Petter Inge Andersen, a Norwegian and once an exchange student, felt at home in the Rocky Mountains. Photo: Ketil Blom Haugstulen
Petter Inge Andersen, a Norwegian and once an exchange student, felt at home in the Rocky Mountains. Photo: Ketil Blom Haugstulen

Stories: Bitter Sweet

International experience. It was a foreign feeling to see desserts, prairies and rattle snakes, coming from Norway, the land of ice, snow, valleys and mountains. I also got to milk a snake for its venom, so there’s that.

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Voices of Our Time

Over the past months ISU Norway has been collecting stories from international students, both on exchange and on full-degree programs, as part of their «ISU Stories» project.

And one Norwegian student going abroad.

Khrono will be publishing some of these stories the coming week.

You can read all the published stories here.

The world is already getting smaller and smaller every day, but making friends all over the place, just makes it seem so much smaller still. In the best way possible. If you’re willing to go the distance.

At the time of me going on exchange, I was studying for a bachelor’s of science in biology, at Nord University in Bodø, Norway. The degree was in English, which allowed people form all over the world to join us, just north of the arctic circle.

This international community, somewhere down the line, lit a fire inside me, a passion that I’d never felt before. Wanderlust. Suppose that is the best way to describe it. I wanted to see more of the world. So I went abroad for my 5th semester to Colorado, USA, to this «small» university called University of Northern Colorado.

Something I find hilarious is that to be able to go on exchange you have to jump through some crazy hoops, but it wasn’t until I was sitting on Newark Liberty airport in New Jersey, after traveling for 20-some hours with an unexpected layover of 12 hours, that it hit me that I was actually doing this. It was a sobering experience being so alone for the first time in my life, but followed by some sense of clarity for me, and an event that would have stressed me out, left me feeling prepared for whatever the world might put in my way. But when I finally reached Colorado, the entire ordeal seemed worth it.

When my time abroad was nearing its conclusion, I started to grow more wistful and pensive by the day. My time was ending.

Petter Inge Andersen

What met me over here in Colorado were some people, some places and some moments, that I may carry with me for the rest of my life. My courses were enlightening, my professors were endearing, my friends were engrossing, and the vistas were inspiring.

I had a course in herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles, where we went on a field trip to the great plains. It was a foreign feeling to see desserts, prairies and rattle snakes, coming from Norway, the land of ice, snow, valleys and mountains. I also got to milk a snake for its venom, so there’s that.

I was also able to see the Rocky Mountains, something that I as a hiking enthusiast, had been dreaming about for quite a while. And I actually felt at home there. It was fascinating. How-many-million-miles-away from my daily life, I found a place that was similar enough to lose myself for just a moment.

When my time abroad was nearing its conclusion, I started to grow more wistful and pensive by the day. In retrospect, I believe I had gotten aware of the situation I was in. My time was ending. Not just my stay abroad, but it was an aperitif for my final semester. It was tough realizing it, and it didn’t get easier as the time went on.

Bitter-sweet. Sweet that I got the opportunity, and it has been so good for me, but so bitter that it had to end. Such is life.

Fascinatingly enough, what ended up being my most valuable asset from this semester, only became apparent the next semester, when I started applying for a master’s degrees all over the place. With no expectations at all, I suddenly found myself being competitive, due to the courses I got while abroad. So if anything, that’s a reason to go on exchange.

In many ways, going on exchange for me made me realize that life isn’t about the destination, but the journey. Still, I bought my flight back to Norway as direct as possible to avoid any layovers.

This story was first published at ISU Norway's blog.

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