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One Year Later

January 4, 2012

My New SkisDear readers,

It is exactly one year ago today that I arrived in Bø, Norway. I cannot believe it. 2011 has been the most eventful, enriching, exciting year of my life, and it flew by so quickly. I still think about my study abroad experience all the time, and I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect upon how Norway impacted my life throughout the year as well as update you on my future plans for after graduation.

Upon returning to the United States, I began to feel extremely depressed. I had a job in my hometown which was neither rewarding nor pleasant, and I lived at home with my family. While I was grateful to have home cooked meals and see my family and cat, I felt a deep homesickness for Norway.

I did not miss the cobblestone streets, stately architecture, abundant coffee shops, fine restaurants, and swanky night clubs that are usually sought after by students who study abroad in Europe (none of these places existed in Bø). This is where my semester abroad deviated from the norm. I missed the little adventures and misadventures I had with my new friends: skiing in the wild Norwegian mountains (complete with trolls), trips to the grocery store after school to buy Melkesjokolade (chocolate) and frozen pizza, hikes through Breisås forest to the secluded, picturesque lakes, life lessons from our friluftsliv (outdoor life) instructor, Tone, card games and parties in Breisås (our cozy housing community), swinging on the tire swings, baking and watching TV with Heidi, planning adventures to other European destinations, sitting in the in the school canteen eating waffles and drinking tea, and “parking” my skis at the school while I went to class with all of my friends. Of course, there are so many things I miss, and there are too many to list. However, it is the little things and the people I met along the way that made my study abroad experience so special and memorable.

A picture of a Norwegian mountain, a fjord, a bar of Melkesjokolade, a snapshot of friends in Breisås, and a moose doll I bought after my hike to Pulpit Rock (wearing a Norwegian sweater) are all constant reminders of the special time I spent in a beautiful little corner of Norway, Bø. Thank you to everyone who had a part in making my study abroad experience so unforgettable.

Now, I am entering my final semester of college. Again, can you believe how time flies? My fall semester was busily spent applying for jobs and keeping up with my school work. I applied to three jobs including Teach For America, Epic (healthcare software), and Microsoft. As one of the luckiest liberal arts students in the country, I was fortunate enough to receive offers from all three. I decided to accept my offer from Microsoft, and I will be starting work this July as a Technical Account Manager in North Dakota. My job will involve managing enterprise customer accounts by acting as an intermediary between the customer and the Microsoft consulting and software engineering services. I have worked hard throughout college to develop skills outside of my “academic comfort zone,” and it has paid off. I am very excited for my new adventures to come, and I look forward to more world traveling in the future.

I plan on starting a new blog that details the events of my relocation to North Dakota (I’m picturing some type of modern “Wild West” theme…North Dakota is, after all, the new boom state). Since many of you are subscribed to Up Norge, I will post here when I have created a blog for my post-college life. Thank you all for your support!

Warm regards,

Lisa

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Reverse Culture Shock: Savner Deg, Norge

July 11, 2011

Starby enjoying the comfort of my luggage as I unpack

Dear readers,

This is the final segment of my Up Norge blog. I have now been home for over a month, and I have been immersed once again into American culture. I wanted to take a moment to discuss my reentry experience.

I left Norway on June 2, 2011. Although I felt ready to go back home, nothing prepared me from the surge of emotions that hit me the very second my Boeing 737 took flight from Oslo Gardermoen airport. As I gazed down upon Norway, I immediately felt sadness and a longing to go back. I knew that it would be a long time before I would see that beautiful land again. In my head, I kept repeating “This was the greatest experience of my life…” I stared at the landscape, and reviewed my favorite memories of skiing, hiking, traveling, and all of the small moments in between. After fifteen minutes, I dried my eyes, blinked a few times to clean off my contacts, and set my sights on home.

Nearly a day later, I arrived at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport to meet my parents. After picking up my (damaged) luggage, we commenced the three-hour drive home to Wausau. The air was muggy and warm, and it felt so much staler than the air in Norway (even after being on air planes for 15 hours). Although I had my heart set on a mouthwatering Culver’s butter burger, crinkle cut fries, and a root beer, my parents ended up pulling into a Wendy’s. First meal back in the U.S.? Check. How cliché. Although I was disappointed, I was too tired to care.

When I finally arrived home, my sister and my cat Sully were waiting for me in the living room. I was so relieved to find that Sully remembered me after all. After taking a warm bath and doing a bit of unpacking, I fell asleep in my daybed that has been in my possession since childhood.

Over the next week or so, I indulged in a few foods and luxuries that I could not afford to enjoy in Norway: coffee beverages from Starbucks, meals at restaurants, peanut butter, hummus, and ginger ale. I shared my European chocolate with friends and family, told a few stories, and went to start my full time nannying job just two days after arriving in the United States.

Jumping right back into life in the U.S. was difficult. It felt unfair, and I was disappointed that all of my friends had found work elsewhere while I chose to live at home over the summer to save money on rent and utilities. Also, I felt that my life had changed and that I had been so enriched by my experiences, but no one seemed to want to accommodate these changes. After coming back from Norway, I had to pick up my life where it left off, even though the course of the past five months have altered me drastically in ways that are a challenge to articulate.

