel as though the HSC will be the deciding factor in my life.
- Independence is a funny thing. I can say I’ve had to organise myself more and plan out everything I do more than I ever did in Australia (I have the train times for two different trains at three different stations memorised plus the bus times for 3 stops). However, I’ve also learned that independence doesn’t mean never relying on anyone. There are several people who make my life considerably easier (offer lifts to rehearsals/games and put up with my endless questions) and I don’t believe that this makes me any less independent. I’ve learnt to deal with myself better and in a lot of ways have become more emotionally independent, I’m now a huge believer and preacher about the power of attitude.
- This is the one thing that I can 100% say I have achieved. My first two-three months were some of the hardest of my life. Everything was different and it turns out I don’t like different, well at least not at first. Everything felt so much harder than I’d expected and it was definitely not within my comfort zone. The funny thing is that those first months are pretty much just one big blur in my memory. I can’t really remember the things I found hard but I do remember the times when I felt like I was on top of the world (during my first basketball training, Wintercamp, cheering on the ski jumpers at Holmenkollen, crossing the border to Sweden for the first time). I have, throughout the last 300 days kept a daily diary that essentially holds the secrets to my exchange, I can tell you what I was doing on any particular day and this is part of the way I can see how far I’ve come. In terms of getting better at meeting new people I’ve completed that mission. Everyone in my life at the moment was a stranger back in January (that’s a lot of people I got to practice on!).
I thought this would be an interesting way to reflect on my last 300 or so days in Norway, it sounds dramatic but everything has changed for me and I can’t imagine going back to the way I was before. Still I’m not a perfect human being, not by a long shot, and the next 50 days give me the opportunity to further myself even more.
Until next time,