In my last blog post, I said that I didn’t want to just see pretty views. Somewhere along my abroad journey, I made it my goal to find deeper connection to what I saw. I didn’t want to go home with just pictures to show, but with a story to explain what these views meant to me. Norway was my first test to begin fulfilling my goal.
By trying to see Norway in a different light, I’ve had the most meaningful trip – one full of learning, understanding, and connecting – in the three short days I’ve been here. The meanings I developed were also not forced. Rather, they are products of reflecting on the things I saw that moved me.
Below, I tell my stories in three parts: what I first saw, what I was intended to see, and my interpretation of what I saw. By explaining it in this way, I hope you can see how I found deeper meaning in the things that I took pictures of during my trip.
Our first stop in Oslo, the capital of Norway, was to see the 121 Vigeland statues in Frogner Park.
Here’s what I first saw: A lot of nude statues.
Here’s what Gustav Vigeland, the sculptor, intended for us to see: The many faces of human expression. Every statue has a clearly detailed facial expression of joy, sadness, anger, or love. His most famous statue is the Monolith, seen below, which depicts 121 people climbing and clawing on top of each other. This monument has been interpreted as Man’s Resurrection, the struggle for existence, Man’s yearning for spiritual spheres, the transcendence of everyday life and cyclic repetition according to Norway’s Tourist website.
Here’s what I saw: Me, my family, my friends, and how we interact with each other. I saw my dad protecting my mom, the sacrifices my mom made to give my brother and me the happiest future, the love that I’ve shared with someone, and my friend and I sitting together supporting each other in comfortable silence.
I circled around the statues, once, twice, then a third, and fourth time. Each time, I thought about how perfectly Vigeland captured the many emotions that exist in every relationship. During my time abroad, I’ve been trying to understand the various roles in the relationships that I currently have. What does it mean to be a sister? What does it mean to be a friend? What does it mean to love? Although I don’t have fully developed answers to these questions yet, thinking about these questions have made me think of ways to improve the relationships I have with other people.
For example, before I used to think that a best friend is someone you had everything in common with, someone you shared everything with, and knew you inside and out. But during college, my closest friends have been people different from me – in interests and personality – and I’ve never had as many introverted friends as I have now. Being an extrovert, this meant that I’ve had to learn and develop my meaning of friendship. Not sharing everything doesn’t mean that we’re not close and no matter how much you think you know about them, they’re always changing, which presents opportunities for me to learn something new about them every day.
Next, we took an overnight train to Bergen, a small coastal city on the other side of the country. Here, I did the Norway in a Nutshell tour with my flatmate, Lucy. The main theme of the trip was to see the grand fjords, which are long, narrow bodies of water surrounded by cliffs.
Here’s what I first saw: Snow. Lots and lots of snow.
Here’s what I was intended to see: Small towns along the fjords that used to make up the heart of Bergen.
Here’s what I saw: Back in my Isle of Skye post, I mentioned that I love nature because it helps me realize that my problems are small compared to the vast land stretched out before me. This was especially true when I was looking at the grand fjords. I saw tall mountains with snow-capped tops with green bottoms, I saw houses buried in snow, and white that stretched for miles.
Among all this great scenery, all I could think was how often I missed what was right in front of me. I get so caught up in the future which lately consists of what I’ll be doing post-graduation, if my relationships with friends will change when I go back home, and what the summer has in store. But when I looked out, it suddenly brought me to the present. I saw the beauty around me, was cognizant of the fact that I was sitting here seeing this in person, finally seeing the pictures I had only seen on Buzzfeed’s “Top Cities You Must Visit Before You Die” articles, and feeling relaxed and peaceful. It made me realize how difficult it was to be mindful of the present and that appreciation, happiness, and satisfaction comes from being aware of where you are right now.
Now, I know you’re probably thinking that I think too much. I consider it both a blessing and a curse. But for an experience as important as this one, I know I’m not just on vacation. For me, it’s always been about growing in my perspective, mindset, and independence and that doesn’t come without some hardcore reflection. Of course, I couldn’t relate to all that Norway had to offer like its reindeer meat and obsession with bacon-wrapped hot dogs. But by thinking about what I’ve been doing just a little bit more, I’ve come to a better understanding of how my friends and family can relate to my abroad experience when I go back home.