新北市立新店高中 詹詠甯

Hi to everyone (who is considering to be an exchange student), my name is Natasha. I had chosen Norway as my exchange country. I heard that it was one of the best places to live on planet earth. According to the world happiness report, it had been in first place many times. In fact, Norway was the first in 2017. A country filled with fresh air, not so wet and not too dry, with high-quality education and a safe environment, and don’t forget those breathtaking fjords. Sounded great, right? So yup packed my stuff and off I went to Norway. (After filling out all the forms and preparing some formal papers which are obviously necessary to actually having a host family I’ve waited for over 5 months that is willing to host me, the progress takes the time you know.)
But why did I even decided to start the program? To discover more about the world? To experience life in another country? To make more friends around the world? To learn a new language? In fact, these were all the reasons why I started, but there was one more reason – to escape my ex-current situation…Anyways, after a long 20-hour flight trip, I finally landed to Copenhagen, Denmark. We first had this “soft-landing” held by Explorious. This is basically the time where you get to know other exchange students going to Nordic countries (if you had also chosen a Nordic country), start to get the feeling that you’re really doing an exchange and learn some important info relevant to your exchange. 4 days passed fast, flying another 1 hour and I finally met my host family. My host family was consisted of my host parents, 6 kids, and the king (aka. Wasi the cat). Quite a huge and joyful family! They picked me up at the airport and gave me a nice big hug. They introduced me to the house, my bedroom and the neighborhood. The next day, they took me to a cousin’s birthday party (Norwegians love parties). I had a great time and tasted some great food. We actually went back to Copenhagen in September for a family gathering, since countries in Europe are bound together or pretty close to each other, traveling around by plane wasn’t something rare for Europeans. During the weekends, I would hang out with some friends and look for some fun activities in the city, or maybe just chill at their houses. Everything was settled down, and I’m gradually getting the idea of what life is like in Norway. At first, I thought my exchange would be all fun and games. Until November, the third month of my exchange, it started to snow. Norwegians are friends with the winter, and of course, it was beautiful, so I wasn’t aware of the darkness which comes with the winter would bring me down that much. I started to get bored with my exchange since I “thought” that I’ve already seen everything in Norway. I started to miss my home back in Taiwan. How would I ever miss it though? I used to think I would do nearly anything to escape it. The heat and humidity, the school with homework that you can never finish, the classmates that you just can’t get along with, parents nagging every second, the boring life that repeats day after day. It was awful, but now I’m missing it. The daylight in Taiwan, for example, never disappears before 6 pm. But in Norway, the sun sets at 4 pm. Though it doesn’t seem to be so much of a difference, and it is a natural sign of nature, it sure did give me a huge impact. I’d feel depressed, as I feel my time is running out. When I wake up in the morning, or even when I got to school, it feels like midnight. It felt pretty strange, and to be honest, I couldn’t bear it. There are some days when I decided to skip school and not face the coldness and icy roads outside. (Please don’t do this though.) I miss almost everything back in Taiwan. The delicious food at decent prices, my dearest friends, the little path I used to walk by every day, and my family that gives me not only annoying words but also warmth from the heart. “Why did I come?” I would ask myself. “This isn’t what I excepted.” I would think. Later, I realized the real meaning of an exchange. It is simple as it is, but hard to find out. Isn’t it just to live your original life in another country? You will still have to go to school and study, still face people you dislike; you must force yourself to adapt to a new climate, a new traffic system, a new bedroom, and a new language. Without the people and things, you were familiar with. With all these “new” on the outside, I discovered a new me, or furthermore, I developed a new me. I know I have changed, but I cannot say exactly what had changed. I would say that I have grown. Maybe not better or worse, but I did grow. I made friends from other countries, with totally different mindsets. I felt that every moment I spend with these friends is building me up. Yes, I am learning almost every single second. Bit by bit, a part of them became me. Certainly, there will be times where we had conflicts and disagreements due to our different ways of thinking, this is when we must figure out how to understand each other and find the right solution. A big topic we talk about is school. For me, schools in Norway are quite successful. It gives students much more free time to do other activities the students are interested in. Unlike schools in Taiwan where they focus on giving massive information to students at once. I’ve learned to use time more wisely, which made me think of how I used to make use of time before I started my exchange. When I look back, I can clearly see the old version of me, I know what had gone wrong and how to fix it. As well, I start to truly accept myself. I had grown, being more mature and understanding. Of course, I was completely wrong with the idea of that I had seen everything in Norway. There is always things you don’t know yet. In January, my host family and I went to the “hytta”, which means “the cabin” in Norwegian. It’s common for Nordic people to go to this little other home and enjoy the winter. In the days we would ski, and in the nights we’d watch movies and have hot chocolate. Enjoying every little moment I guess, is the meaning of “hyggelig”.I honestly thank my host family for giving me all the precious experiences, and my family back in Taiwan that supported me all the way through. Without them, this whole thing would stay a dream. So remember to always be thankful! During the exchange, learning the local language was something I put many efforts in. I had even tried going to a library and chatting with strangers for a complete 3 hours in Norwegian. Unless you go to an international class or something similar, the courses will be in Norwegian. In my opinion, Norwegian is not a difficult language when it comes to basic speaking, but hard to master as a foreigner. Most Norwegians knew how to speak English, or at least they will know what you’re talking about. So it was a foreigner-friendly country in my point of view. By the way, I also learned many art skills during my stay since I’m in an art class. Staying at the right school is so important. You’ll spend lots of time in school, so be sure to know if it fits you or not. Overall, the idea of an exchange is living the life and explore everything. Some suggestions from me is that you should never bring the thought of “wanting to escape”, this will make the whole program much harder and disappointing. (I think it’s a miracle that I did not decide to give up, to be honest.) 10 months is neither a short period nor a long time. Just enjoy the current feeling, try to be independent, appreciate what you already have, make efforts, try new stuff, have fun!! An exchange year is that one thing you won’t regret doing. Thank you for reading it to here, I truly wish every one of you can experience an amazing exchange and most importantly – feel the growth inside yourself. 😉