I haven’t really had a chance to talk about what the whole process of studying abroad feels like yet. The emotional stages of studying abroad can be broken down into the following stages: honeymoon, frustration, understanding, and acclimation.
I can definitely vouch for the honeymoon stage! When I was on that last flight from Frankfurt to Oslo all that was going through my mind was, “What have I gotten myself into?” I was scared to death to set foot in the country that was to be my home for the next four months or so. However, after getting the introductions with the students at ACN out of the way, I regained my confidence and was immediately glad that I had taken the leap of faith and decided to study abroad! The following three weeks everything I saw was amazing. Going to the grocery store was magical… Every sign that was in Norwegian captivated me… And hearing the Norwegians speak was mesmerizing. I even broke out a Norwegian phrase book and tried to memorize a few terms. I was so proud of myself the first time I uttered a very poorly pronounced phrase. Every day I woke up early. I didn’t want to waste a single moment in the beautiful country of Norway! My camera was my constant companion; everything needed to be documented.
Then came the frustration stage. Brief but difficult. It only lasted about a week. My jar of peanut butter that I had packed was scraped clean; I was devastated. I was told that I would have to make the trek to Sweden to buy a jar of that creamy heaven that would be up to the standards of Jiff. I wanted REAL FOOD! Everything seemed to cost a fortune though. And then there were those darn Norwegians. Nothing like standing awkwardly in a crowd of jolly people speaking in a language that you can’t understand a word of. It’s like that moment when someone tells a joke and everyone bursts out laughing, but you miss the punch line. Except worse because I couldn’t even fake knowing what was going on. I’d daydream about my beautiful Chrysler Concorde. 1996. She’s a beauty. Or was…in 1996. But that’s beside the point. The point is that having to trudge through a foot of snow to get anywhere wasn’t exactly an enjoyable form of exercise. Yep. I wasn’t too enthused at this stage.
The understanding stage was by far the best. I had made friends. My classes were going good. I had scheduled some flights to Dublin, Paris, and Rome. I’d started to figure out how to bargain shop for groceries. I’d finally figured out the confusing washing machine. Best of all I’d gotten internet and heat up and running in the apartment. Life was good.
I am currently in the acclimation stage. I was walking the harbor in Moss today as the sun set and it just hit me. Norway feels like…home. I really like it here. I like it…more than the U.S. in many ways. I know that this country is changing me and I can’t help but think how much harder these changes are going to make readjusting to North Dakota. What am I going to do when I go back to America and have to eat American bread? And where am I going to get brown cheese? Or Norwegian chocolate? My professors at UND certainly aren’t going to allow me to skip class to take a weekend trip to Paris…my bank account won’t either for that matter. Not with the insane price of travel there. The pace of life here is so…wonderful. I can afford to just go out and walk around and take everything in. Everyone is so accepting. And let’s face it, for the first time in my life, I’m a novelty. People here idolize the States which means I’m interesting to them. I’m the one who can answer their questions about the U.S. I’m exciting. I’m…American.
Meaning I can’t stay in Norway forever.
I think I vow to myself that I am going to make the most of every opportunity here at least once a day. Because before I know it…I’ll be boarding that plane and heading for home. Home won’t feel so much like home anymore though. I’m already bracing myself for reverse culture shock.