When you arrive at Oslo airport, you can first see the word, 'Velkommen' which means 'Welcome' in Norwegian. Imagine you are in a country alone where you have never even heard the kind of language they use. A strange country, strange language, and strange people made me feel like I was all alone. Nevertheless, I believe the saying, 'life is a series of experiences.' I steeled myself and my exchange student life began.
In the middle of nature
Compared to other well-known European countries, such as Germany, the UK, and France, Norway is unfamiliar to Koreans. Norway is in the north of Europe and has a cold climate, with lots of rainy days. You can't even imagine going out without your jacket and umbrella. However, this weather makes beautiful natural scenery because the mountain gets covered with snow due to the cold weather. It also has specific geographical features – fjords which are long, narrow inlets with steep sides or cliffs, created by a glacier. Because of this topography, you can easily find bridges that connect land to land over the sea, so that you can appreciate the endless coastal scenery of Norway while you cross a bridge. I would say Norway is full of grand and beautiful nature.
A tip to make Norwegian friends
I'd also like to talk about Norwegians in case you have a Norwegian friend. The first thing that I heard here about Norwegians was that they get shy easily. It is said that Norwegians tend to do less socializing outdoors because of the insufficient amount of sunshine, so they have ended up becoming introverted. There is no way to know if it is true or just a joke, but you can notice most of them are not only introverted but also shy when you start to talk with them. However, it doesn't mean that they are unkind or rude. Once you hang out with them, you will find them warm hearted. It's a secret only for Sookmyungians, Norwegians tend to be more friendly and talkative when they are drinking. I recommend you drink alcohol with them if you want to make a Norwegian friend.
Even if I'm alone
There was no special reason why I chose Norway. Since my goal was to "experience life abroad for a short period," I thought it would be fine to go to any country. However, once I was assigned to Norway and realized I was going there alone, I got scared and didn't know what I could do. Even when I arrived in Norway, I felt embarrassed because I was the only Asian. Europeans had some things in common culturally — music, language, and food — but I didn't have the same cultural background, so sometimes it was hard just to talk with them. As time passed, though, it became less of a big deal to live without any Korean friends. I tried to participate in various activities and parties that the university organized and approached others first. I could spend a lot of time with friends from other countries. We had the chance to get to know each other's culture. After that, I started thinking, "I'm happy even if I'm in Norway alone."
Life in Molde
At first, I thought Molde, where I lived, was boring because it is a quiet, small city. However, now I come to think of it, living in a place that I had never imagined is a worthwhile experience. The most impressive experience was seeing the northern lights from the beach next to my dormitory. I still remember myself laying on the beach and seeing the northern lights in September — the weather was not cold, so I could see the northern lights comfortably. That was the first time I thought, "Is this the reason why people want to come to Norway?" Also, because Norway has a very clear sky — especially Molde's seaside gets so dark at night that you can't see anything without a torch — you can see the stars more clearly than in Korea. Whenever I wanted, I could always observe the Big Dipper, Jupiter, and bright Saturn with the naked eye. The night sky in Molde is so beautiful that I think this is one of the things that I will miss most about my exchange student life. Also, I had a lot of chances to go hiking, and the view of the sea and mountains during every hike was always splendid. Once when I went for an 8-hour hike, I was so exhausted that it was hard for me to even take one step. When I finally managed to see the view from the top, though, all my fatigue disappeared. The stunningly beautiful sunset touching the horizon remains in my memory.
What makes your life happier?
Living in a faraway country is not easy, so you have to decide if an exchange student's life is right for you, which could take some time. Nonetheless, the one thing I would say is it's always fun and worthwhile to experience and learn about a world you don't know. Life is always improved by learning. So, if you're thinking about whether to do something or not now, I want you to try it out. Once you do it, everything will start to change. What you do in your life is up to you!