Many people dream of being exchange students, and I was one of them. Being an exchange student in Norway, a country not well-known to Koreans, made it even more special. "C'est la vie" is a French phrase that means "that's life." It expresses emotions of being both happy or sad. I learned this phrase from my French friend, and it also represents my attitude as an exchange student. I'd like to share some happy and sad moments that made me shout "C'est la vie" as an exchange student.
Every day in Norway was a gift
Getting the opportunity to be an exchange student is not easy. I thought I would be happy if I could go anywhere. But to be honest, when it was decided that I would be going to Norway, I felt disappointed. It was simple. Unlike countries like France with the Eiffel Tower or Italy with the Colosseum, Norway didn't have any iconic landmarks that immediately came to mind. Moreover, I don't like salmon and Mackerel. So, I left for Norway without much expectation. Now, six months after my exchange life, Norway, which was once a mystery, surprises me more and more with each passing day, like opening a treasure chest. Living in calm and slow-paced Norway gave me time to reflect on myself. Life in Norway, which is the opposite of the fast and busy life in Seoul, has turned me into a person who lives with nature. The most significant change is that I have become a person who loves winter and snow. It snowed continuously from January to May throughout my time in Norway. I want to share the moments when I joyfully embraced the snow, feeling like I had gone back to my childhood, and the warm times spent with friends during the chilly winter.
Expensive alcohol, but no worries
You might think I'm kidding because I said I like the expensive alcohol in Norway. In truth, what I want to say is that the price of alcohol in Norway led me away from bars and into nature. In Korea, many young people hang out with friends at bars or cafes, just like me. However, in Norway, alcohol is very expensive, and on weekdays, you can't buy alcohol after 6 PM, and you can't buy it at all on Sundays. When we had free time, we would get sandwiches and go hiking. How healthy we were! Hiking up snowy mountains with friends in Korea was something I could never imagine. I remember the moment we hiked up to the summit, gazing at the stunning view and being filled with wonder. Thanks to those experiences, my self-confidence grew a lot. If you see it, you have no choice but to climb up. One of the most memorable challenges from last winter was snowboarding. Riding on the board and feeling the cool winter breeze, I learned that snowboarding is one of the best ways to enjoy winter. In Norway, my another hobby was going to the beach with the snowy mountains in the background, which was just a 10-minute walk from my dormitory. This is the place I miss the most right now. There, I also achieved one item from my bucket list: witnessing the aurora. It was an awesome moment that I couldn't help but admire.
The precious people I have met
In those precious moments, I always had genuine conversations with my friends. While I experienced those things I mentioned above, I never got bored because I engaged in meaningful conversations with my friends. Through these interactions, I was able not only feel warmth during the cold winter but also improve my English speaking skills. When talking with my friends, I paid close attention to the English they used. I made an effort to repeat their words and sentence structures. Can I tell you something funny? Due to the habit of mimicking others, one day I unintentionally repeated something a stranger said on the street and ended up feeling embarrassed when that person gave me a suspicious look. Anyway, every moment spent with my foreign friends were moments of learning for me. One of the friends I met in Norway once said to me, "Why do you live on the opposite side of the Earth? Now I won't be able to see you often." Having even one friend who says such a thing makes me truly happy.
I also have one regret from my time in Norway. As always, I couldn't have everything I wanted. Although I lived there, I don't have any Norwegian friends. Let me share a secret about Norwegians. After they have had a few drinks, they become very friendly and approachable, but the next day, they act as if they don't know you. If I share my story, I was excited at the beginning of the semester and danced "Gangnam Style" at a party with some Norwegian friends, and since then, even when we ran into each other at school, they didn't greet me. Unfortunately, they only reminded me of the moment we danced together. Of course, this may vary from one Norwegian to another, but it is generally true. Don't get me wrong. This is one of the aspects of Norwegian culture. Because of this, forming close connections with Norwegians wasn't easy, but on the other hand, not paying too much attention to other people made life easier. Perhaps that's why racial discrimination is not common in Norway.
Enjoy the life
I remember two weeks before leaving Korea. I was feeling scared and worried about going to a foreign country without my family and friends. However, once I was abroad, I developed a "just do it!" attitude toward challenges. So, during those six months, I tried many things for the first time. As I mentioned, I challenged myself to snowboarding, swimming in the sea even during the cold winter, and riding a rollercoaster despite having a fear of heights. During the winter, I naturally enjoyed activities like hiking and skiing, or just like my friends during the summer too. I embraced going to the beach in my swimsuit. By observing others, I learned how to enjoy life according to the seasons. Today, I am glad to have shared a bit of that method with you. I hope my story can give someone the courage they need. If you are hesitating about being an exchange student or living abroad, just go for it! One tip I can give is to shout "C'est la vie" when you are either happy or sad.