June 30, 2015
I’m sitting in a bustling Espresso House. It’s 10pm on a Sunday night, and the sun is as bright as ever. Oslo seems to be unfazed by the hours passing. No one seems to be concerned about returning to work or class tomorrow. The stores are all closed, but still the city streets are packed.
If you’ve talked to a peace scholar lately, or read our previous blog posts, you’re familiar with this narrative. Oslo is a small but lively place, and we’re all fascinated with it.
I’ve been staring at a blank screen for quite a while now. What can I tell you? It’s tempting to give you a play-by-play of our Norwegian escapades, but I think those stories have had enough coverage. You know that we’re having a great time. You know that we’re staying up later than we should, studying less than we should, meeting more people than we thought we would, and that Norway is far more beautiful than we ever imagined.
Instead, I want to share with you the untold story.
The secret is this: I’d rather be alone.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my new international companions to pieces, and exploring Norway with them has been a blast and a half. But between class, field trips, student council meetings, weekend excursions, and daily social events held at Blindern, alone time is rare and precious here at the ISS. As an introvert, I have found that the most transformative moments for me on this trip are the ones spent in solitude.
My travel attitude significantly improved when I started taking some time to myself each day. I learned the bus route. I made a list of places I wanted to visit. I stopped to take in the scenery around me. I listened to more music. I took time to paint.
In my time alone, I have learned a very valuable lesson: Studying abroad is not about the classes you take or the grades you earn, but about the person you become. It’s about self-discovery and self-understanding. It’s about being changed, sometimes in an abrupt and forceful way, and other times more gently. It’s about feeling completely ignorant and vulnerable, and saying “I don’t know. Can you teach me?” It’s about opening yourself up and seeing what’s inside, examining deeply held convictions and uncovering passions that you never knew you had.
As I take time to myself, I can easily see that this experience is changing me for the better. I can’t believe that I still have four more weeks in this place! The transformation has only just begun.