On Tuesday, January 4th the plane's wheels touched down and I was officially in Norway. After two flights and a four hour layover in Newark, New Jersey, I was ready to be here. As soon as I stepped off of the plane and looked through the windows to the outside world, I was in awe. There was snow everywhere! I knew there would be, but coming from Oregon where a good snow day leaves a couple of inches of slushy snow on the ground, this place was heaven. I'm sure the Norwegians walking past me were instantly labeling me as a tourist as I kept stopping to look outside and take pictures, but that was fine with me. Never before had I seen such remarkable snow. And to top it all off, it was snowing! Snow in Oregon comes in waves of big, fluffy clusters and wet drizzles, but here it's a constant trickle of little tiny snowflakes.
After another four hour wait at the train station, I was finally on the train zipping through the cities and countryside. It was about 3:00 pm when my train left the station so it was already starting to get dark. It was a remarkable journey, though, as every city and hillside was also covered in that same blanket of untouched white splendor. I couldn't believe that I was going to be living here for the next five months. It seemed like a dream come true! I couldn't wait to see what the little town of Bø would look like.
Once I finally reached the station in Bø, Lisa (the coordinator for students from the US) and a student assistant named Randa were there to great me. They were both so nice and helpful and it was already such a relief to be speaking English to people. (Clerks in stores will speak English if you ask them to, but it's daunting when everyone around you is speaking Norwegian.) After a quick stop at the grocery store before heading to my apartment, I was moved in and left to my own devices. At this point I unpacked a few things and tried to call my parents. However, my cell phone didn't have service and the internet phone that I had purchased wasn't working because I didn't have any internet... nor did I have a plug adapter that fit into the outlets (the prongs fit but the outlets here are round and recessed so my converter didn't fit into them.) So at 7:30 I crashed on my bed and went to sleep, feeling worried about my parents and not being able to let them know that I was ok. The next day, however, I was able to get an adapter and get connected to the internet so that I could call my parents. I felt much, much better after that.
The next two days after that the new international students had orientation activities that consisted of a tour of the campus (one building), a tour of the town, a trip to the local museum (we made bread in a brick oven!), registering for our classes, and receiving our residence permits at the police station. I have already become friends with a couple of girls, Lisa and Megan (also from the US), and have met and had conversations with most of the international students from other countries. Everyone is very nice and very excited to be here. I have also met a couple of my apartment mates. One of which, Julie, was extremely friendly and said that she would take care of me. I was very happy at that, especially since I was expecting everyone to be very aloof. A lot of Norwegians are (stereotypes do exist for a reason) but obviously not everyone is going to be.
I am looking forward to tonight, the international students are being treated to pizza in town and then there is a party at the student club, Kroa. Then on Monday we start our classes. The strange thing will be only having each class once a week, but one of the American students who has been here for awhile said that teachers here are more like coaches who help guide us through the learning process. It sounds very different from school in America but I am excited to try it out!
PS. The biggest "shock" that I have encountered hasn't been culture shock... it's been sticker shock! The standard of living here is higher than in the US so everything is a lot more expensive. A small pot cost me about $35 USD. I am definitely going to have to be thrifty with my grocery money...