It has been MONTHS since I last wrote about my Norwegian adventure! I haven’t stopped reflecting on my time in Norway with such incredible hosts. I stayed with Kjell, who was my mom’s foreign exchange student in high school. I hadn’t met him prior to staying with him, and it was great to hear about his time in America with my mom, uncle, and grandparents! I was also touched to meet his wife and children; they are truly a second family to me.
One of my favorite, and perhaps most memorable parts, of my two weeks in Norway were the boat rides Kjell took me on. We were able to see his many summer homes and have great conversations along the way.
Above is Kjell’s parent’s home. The red shed is where I would be asked to help him gut the fish we caught in the North Sea, little would I know!
I remember that afternoon like it was yesterday; Kjell was taking me through the neighborhood on one of the family’s fishing boats. He was showing me all of his favorite fishing spots, while sharing childhood memories. I felt so close to him and I felt like I reliving his fondest memories.
We eventually stepped out of our fishing boat and hiked a little bit. He showed me his favorite spots where he, his siblings, and neighbors would play; Kjell even showed me the only spot where small flowers could grow along the sea!
After some light hiking, Kjell and I had to cut the fish we caught in the North Sea (Kjell: 5, me: 2). I didn’t have it in me to cut the fish, so I kept his mom company as Kjell prepared the fish for cooking.
I remember feeling guilty for “taking the life of two fish,” but Kjell cracked a joke that made me feel so much more at ease! He said, “Well, think about this, you’re feeding my sweet mother. Without you, she wouldn’t have dinner tonight!” It made me laugh more than I probably should’ve! And that was the best seafood I’ve ever had 🙂
When I studied in France two years ago, I knew many great things would come from that experience. I knew I would improve my French-speaking abilities, learn about a new culture, and grow as an individual. Never did I expect to have a long-lasting friendship with my roommate, Carolyn!
We have been in touch and have visited each other in the U.S. twice now! Carolyn just moved to Washington D.C. and I spent the weekend with her, catching up and sharing old stories about our time abroad.
Visiting with Carolyn is always a good time! I’m looking forward to where our next reunion will take place!
Truth be told, I have been avoiding this post for a long time. Norway was the second-to-last country I visited while abroad, and I have been home for a little more than two months now. Things haven’t been the same upon my return; this post solidifies the idea of my big adventure being over. I finally gained the courage to write about my time in Norway because I have to face reality. Although the best chapter of my life is now closed, I know more opportunities will come! I miss Europe, traveling, and my life abroad, but this drives my determination to find a job overseas even more!
I left Kalmar, Sweden extremely saddened; I was leaving not only the best part of my life behind, but also several new friends from around the globe! However, with that said, I knew that my two-week stay in Norway would be a great transition into my normal life back in Michigan.
I visited Norway for two main reasons: 1. It has always been my “dream country” and 2. While my mom was in high school, her family hosted a Norwegian exchange student! His name is Kjell and I was FINALLY able to meet him and his (entire) family! It was such an incredible experience to meet a family I have been connected to through my mom’s stories, letters back and forth, and a montage of photos and Christmas cards over the years.
When Kjell and his daughter, Martine picked me up from the airport, I instantly felt at home. I remember walking with my heavy backpack down this long flight of stairs to pick up my luggage, and as I looked down I could see them waving up at me with Norwegian flags (was it THAT obvious I was an American?)! My heart was full in that moment.
Kjell and his family live on the beautiful island of Askøy, which is about a half-hour (not even) from Bergen. It was a surreal feeling to drive Kjell’s boat to Bergen and several other small islands in the area.
When I travel, I often find parallels between cities I have been to. Oddly, I found similarities between the countryside of Southern France and the route to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. I cannot compare Bergen to anywhere else; it is truly one of a kind…just like my time in this beautiful country.
The first few days of my new adventure consisted of visiting mainly Bergen, and you know, the typical tourist-y stuff. Although I try to avoid cliche attractions and events, there are exceptions. I had to visit Bergen’s famous fish market and visit the highest point of the city! The market didn’t smell the greatest, but the taste of the fresh fish from the North Sea made up for it.
With Martine and Kjell, I was able to take the Ulriken cable car to the top of Mount Ulriken. Because of all the islands and mountains in this part of Norway, the Ulriken wasn’t the only cable car/ski lift I traveled on.
The city of Bergen itself has a rich viking history, something Kjell takes much pride in. During my first visit to Bergen, Norwegian royalty were near Parliament and university buildings. Kjell is a police officer in Bergen and Askøy, so he was hoping we would have a better chance of seeing the royalty if he was talking with his friends and coworkers! It was a good strategy, but unfortunately I didn’t meet a prince or anyone close.
I would have to say that my favorite thing about Bergen (aside from the food and people) are the Bryggen that greet you as you ride into the city by ferry or boat. Inside the wooden buildings, there is a famous nightclub and also a traditional Christmas shop. I live near Frankenmuth, Michigan (a faux-German town with a world-famous Christmas shop), and I was impressed with the Julehuset in Bergen!
My boat rides with Kjell were some of my most cherished memories of my time in Norway; I was able to learn more about Norway, his family, and even my own family through Kjell’s stories.
I will be sure to share more stories and photos in other blog posts! This is only a mere sample of my Norwegian adventure.
Öland: where stereotypical Swedish stugas and breathtaking views come to life! Öland is a large island off the coast of Kalmar, Sweden where I was studying overseas. I nicknamed it “the Mackinac Island of Sweden,” but Michigan’s island is much smaller!
Three of my closest friends and I decided to spend the weekend relaxing, playing cards, having BBQs and making s’mores here; we mixed our American ways with traditional Swedish life.
The stuga was barn-colored red and was much bigger on the inside than it appeared on the outside! There were five bedrooms in this tiny place, but somehow it still felt spacious. The only thing that didn’t feel so spacious was the ceiling in the kitchen area; it must have only been four or five inches taller than me. Now I know how players in the NBA feel on the daily.
The outdoor patio was by far my favorite part of the Airbnb. I loved how cozy, comfortable, and “summery” it felt. It was like this square of no stress about school, no drama, and lots of laughter. The four of us all have mixed feelings about heading home in June, so the weekend getaway was just what we all needed.
The ONLY bad part of our location wasn’t that it was on a main road or that the bike ride took forever (that’s what makes for the best stories)! It was the bugs that found their way into our home away from home. Bees and wasps kept swarming into our kitchen, as did two huge beetles! I have never seen beetles quite that large in my entire life, and I live in Michigan (where the summer bugs are enormous).
Nevertheless, the creepy crawlers didn’t hold us back from having a relaxing weekend. We all needed some R and R, and I would highly recommend visiting Öland someday!
In May, I planned a spontaneous trip with three close friends to Spain! We all needed a relaxing getaway on the beach, with cheap and tasty tapas, and of course some gelato!
We were studying in Sweden at the time and ironically stayed in an Airbnb run by a Scandinavian woman! We never took a photo together, but I looked like a young version of her (big glasses, curly hair and all).
The Airbnb was not even five minutes walking to one of the beaches in Alicante. The sun was shining, the water was warm, and the company was grand.
Leaving Sweden and study abroad was an emotional challenge yesterday, but making memories such as these ones are worth all the painful “see you laters” and goodbyes.
I really had no expectations while visiting Budapest; all I knew was that I would have a great time! The city is green, affordable, and the people were friendly! I would definitely recommend visiting Hungary’s capital city, especially if you’re on a tight budget like me!