We want to know what the experience have meant to them, and what they are up to now. Linn Schjerven was a student at Norgesskolen several times, and has now moved to Norway to study and work as a journalist. She shares her experience with Norwegians Worldwide.
It took a big readjustment process for me to realize that home had never meant Oslo, or even Norway. My father is Norwegian and my mom is originally from China. I was born in Oslo, but grew up for the most part in Beijing. I went to university in Hong Kong and now, 17 years later, I’m back in Europe.
I never expected that I would experience a culture shock, because in Asia I had always considered myself more Norwegian. Eight months into my latest relocation, it is still hard for me to tell people that I am from here. All of a sudden, I feel more Chinese. I guess.
As I’ve come to realize when talking to several of my friends, feeling out of place is very common for us. We’ll adapt, but we’ll never adjust. We’ll be in a house, but never at home. Home is a variable. Sometimes home feels like Beijing, other times it feels more like Hong Kong. It depends on whom I’m missing or what food I’m craving. But between the ages of 14 to 18, home was without doubt Norgesskolen.
I first joined Norgesskolen, unwillingly, in the summer of 2005. A week into the program, I realized that what I had originally considered an unreasonable parental choice was actually a pretty good one, like so many other decisions they’ve made for me. I made friends quickly and still talk to many of them on a regular basis.
Cassandra is two years younger than I am. She’s half French and half Norwegian, and grew up here and there: Morocco, France, Madagascar and Brazil. I remember the first time I met her; she was wearing a Nirvana T-shirt, one of the many band shirts I was to see over the years. She’s currently on exchange in Paris from the University of Oslo. During our latest Skype conversation she told me about her new hideaway, a coffee shop that has gotten praise from publications such as Le Figaro. ‘Le Figaro said that they have the best coffee in town,’ she told me.
Danai and Cassandra are the same age. Danai grew up in Greece, with her four brothers, Norwegian mother and Greek father. For the past two years she’s been living in Norway and is currently studying tourism in Lillehammer. I’ve yet to ask her if she’s met Steven Van Zandt, who stars in the TV-show Lillyhammer. She comes to Oslo from time to time to visit her family or crash on my sofa.
I made friends with Kristina during my second year at Norgesskolen. She’s half Mexican and half Norwegian and spent half her childhood in Norway and the other half in South America. She is a year older than Cassandra, studying Culture and Communication at The University of Oslo. Her current status is busy. She volunteers for organizations, promotes organizations, writes for a university newspaper, all while studying and maintaining healthy social relationships. I see her mostly on the weekends.
Anita decided to stay and study in the States. A songstress and an actress, she and her brother caught my attention at Norgesskolen through our shared love for The Beatles. Two years into her program, Anita went on exchange to Denmark, an experience she’s described as eye opening. She has discovered a newfound love for the visual arts and when she came to visit Oslo, naturally we had to go to the National Gallery. I got to learn that Edward Munch is her favorite artist.
I could go on and on about what my Norgesskolen classmates are doing right now. Petra is studying Geography in Wales, Victoria is back in Oslo for her placement year interning at Aon, Milena just graduated from high school and Caspar is planning to find an internship in Asia. All are studying, working, aspiring and dreaming. Some of the older students have even become parents.
We’re all at different stages in our lives and it’s hard to find common ground between us, except that, at one point or another, we all considered Norgesskolen as home. At that moment in time, when we attended the summer program, we had more in common with each other than we do now. A certain amount of commonality and familiarity is what everyone hopes to find. It keeps us sane, it keeps our minds from thinking: ‘wow, I’m really weird’. Shared experiences or backgrounds bring us all together. Wherever you go, you’ll always bump into someone you can relate to.
And coming to Oslo, that’s is what happened. I have been surprised by how many people from Norgesskolen I would meet again. Some have always been close friends, but I’m also becoming better acquainted with people I hardly talked to when I was at the summer camp.
Norgesskolen creates a community for students. For alumni, it’s become a network that we use for all sorts of purposes. It could be to gain advice on how to apply for jobs, to find a couch to sleep on during our travels or even to find a friend in a new city.
During the first two months after I moved back to Oslo, I felt very alone. I was planning my escape back to China rather than planning how to make the most out of this new yet old ‘home’. Cassandra is to be credited for making the transition a lot easier for me. She brought me out of my house, gathered the old crowd and introduced me to new ones.
We’re all connected by those summers we spent together as teenagers. I’m slowly finding a sense of home from my old friends. I’m still finding home in Norgesskolen.