So I guess this is it, my final blog post whilst in Norway! I’m not quite sure what to say even though I have been thinking about this final post for quite a while. I feel like I should be able to share some incredible advice or be incredibly philosophical, I have just lived abroad for a year after all, yet for some reason I find myself with no real idea of what to write about that I haven’t written about before. In previous blog posts I’ve told you about all I’ve gained (confidence, independence and self-love), about traumatic skiing experiences (and the many bruises that came with them), my conquering of mountains (big and small) and a lot of other seemingly random things. This blog for me has been a sort of diary, when I write I don’t think of people actually reading it, that is just way too weird to consider. When I write I write for me and for the sake of gaining a greater understanding of what I’m experiencing through the process. It is through this blog that I’ve come to appreciate all that I have learned this year and the ways I’ve learned it so it seems pretty suitable to share with you all some of the lessons I’ve learnt in 2018.
- All mountains were made to be climbed. This statement is meant both literally and more philosophically. The Norwegian attitude is very much so that all mountains can be and should be climbed, it is part of the national identity. I remember the first ‘mountain trip’ I went on, more specifically I remember thinking the family I was with were joking when they pointed to a mountain off in the distance and said we were going to go to the top. Nevertheless we all made it to the top and were able to enjoy the stunning views. I’m pretty sure if you told an ordinary Australian that you were going to hike to the top of a mountain their response would be along the lines of ‘why?’, we don’t really appreciate mountains or at least I didn’t before I came to Norway. As the year progressed I found myself looking out the windows of trains and cars and wondering how long it would take to get to the top of hills or mountains I could see, it was no longer a question of if it was possible or not. I invite you to do the same as you drive to different places in your Summer holiday : just look out the window (unless you’re driving) and consider the views different hills and mountains could provide. My statement about mountains also applies in a much more philosophical sense. Exchange has been full of challenges, both big and small, in the same way life is. I’m a bit of a believer in the idea that all the challenges we have to face help us to better ourselves and, in that same sense, that no challenge is unfixable or impossible. I have learnt throughout this year that different challenges take different amounts of time to get through but they are all conquerable. Challenges don’t have to become limits and I think should instead be seen as just another thing to overcome.
- As humans we are all enough. This one is a bit hard to explain but I’m going to give it a crack. This is my attempt at putting into words this feeling of self-acceptance that I’ve gained in the last couple of months. We all, as humans, put ourselves down way too much :’I’m not good enough for this’, ‘I’m awful at that’, ‘I don’t belong here’. Without even realising it I had been setting limits on what I was capable of, expecting the worse to be thought of me when I was feeling a little awkward, convincing myself I’d screwed up big time. And then all at once, as sometimes happens on exchange, I had a realisation. I was enough. I might not be exceptional at everything I do. I might not have flawless skin and a bikini-ready body. I might not be a genius. But. I. Am. Enough. I am enough for me, I’m not a horrible person, I can make people laugh and laugh along just as easily. And, more importantly, anyone who makes me feel like I’m not enough is clearly not a person I need in my life. This lesson is one I think everyone should learn. Failing a test doesn’t make you unworthy. Bowling over an over wides doesn’t take away from your value as a human. Making mistakes does not mean you deserve to feel like rubbish. Because as human we are all enough for anyone and anything that deserves to be a part of our lives.
- Enjoyment doesn’t have to be limited to things we are good at. This theory comes from my experiences skiing. I recently went cross-country skiing again for the first time since Easter and I don’t know if I can say that I was just rusty ’cause I was never really great at it. Norwegians generally learn to ski when they are really young – not when they are 15-16 (by that stage they’¨ve either gotten sick of it or they’re training for the olympics). Skiing again meant remembering a lot of things I¨d forgotten (how to stop, how to slow down, how to get up when you inevitably fall down) and there were times when I felt as though I should be wearing Learner Plates. I received a lot of weird looks from other skiers (my technique definitely wasn’t textbook!) but my host parents assured me that they probaby just thought I was Danish. The point of this is that I really like cross country skiing, even though I’m completely rubbish at it. I can’t go very fast and I fall over A LOT but I really enjoy it. I think a lot of the time what we like and dislike seems to correlate with what we are good at and what we aren’t good at. For example I like reading because it has always come pretty easily to me and I’ve been a fast reader since I was little. I don’t like being neat because it is not something that comes easily to me. This theory can be applied to most of the things I like and dislike but I’m now solidly trying to break the pattern. I’ve learnt to enjoy things that I’m really not good at and not let my lack of natural skill be a road block for trying at all. My enjoyment for these activities doesn’t come from the fact that I’m good at them (because I’m really not) but instead comes from trying to appreciate the activity for what it is- just because I’m not good at it doesn’t take away from its value.
