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Goodbye Norway: An honest retrospect on studying abroad

12 December 2019

Am I excited to go home? Yes. Am I ready to go home? Not quite.

When I started the application process to study in Norway, I was conflicted in how I would cope without everyone I love at home. And since only my boyfriend would be visiting me in these five months, I was sure I would be incredibly homesick and sad. Which has been so true. But, as I pack my room up, I am left with this monumental feeling of something bittersweet. I think I have fallen in love with the way of living and the every day experience of wanderlust in Norway.

Having not seen my family or friends in five months, you might sit here reading this and think ‘why on earth is she sad?’ I feel it is important to address this bittersweet feeling, as I did with the loneliness of studying abroad, and what it really means for a student on a semester abroad.

Let’s begin with all the great things about returning home:

Going home means that I am finally reunited with my family, my cat and my friends. Going home means that I can spend time with these people that I have missed so very much and enjoy the festive season with them. Going home means that I can enjoy home comforts and take some time off from living the independent and student-adult life that I have these last five months. Going home means that I can tell all of my adventures; both those that are featured on here and the many memories that I have kept from here. I have missed my family, my cat and my home. I have missed my friends and Cardiff. I have missed buying a few things and it not costing me over ten pound!

I am so ready to give my mum and dad a big hug and maybe have a little cry as we settle down at home like I never left. I am so ready to see my sister and tell her all about Norway. I am so ready to overload my cat with the treats I would always sneak to her. I am so ready in this respect.

So why is completing my semester abroad so bittersweet? Because it represents the end.

It represents the end of this experience, the end of my time with the wonderful people I have met and this beautiful country. It represents the impending end of my life as a student. Returning home represents what will be a very stressful period of my life (need I even mention the election and Brexit?) as I juggle the final semester of my degree, my dissertation and efforts to secure the career I want.

Am I scared of swapping student life for the working adult life? Yes and no. No, because I have interpreted Plato for five years and I think I am due a well-deserved rest. And yes, because of the state of society and how unknown it is as to whether I will get to where I truly want to be in my career. I have always had this fear of the unknown and, I suppose, leaving Norway triggers this period of entire mystery.

Whilst I initially was not convinced, I have come to understand the truth of what they say about studying abroad; this is the best experience of my life. But I don’t think it is definitive as such, it is the best experience of my life, but only my life so far. I think the reason it is so grand is because it served as an escape for what is to come; the strangest transition period from being in a strange alternate universe to back real life. But this time in Norway has been real life; just on a temporary scale.

I believe that Norway had the opportunity to make or break me as a person. In times, it definitely broke me as I am still learning those pesky life lessons but truly, it has shaped me into someone that I never thought I would be and I love her. The experience has helped me in ways that I have desperately needed and I am forever thankful for this. Because of this, there are parts of me that are frightened that this person Norway has made me will disappear as I settle back into life back in England. It is just a fear however, I do not think I could revert back from the changes that have been made from living here.

Moving and making a life for myself in another country is almost like a trial test on how I will fair in the real test. With only a few minor incidents, I have come out of this trial relatively unscathed and I think I will dearly miss the life I made for myself in Norway. As I am overwhelmed with the already nostalgic emotion, I feel that I will return properly one day. But who knows?

All I know for certain is that I am grateful for this experience and, whilst I am scared of what is to come for the next chapter of my life, I really cannot wait to be home with everyone I love. I have always tried to be as transparent as possible with my study abroad experience and I feel that it is only fair to everyone who reads this— university, prospective exchange students, friends, family and strangers — to know that such anxieties as this exist.

But alas, unlike my talk of dealing with loneliness, the outcome of dealing with this one is something you will have to wait for an update on.