In my first year I went on an exchange to Bali, and this probably laid the foundation for my interest in studying abroad even more. In 2013 I went to Brazil for a semester, and after that, through the north2north program to the University of Alaska Anchorage.
I was unsure what I wanted to do to get the last credits for my degree. One day I was waiting to see one of the counselors and noticed a shelf with several brochures. A wolf on one of them immediately caught my attention, so I picked it up and brought it to my counselor. Luckily she was going on a field trip to Alaska, and was more than willing to help me get there too. After several emails to UAA, talks with the staff, and a lot of help from my counselor, the north2north program and UAA, I got admitted and was suddenly sitting on a plane on my way to Alaska.
When I arrived in Anchorage my first thought was how similar the nature was to Norway. But with a closer look and experience I discovered that everything in Alaska is bigger (whooping surprise there) and wilder. If we were to put the two countries in a family perspective, Alaska would be the big rugged brother and Norway its little sister. The people of Anchorage also have a laid-back attitude, and going straight from a weekend of hiking in the mountains to a fancy restaurant in the same clothes is no big deal. Another striking difference is how outgoing everyone is: waiting at a bus stop I can get into a conversation with a complete stranger, exchange stories and never see that person again.
I am so grateful I got to experience a semester in Alaska. Even though I can vaguely remember some difficulties getting everything ready, it’s all forgotten now and overrun by positive experiences. The highlights of my stay were hiking and kayaking, and spending three weekends out in the wilderness. Standing on top of Fort McGilvray in Resurrection Bay looking at the sunset over the mountains is a sight I will never forget. I never had any real problems, but even though I think my English is rather good I sometimes felt like I didn’t completely keep up with everything (especially the lingo) in my lectures. But my professors and my classmates were more than willing to help me.
I think all my exchange semesters have helped me understand more how the world really works, and how different but at the same time similar we are even though we come from different parts of the world. But the more I study and the more I travel, the more questions I come home with, and my thirst for exploring is bigger than ever.
If you get a chance to go abroad to study, do it! I know it can be scary to leave a comfortable home, family and friends, but this is our time to get out and explore, learn new things, and get to know new people. Time will come when we have steady jobs, payments, kids and a hundred reasons not to go wherever we want. Our studies give us a perfect opportunity to go abroad and explore!
[Originally published in the 2015 Shared Voices magazine]