It has now been 6 years since I left Norway to live in the U.S. for a year as an exchange student. Not a single day goes by without me having some sort of reminder or memory from my time there. A year abroad inspired a life abroad. Since Kentucky, I have yet to move back to Norway.
I currently live in Beijing, China, where I am pursuing a master’s degree in Public Management and Social Development. While writing my MSc, I work with the Norwegian Business Association Beijing as an Executive Officer. I got my Bachelor’s degree in International Development Studies and Chinese, and I can say with all my confidence that my current life of continuing with studies with an ‘international twist,’ has been an influence of my exchange year in the U.S.
I signed up to the exchange student programme to gain new experiences, to broaden my horizon and to better my language skills. I came back a year later as a changed person – more mature and responsible, richer on knowledge and understandings of the world.
Being from Norway, the U.S was not what I thought it would be. Arriving and living in Kentucky, worlds apart from the place I was born and bred, was an entirely different comprehension. People often talk of culture shock, when one moves from one familiar part of the world to another strange country. I would not call it shock however; I would rather say that I was astonished.
I was astonished at the differences between Norway and the U.S, I was astonished by how the U.S was not at all what I had imagined. And all the while, I simultaneously became acutely aware of my own culture, living within one which was not my own. I was challenged on my conceptions of the world, and I did things I never thought I would ever do. I took square dancing lessons and got a ‘license’ to square dance. I travelled to Hawaii and took a surfing class. And I went to see the stars at Broadway in New York.
During my year abroad, I made many great friends, people who welcomed me into their lives and their homes. I still keep in touch with many of the people I met, some of them I have met again in other corners of the world, and some I have welcomed to my home in Norway. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to go to U.S., and I urge all students to take the same chance.
Travel and experience! – we live in a globalised world. So take an active part in that globalisation and start finding opportunities on an international scale. You will not regret it.
– From Beijing, China, 2015
Birte from Norway
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