Ingrid did two semesters of Study Abroad in Norway during the 2008-2009 academic year.
There are our expectations and then there is reality. Sometimes reality is easily predictable, and we find what we expect to find. The reality of living, breathing, and thriving in a different country and culture is something that will not meet expectations. It can only surpass them.
When preparing to go on exchange to Bodø, Norway, I conducted a fair amount of research. I talked with the International Exchange Office at UAF and the exchange office in Bodø. I talked with a friend already studying in Northern Norway. I researched weather and city information on various websites. I regularly patronized Høgskolen i Bodø's website, reading all the information they had in English for new students.
While all this information told me what kind of snow and rain gear to bring, where I could buy food, and how many people live in Bodø, it didn't tell me about the experiences I would have there or the people I would meet. It didn't tell me the internal strength I could gain from being away from not only my family and my friends, but from my language, my culture, my continent, for almost a year.
There are not enough ways for me to express how much I encourage going on exchange to a foreign country. There were adventures, like surfing in the Norwegian Sea in October and being able to take cheap couch surfing trips to central Europe. There were parties and meeting new people, pretty much every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday night (School? What?). There were trials, like spending holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas away from family, and not being there for friends' weddings or the birth of a good friend's first child. There was a newfound understanding of the world and of people from all over, as I made strong, lasting friendships with people from Norway, Germany, Greece, Russia, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, etc (and even a few from the US!).
There is too much to talk about, really. The best thing I can think of to say is that I have no regrets about going on exchange, and that there are great, unpredictable things in store for others about to make the same journey.