From Minnesota to Norway: a new adventure

Authored by:
Lauren M.

"Why did you choose to study abroad?" is a question I've heard countless times ever since applying to become an exchange student. I heard it from my parents, my friends, and my teachers back home, and I hear it now from my host parents, my new friends, and my Norwegian teachers. Despite the fact that going abroad had many complex factors to consider before making the final decision, the reason for me going was quite simple. I was bored. My life was good. I had good grades, good friends, good family, and good times, but it wasn't magnificent. I felt like I was walking down the same path of life that everyone else was. A perfectly paved path that was walked a million times before me. I wanted to break away, so I worked up the courage to ask. I have absolutely no regrets that I did. 
"Why Norway?" is another very common question. And no, I don't have ancestors from here as everyone seems to think. I chose Norway kind of spontaneously. Honestly, I don't really know why. I knew that I wanted to go abroad, and I knew that I had to go to a country that spoke a significant amount of English. Apart from that, I just choose it. I know it's probably not the glorious answer most people want to hear, but it is the truth. It seemed cool (and I'm not talking temperature wise), so I thought "why not". Now I am here, and once again, I have absolutely no regrets.
Almost two months of my amazing adventure have passed, and I have come to see Norway as a second home. I live in the small town of Kløfta about 30 minutes away from Oslo. The technical term for Kløfta, however, is not a town or a city, but a village. I love the word "village", it has such cute connotations. And where I live is cute. The village is made up of mostly houses, a shopping center, and a train station. It is surrounded by rolling farm fields, and off in the distance, you can see little, green mountains. To the Norwegians, they are just hills because living in a country with real mountains dotting a majority of the landscape sets your expectations higher. However, coming from the flat state of Minnesota makes every lump of earth a mountain to me.
My home may not be located in the picturesque fjords that Norway is known for, but what it lacks in scenery it makes up for in people. Especially my amazing host family. The parents are so nice and always treat me like one of there own. In fact, they are planning on taking me all the way to Geirangerfjorden for my birthday this weekend! I can't explain how excited I am. We also watch "Alt for Norge" every Monday night, which is this hilarious show where people from the US come to Norway and compete for the chance to meet their Norwegian relatives. It really just makes Americans look stupid in a comedic way. Also, side note: go Chase! He is from my hometown Eden Prairie! The other important people in my family are my little host sisters. They are nine and twelve years old. Coming from a family where I am the youngest, it was a complete role reversal becoming the big sister. It has been a long time since I jumped on a trampoline and played hide and seek. I absolutely love it. Honestly, I would still play those games with my friends at home if they weren't so mature. There is also a gerbil, which I can never seem to remember the name of. I liked her until yesterday when she decided to bite me. Not cool Ms. Whats-your-name. Not. Cool. Now I just glare at her whenever I pass her cage (ok that might be a bit of an exaggeration). 
Although I may be having an amazing time here, that does not mean it comes without struggle. First and foremost: the language. It seems like everyone here is fluent in English (which is actually so impressive), but that does not mean they use it on a daily basis. School is basically me sitting in class, listening to as much Norwegian as I can, and drawing (I mean A LOT of drawing). Classes like Norsk and History I have no hope in. I try to look up historical videos about the Vikings, which seems to always be the topic, but I never fully understand what the teachers talk about. It has gotten better since the beginning of the year, but I'm still nowhere near fluent. It is difficult to work on becoming fluent because whenever I talk to someone we default to English. Other classes like math, biology, English, French, and gym go just fine. I actually received the highest possible gade, a 6, on my first math test!
Another minor challenge is the food. I'm a very picky eater. If you know me, you are probably thinking "haha that is not a minor problem that is a MAJOR problem for you". Its hard to eat fish and weird meat paste from a tube, but I'm surviving. I'm trying new foods. Even if I don't like them all, some are pretty good. The deserts here are REALLY good. They have fancy cakes, waffles, and most importantly: Bollers. They are basically just sweet bread buns of which I could eat a thousand at a time. 
Lack of driving is also hard. I love love love driving and having the ability to go where I want when I want. Here I am not allowed to drive. Most of my friends aren't either because you have to be 18! At least here in Norway I can take the train everywhere. There is a 20-minute walk to the train station, and once I'm there I can go almost anywhere in Norway. I've had many fun excursions, which I will talk about in another blog! 
Until that time, ha det bra! (and no I did not just have a stroke, that means goodbye in Norwegian).

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