- The world is full of genuinely good people. I think it is, at times, very easy to feel like the world and everyone in it is working against you; everything is going wrong and it feels like all hope is lost. Yet, if I have learnt anything this year it is that for every person who seems to be actively trying to make life harder for you there are at least 10 who are on your side. The world is full of genuinely good people, I know it to be true. For all the hate and war we see on the news there are millions who are performing small, kind acts without even thinking that make this world a better place. To all the people who I’ve sent endless emails to, asking ridiculous questions, to all the people who have given me a lift anywhere, no matter how short, I say thank you (I can guarantee you that I have thanked them before – this blog post won’t be the first time they are hearing this from me).
- Darkness doesn’t have to be scary. I was a little concerned as Summer started ending as I was aware that the days would start getting shorter. I’d go from daylight in my every waking hour to only sunlight for aroubd 5-6 hours everyday. I’d gotten used to walking everywhere in complete sunlight and I was facing the prospect of getting to school before the sun rose and leaving after the sun set. I’d be making my daily walks to and from the train station in the darkness and cold. I don’t know why but the idea of darkness seems to create fear or at least low-key concern within people and I’m no different. Yet, I think the idea was more concerning than the reality. In reality the darkness just became a part of life, there were street lights and I had to remember to strap on a reflective band whenever I left the house- that was it. I was also able to appreciate the beauty that darkness created. In the December period nearly every house has golden lights around their houses or on their windows creating an almost-magical picture as one looks out the window of the train. Only in the darkness can light be truly appreciated.
- It is human to be nervous. I’ve liked public speaking since primary school however I’ve always by the way my hands would shake when I was nervous. If you saw me from the neck up you’d have no idea I was nervous but my endlessly shaky hands told a very different story. I have undoubtedly gotten better at public speaking throughout the year, from giving a speech to a room of 120 Rotarians to my impromptu speeches whilst on club visits with my District Governor (all in Norwegian might I add). My hands shake less now when I speak but at a recent Christmas concert whilst performing a duet I noticed the shaky hands again. I was nervous. I’m not denying that. But this time I was able to acknowledge it and, instead of freaking out more, just appreciate the situation I was in. To word it differently I didn’t let the nervousness shut me down like it usually does! I’m not ashamed of being nervous about things anymore, I am human after all, instead I’ve finally figured out how to use it for me instead of against me.
- The unknown should be welcomed. A lot of people were quite confused when I told them I wanted to go on exchange. I’m known for liking routine and not liking change and, well, exchange is one big change. Back in January I embarked on a journey into the great unknown. I’d never been to Norway before and I couldn’t really speak Norwegian but I was looking for an adventure. I remember feeling so out of place and confused by all the weird norms they had, I didn’t like them until I suddenly loved them. I found that as soon as I stopped fighting against all that was weird and stopped comparing it to Australia and my normals I was able to fall in love with the country. I learned that the unknown can be beautiful. I will never forget the first time my plane dipped below the clouds approaching Oslo Airport and I got a glimpse of the Winter wonderland for the first time (I’m pretty sure I gasped). The unknown means being able to experience everything for the first time and that in itself is magical.
- Elephants should be eaten in small pieces. I should note this is not an original quote, the original, if i remember it right, was from Michelle Westlund and went as follows: how do you eat an elephant? In small pieces. This quote admittedly made no sense to me at the time but I have now found it to be one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. To those who don’t understand let me explain a little. If one was to theoretically eat an elephant you couldn’t do it all in one mouthful, you’d have to take a bit of time and take it bit by bit. This quote can be applied to nearly everything: climbing a mountain? You can’t run to the top, you have to take it one step at a time. Trying to sort out registrations? Taking it step by step is the only way to go. Trying to pack your life into a suitcase? Takes time and should not be rushed. I love this quote/general piece of advice so much and I will certainly continue to use it.
It feels crazy to only have 7 days left of my exchange. Only 7 more days as an inbound before I start the rest of my life as a rebound (there’s some fun Rotary Exchange lingo for you!). This year has been life-changing (I use that word a lot but it is true) but I’m also beginning to accept the fact that it is probably the right time to return home a changed person. I definitely have some changes that I’m going to try to put in place (and a shrine to Norway that needs to be built in my room) but I think I finally feel confident enough and ready to return and continue changing my life. I have thought long and hard about whether or not this year has been the best year of my life and I think the answer has to be yes, but I don’t want it to be the best year of my life. I think 16 is way too young to have the best year of one’s life and so I hope that the best year is yet to come or at least all years will be just as good as this one, though it certainly will be hard to beat. However, I do believe that every year from this point on will be better because of what I’ve experienced and learnt whilst on exchange. My life has been forever changed because of this experience yet I’m not going to let that stop the minute I walk off the plane. I’ve changed for the better and I’m not going to let myself change back.
Thankyou for following me on my journey of a lifetime and I hope that this gave you some insight into my life as an exchange student. More importantly if you are someone who is interested in exchange or know someone who might be please use this link :
Until I’m back on Aussie soil,