By Anja Djupesland
I remember the beginning of this exchange year. It was two days before I left Norway. I had had a going-away party with my family and had my last handball practice. I was on my way to say goodbye to all my friends, and I still didn’t know any more about the upcoming year than that I was going to the States. Then I got a phone call. They had found a host family and a school. Suddenly everything happened so quickly. Packing. Plane. Nerves. Excitement. New family. 4 days later, I entered the doors of University for the first time.
I felt lost when all my routines and habits had to change. But then after a couple of weeks, the faces around me didn’t belong to strangers anymore. After a couple of months, it felt quite normal being here. Now, after 8 months, Norway suddenly seems distant.
I have experienced great sides of this country while here. You have made me fall in love with sides of your culture that neither Mean Girls nor Forrest Gump managed to show me. Like how welcoming you are. Some stand and hold doors open for classmates in zero degrees (This country is fab but I REFUSE to EVER talk about things in Fahrenheit or feet).
I didn’t know how amazing road trips are until I got here. How miles and miles of flat landscape feels. Nor how it is to get a ride with friends jamming to loud music. Nor how it is to drive past grand houses on every corner surrounded by roads creating a perfect grid.
I didn’t know how yummy a burrito from Chipotle tastes, nor chocolate covered acai berries, Salty Cowboy’s guaca, or the salad at Olive Garden for that matter. Nor did I know how Candyland can save your day. How a small motivational treat during finals, or a whole bag of it the day of your sectionals game provides some quality motivation. Going out to eat on weekdays was also new.
Before I got here, I didn’t know how it felt to step onto a court or field for the first time thinking, “What the heck am I doing?”. Thinking the same thing while hearing the American national anthem being played before the first game and being the only one clueless of the words. Neither did I know how it feels to hold a basketball in my hands, looking up at the board knowing that we’re two points behind, and see that there’s 15 seconds left on the clock. Or how it feels to take a free throw and hear the “swish sound”. Or to hit a backhand that goes over the net. Or to be on team “eel” and give a perfect pass to another “eel” out on the soccer field.
I didn’t know how crazy things could be. Super Bowl, Final Four, road construction in Carmel. Having a Viking prompose to you. Seeing pick-up trucks wider than a lane. Eating from a chocolate fountain. Seeing the sparks fly around you as you’re using a mig welder. Having teachers dress up as Miley Cyrus’ wrecking ball or shakin’ it to Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda.
I didn’t know what it meant to sit down just to chat with your principal for what was supposed to be half an hour but lasted much longer. How it is to have a mentor and teachers you joke around with. What it really means to be a part of a great school community where the students have a lot of influence. Until I got here.
This year has given me a taste of what amazing things there are to experience. You have shown me a different way of doing things, and put how I used to do those things in perspective. Thinking about leaving here makes me feel lost, but that proves how I now feel that I belong here. So thank you, UHS, friends, my host family, Indiana, everyone that has made this year unforgettable! Thank you so much!