Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thankful - a wrap up of Norway

It’s Christmas time of the year once again, a call for merriment and praise, and also perhaps some new year resolutions that we simply cannot keep. But as my exchange in Oslo comes to a tearful end, I thought I’d pen down some thoughts on paper before I fly away for my juleferie.

It’s funny how December is meant to be that time of year of wrapping up, of trimming loose ends and looking forward to the next 12 months. I usually look forward to new years, and this time is no exception. Yet whereas once ago I would get excited over festivities leading up to the event and the melodramatic countdown, I suspect now that it is the unspoken thoughts in our head that truly makes new year’s eve such a special occasion. It is the acknowledgement that the year I’m leaving behind has not gone entirely to waste, and that I’ve learnt something fundamentally important about myself that I will surely keep with me for the rest of my days.

I must confess, my departure from Norway will not be without mixed feelings. At this point, I’d like nothing more than to go home to Melbourne, if only just for a week or two. The holiday season kind of does that to you. But then I recall all the wonderful people I’m leaving behind, so to speak, and suddenly my homecoming doesn’t seem all that one-dimensional anymore.

What will I miss the most, I ask myself? I think one of the things I’ll miss are the silent cartwheels I do in my head when I overhear conversations in Norwegian on public transport, and realize without great certainty that I probably understood most of what was said (rare, but it happens). Yesterday I sat my written Norwegian exam. The invigilator gave us instructions entirely in Norwegian and I can confidently state that I understood 100% of it. Which is crazy, because when I first arrived in Oslo four and a half months ago, I could only parrot a few phrases off the Teach Yourself Norwegian CD.

Obviously, going abroad is about more than simply learning a new language. As cheesy as it sounds, it involves learning about a new culture, and of course about yourself, what you believe in, how far you’re willing to compromise these beliefs and having an amazing time doing so. It’s so difficult trying to encapsulate the whole experience into paragraphs, but I think the best analogy I can offer is this: Being on exchange is like signing up for a massive social experiment in which participants live in this bubble. Kind of like reality-TV. And so everything you feel appears to be magnified, whether you like it or not. You see the beautiful side in people, the keenness, the enthusiasm, kindness and camaraderie. But naturally you also see some uglier shades, and it would be a lie to claim that not every single one of us has been hurt by somebody at some point on exchange. I’ve been surprised by people in such beautiful ways here, but also disappointed with others so much that I couldn’t have imagined it before. With all of this comes a degree of self-reflection, but I think it’s necessary for all of us to undergo such moments of introspection because it’s only then that we can build a stronger sense of our self and our identity. We’re still young. It’s an ongoing process. The best part is that being on exchange means we get to go through these processes at the same time and thereby bond in solidarity.

As a smart friend once told me, making mistakes is painful but at least it heals quickly. Regret, on the other hand, lingers. It lingers like the bitter aftertaste of a poorly chosen drink, and most of all, it gnaws. So I hope I leave Norway with no regrets, and for the most part, I really think that’s true. To be completely honest, there are certain things that I wish had panned out differently, but then I have to accept that some things are simply beyond my control. Like in the Senerity quote: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. I think I’m getting closer to knowing the difference, and I feel at peace with all the decisions I’ve made here in Oslo. So I don’t know. Maybe this makes me a happier person.

Which brings me back to my original question. What will I miss the most about Norway? The beautiful nature? The beautiful people? The calm, orderly state of being? All of the above? I honestly think that the thing I’ll miss the most will be the constant learning I have done here on a daily basis. I mightn’t have learnt a lot about obs and gynae, but I’ve sure as hell learnt that most things in life happen for a reason. I don’t always get what I want, even if I give it everything I have. But that’s so I teach myself how to accept compromise. People come into my life in order to bring out the best in me, only to leave so that I can learn to let go.

But learning can be a tiring process, and soon it will be time to hang up my gloves and call it a day. Whilst I will be sad to leave the people and the adventures behind, I know with House-like certainty that I will carry with me my ‘personal’ education no matter where I go. Realistically, I’ll probably forget some of the words you’ve said to me, or the things you’ve done. But all the ideas you’ve inspired, and the way you’ve made me feel, that I’m pretty sure will stay with me for a very long time.

I feel sad to be leaving so soon, when perhaps my relationships with some friends are yet to reach full bloom. But that’s all part of the package in coming on exchange, and I knew beforehand what I was getting myself into. So where does this leave me? I think a sense of thankfulness. I’m thankful. So my pledge to myself is to go back home armed with a new set of artillery, and hopefully arrive back at Tullamarine Airport with a renewed sense of myself. One which is stronger, happier and more confident than the person who left nearly five months ago.

Jeg elsker Norge :-)

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