It is dark and I do not know what to expect from this adventure. There are other students a bit nervous as well. After a small chat with them, I have a sleeping bag, a pillow and a toothbrush. I am surrounded by strangers ready to help me whatever my nationality, mother tongue and background are.
I realize the reason why I am here is to meet kind, lovely and funny people. Norwegians accepted exchange students on the first day. They helped us a lot to integrate ourselves by proposing millions of activities. We often ate tacos on Friday, and we also started running up hills. Actually, it is a lie when I say running; it was mostly walking for me. Bergen is surrounded by mountains and sea. We could sail on Monday, climb on Tuesday, hike during the weekend, play volleyball and do many other sports – just name it. I even skied on a glacier in August! Norway is a paradise for active people and nature lovers. I am from Canada so I’m used to snowy days, but what I liked the most about Norway is that we could go hiking and camping everywhere.
You do not always need to be careful about whether the land is private or not. As a citizen you feel free to explore your country. You can easily disconnect from work and stress. The landscape is just amazing, and I could never forget the beauty of the fjords and lakes.
For those who might be skeptical about the weather: yes, it was rainy, but we realized quite fast that rain should not stop you from doing amazing activities. My first camping trip was on top of a mountain in Voss, where there was still snow. We were supposed to be just my friend and I, but we met students on the train and decided to hike all together. I did not sleep at all, because it was really cold and everything was wet, but I keep good memories and close friends from that trip.
I will always remember the meals we shared. We often cooked together. Even if our flats were surprisingly small, we managed to bring joy in one place. My neighbors were the people with whom I spent most of the time and many nights awake. Now I am back in Canada doing my Master’s in hydrogeology, and daydreaming about going back to Norway or visiting my friends around the world. We shared a home, our fears, our discoveries, tents, meals and more. Before going to Norway I did not believe that I could find a big new family, but I did!
I strongly encourage students to go to Arctic countries just to discover the beauty of the landscape and outdoor sports. Please bring waterproof boots and a warm coat with you!
Originally published in the UArctic Shared Voices Magazine 2016