“Sorry, no cow aboard!”

My journey to Moss, Norway, started in Dickinson, North Dakota, at 7:10 a.m. on the 5th, went through Denver, D.C., Frankfurt, and Oslo and ended around 3 p.m. on the 6th.

Traveling through the U.S. airports was a very typical experience.  There were bursts of stress while boarding a plane followed by hours upon hours with nothing to do but people watch and sleep.  Here and there I would see an eccentrically dressed person.  Who wears six inch heels in an airport?!  Or a full length gown?  Then there’s the free spirit wearing a relic from their last trip to the Orient and packed light.  And, my personal favorite, the occasional lost soul who you see walking quickly towards Gate A one minute and then suddenly reversing and heading back where they came from with an anxious look on their face.  And I can’t forget the obviously travel savvy person with the perfect travel outfit and streamlined suitcase, no doubt headed off to another business endeavor.  But the majority of the people I see are just like me: tired, slightly frazzled, and either wishing they had packed a whole lot less or hoping that getting to their gate doesn’t require any stairs, escalators, or tight squeezes!

Navigating through the European airports was a little different.  When we got to Frankfurt my first thought was “Oh, this isn’t too bad.”  Au contraire.  We went to the flight board, found which gate we were supposed to go to, and followed the arrows.  Easy enough.  After going through a little line our passports were stamped and we were shuttled off to another section.  There were people in red suits everywhere saying, “this way, this way” with their tired German accents.  We didn’t stop to question that following the general flow of people was wrong until we looked behind us and realized we had just passed a sign that said, “No entry beyond this point.”  Had we accidentally exited the airport?!?!  So we stood in the middle of a flow of people all walking right past us with horrified looks on our faces.  Finally I got the nerve to ask someone and was relieved to find out that we were in the right place after all.

A few of the employees there were rude or condescending to us.  As I boarded the plane from Frankfurt to Oslo, a staff member grabbed my carry-on bag without warning and said, “This is way too big.”  As he pulled it away he shot me a dirty look and added, “And too heavy.”

After traveling through five cities and being in an airplane for around 14 hours I set foot in Oslo, Norway.  I expected the moment to be an adrenaline rush, but honestly my body was still used to Dickinson, North Dakota time and it felt more like 5 a.m. in the morning than 1 p.m. in the afternoon.  All I wanted was a hot shower and a nice warm bed.  I didn’t get to go to sleep until 10:30 p.m. though.  The Housing Director purposely didn’t give us our bedding until later so that we would stay up and start the process of getting rid of jet lag.

The more reserved personalities of Norwegians were evident on the hour and a half bus ride from Oslo to Moss.  Everyone was dead silent.  There were around 25 people on the bus and about 20 of them were sitting in seats by themselves sleeping or lost in their thoughts.  A brother and sister talked to one another briefly and a man had a short phone conversation but that was it.  It was also different because everyone had to wear seat belts.

The flight from Frankfurt to Oslo was really where I started to feel the cultural differences. This is the lunch we were served. The potato salad had extremely strong flavors and the pickle tasted like it was a combination of a sweet and a dill pickle. I asked for milk but the flight attendant shrugged and with a smile said, “Sorry, no cow aboard!”

Reflections Before Norway

Application?  Check.  Scholarships?  Check.  Passport?  Check.  Visa?  Check.  Ticket?  Check.  Registration?  Check.  Textbooks?  Check.  Norway?

I’m a To Do list person.  There are very few things as fulfilling to me as checking off a box and having the confirmation that I am moving forward and making good use of my time.  Come to think of it, I can’t even remember being without a pad and pen for my ever-changing never-ending list.  Never-ending until now.  You’d think that ticking off that very last box would be a wonderful feeling.  But as I made that final check next to textbooks I wasn’t very comforted at all.  There’s nothing left to do but wait until I board the plane to Norway.  I can only do so much research.  And no matter how many times I type in “Norway” to Google I still feel completely unprepared for the journey that’s ahead of me.

Honestly, it really hasn’t even set in yet that I am going to Norway.  Norway.  As I sit here and type this up in my dorm room with the buzz of Balls of Fury playing in the background I’m realizing just how far Norway is from North Dakota.  I’m around 4,047 miles from Norway.  Or I guess as they would say it there…Norway is about 6,512 kilometers away from the United States.  But the distance won’t just be felt geographically.  The culture of Norway is entirely different.  When I was applying for the American College of Norway I kept on reminding myself that 33% of Caucasians in North Dakota are of Norwegian descent.  But Norwegian or not, their link with Norway is realistically speaking very… weak.  In fact nothing that I see on the image search of “Norway” on Google looks very familiar.

The more I read about Norway, the more evident this becomes.  They eat caviar for breakfast?!?!  The maximum prison sentence for a murderer is 20 years?!?!!!!  And worst of all…It is frowned upon to wear sweatpants?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

How am I going to survive?

So after taking a deep breath, a look at the dorms I will be staying in there (I basically get my own apartment with a comforter, pillow, sheets, plates, utensils, and cups supplied, my own kitchen, and my own bathroom…), and perusing the prices of traveling from country to country (roundtrip to Paris from Oslo is only 169 bucks) I felt much better.  Norway is going to demand some definite changes from me.  I’ll have to part with my beloved sweatpants.  And say a tearful good bye to my morning ritual of cereal.

But Norway is without a doubt going to be worth it.  The worst part is waiting…