Healing and Listening

By Katie Kovacovich

This summer has given me the most eye-opening and powerful experiences I could ask for. Of course, no adventure is ever free of challenges; especially those that shape you in the most meaningful ways. About two weeks ago I got a concussion and had to spend almost a week in the dark and silence of my room at Blindern Studenterhjem. I wasn’t allowed to read, look at screens, listen to music, endure physical activity, or really do anything that would engage my brain too critically. I emerged from my room for meals, and even then I was constantly wearing sunglasses to reduce my light intake.

While I am still not at 100% and am taking things slower than usual, I am definitely on the road to recovery and feeling much more optimistic. The first week after it happened I spent a lot of time extremely angry, upset, and bored—never feeling so trapped in my entire life. Here I was 4,000 miles from home, having the time of my life; meeting new people, going on fun adventures, and learning so many new things every day. Only to have it completely halted, forcing me into a lifestyle that would be difficult for me no matter what the location.

I tried really hard to discover the “positives” of this injury, and ways that I could learn a little more about life in the process of my healing. I didn’t immediately find anything constructive, but slowly I began to see some ways this concussion gave me new opportunities. I became more acutely aware of the beautiful relationships that had formed so far; ever present in the continuous love and support I received from my peers from all over the world. I consider these relationships to be the most valuable part of my experience this summer, and it has been a true blessing to see just how deep of connections can be made in just six weeks.

Another important thing I’ve learned is how to intentionally slow down. This has been something that I’ve been working on my whole life, and never thought would be a skill I’d refine during my time in Norway. Between classes, excursions, afternoon island adventures, Salsa dancing, soccer playing and the multitude of other things we do here, many of us students feel constantly busy and in awe that we are just nine days from being done. But in order to heal a brain injury, of course, it is of the utmost importance to slow down and reduce activity. I’ve become more aware of my body, my pain, and how to listen—both to myself and others.

This listening piece has been integral and cyclical…starting at the Nansen Center in Lillhammer with our dialogue sessions and intentional cultural conversations. Sitting at the dinner table at Blindern one could listen to 4 different languages at once. Listening to lectures, new music, and making sense of language barriers through all sorts of communication methods are a just a few examples of how I’ve become more tuned into what is going on around me. I can’t express how many times throughout my life I’ve been told in various settings “how important listening is,” but this trip—and surprisingly this injury—has taught me the most as far as listening is concerned. In terms of our mutual humanity, we all want to be visible, to be heard, and to be understood…so I ask, how do you listen?

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