I have so many stories about Europe, but most people seem to lose interest after a few minutes.  A professor once told me that studying abroad is the best experience you’ll ever have that no one will want to hear about. And he was right. When I first heard this, I thought that was absurd, but I understand now. Even though people may be interested, they are not likely to want to hear me talk about it for too long. It’s a challenge to choose what stories to share because many people assume I took a five-month vacation abroad. Although my school was not too rigorous, this is still far from the truth. I faced challenges and adversity that I never expected. I have grown as a person, and my study abroad experience has become invaluable to me. I feel more aware, more adventurous, and more alive than I ever have. Also, I feel so far removed from my life pre-Norway since times has not stood still. I have missed everything that my friends and family have done while I was away. This has made socializing and everyday life very challenging.

Although I heard of the reverse culture shock phenomenon, I never truly understood it. I assumed that I would have a difficult time readjusting to the ways of my own culture after having adapted to Norwegian culture. For example, I thought I would be disgusted and shocked by Wal-Mart, fast food, and the low prices of goods. However, this was not the case. Reverse culture shock is more like a grieving process. To experience reverse culture shock is to experience the loss of something extraordinary. Although I will never lose my memories or the experiences I’ve had abroad, I’ve ended the greatest chapter of my life thus far. Each day of mundane reality at my 9-5 job and living at home is a reminder of this loss, and I mourn it greatly. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to my new adventures as a senior in college. I have so many goals and things I would like to do, and I want to share them with you. Thus, I invite you to subscribe to my Wisconsin Gurl Blog (click). I plan on documenting my last year of college and the process of mapping out my life. I hope to make this interesting, and if you’ve enjoyed reading Up Norge, I hope you will also enjoy the next installment of my life blog.

Lisa

Ha Det Bra, Norge…

May 31, 2011

On Preikestolen above the Lysefjord

When I returned from Easter break, I knew things were going to be different in Bø. For the first time since January, there was a sense of urgency and rush that filled the air. Students were busy taking exams and writing papers, and little by little, they started to leave. I watched each of my friends say their farewells to Norway. We had dinners, campfires, desserts, hikes, and nostalgic conversations leading up to their departures. With each goodbye, I repressed my feelings of sadness and doubt. Sadness that things would never be the same, and doubt that we were all leaving for good.  It still feels as though we are all just going on a trip throughout Europe and that we will be back in Bø in a matter of weeks. However, no one has come back, and as one of the few people still here in Bø, it is finally my time to say ha det bra. 

For several weeks, I was anxious to return to the United States. I missed cheap food, restaurants, my cat, and the familiar faces from my childhood. I wished I had an earlier flight home, and I was upset that everyone was leaving before me (it almost seems like goodbyes are more difficult when someone else leaves, but you have to stay). Nevertheless, I finished my exams, traveled to Stavanger, and came back to Bø with a different atitude. Things felt rushed again, but I wanted them to slow down. Suddenly, my June 2 flight home was fast approaching, and I didn’t know how to fill my days leading up to the end of my time here. Packing. Cleaning. Doing the “last this” and the “last that.” I felt that I had no time to do all of my “lasts.” Things that seemed so trivial became so special. A trip to the grocery store, a picnic at school, a hike in the woods to see a waterfall you’ve never been to, and even just returning to my comfortable hybel (room) after a night out. All of these events became incredibly emotion-filled, and my heart felt full and heavy. I didn’t want it to be my last walk in Bø. As much as I hated walking up the mountain to my house, I didn’t want it to be the last time. This thinking becomes cryptic and painful, but unavoidable when you are leaving the small village and country you’ve called home for the past half year.

There are still things I never got to experience in Norway: viewing the fjords on a clear day, traveling north to see the aurora borealis, visiting the colored homes on the harbor of Bergen, picking wild strawberries and lingonberries in the dense forest, tasting the cloudberries that only grow in Norway, seeing a moose or a reindeer in the wild, swimming in the numerous crystal clear mountain lakes, and visiting a medieval stave church. While I’m disappointed that I never got to experience any of these, I cannot even begin to list the things that I have done. Many of my lessons and experiences here go beyond my conscious awareness, but I know that what I have done in Norway will be with me for the rest of my life.

I am filled with sadness and joy. This marks the end of a beautiful chapter in my life. I am sad to see it go, but incredibly grateful to have had the experience. I am excited to learn what new challenges and adventures await in the United States and beyond. Studying abroad has taught me that I am capable of anything, and I have a newfound love of travel and exploration that will inspire many more trips and adventures in the future.

It sounds cliché to denote this fact, but studying abroad has been the best experience of my life. I know that I have made lifelong friends, and I have fallen in love with a country that many people can not even point to on a map. While I may not have had the opportunity to learn much of the language, I do feel that I know Norway, and I can’t imagine life without ever returning for a visit.

Thank you for being such loyal readers over the past half year. You have helped make my experience really special, and I enjoyed sharing it with you.

Vlog Letters D-G

May 27, 2011

Here are the videos for letters D through G. Don’t forget to watch in HD! I’m sorry to report that I probably will not be finishing the alphabet. I tried to film a lot, but sometimes you just have to live through the experience without a camera…Until next time!

Vlog Day 3: Letter C

May 8, 2011

Vlog Day 2: Letter B

May 8, 2011
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Vlog Day 1: Amazing Trip

May 6, 2011

Hello everyone! Today commences the first day of my daily Norway vlog (video blog) series. Each day, I will upload a video, and the title will correspond to the letter of the day (26 vlogs = alphabet blog series). The goal of this project is to document everyday life so that I can remember the little things that made up my life in Norway. Today’s letter is ‘A,’ so I compiled an amazing video of travel footage for you. Below are links to photos from my trip. Comment and enjoy, and check back each day for a new video.