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The Life of an Amateur Cosmopolite

Sun, May 13th, 2012
Posted in All Norwegian Ancestry

One of the main reasons why any American studies abroad in Europe is the endless opportunities for travel that living here brings. Instead of thinking about the long hours of work and the frugal living I did last fall, I thought of how those paychecks would soon be converted to plane tickets and hostel reservations. As my time in Norway draws to a close, I am still astonished by how much European exploration I was able to do.

For orientation, my program sponsored a long weekend in Reykjavik, Iceland. After three flights, two sleepless nights and a whole lot of anticipation, touching down in Scandinavia was a relief. We explored the Blue Lagoon, which is a natural geothermal pool, and took a tour of Reykjavik where we learned about the history of the country. Did you know that Iceland was settled by the Vikings, but curiously enough, DNA tests prove that about 50 percent of the genetic pool is Irish? Not to sound accusing, but that could be because the ferocious Vikings liked red-headed girls and swung by Ireland to pick up wives before heading up to settle in Iceland.

Our class schedule granted us a few long weekends throughout the semester, so my friends and I took full advantage of that. We took an eight-hour bus ride to Stockholm, Sweden, on our first excursion, and I really enjoyed the colorful architecture of the old city. This beautiful antiquity was a sharp contrast to the neon modernity of Sweden's flagship IKEA; that maze of a store was a notch off my belt that I hope I never have to revisit.

My trip to London was the spawn of our second long weekend and a $50 flight deal on RyanAir. My love for the Beatles was consummated when I visited Abbey Road, and I got to check out Westminster Abbey exactly one month before the royal wedding. (It looked fine to me, so I gave Kate and William the go-ahead.) This excursion was also in the midst of Norway's frigid winter, so the fact that the city was already filled with sunshine, green grass and blooming daffodils made the trip one of the best experiences of my time here.

Since I signed my acceptance to the program in Norway, I immediately started scheming for my two-week spring break. Four friends and I flew to Berlin and bought a Eurail pass, giving us free reign of the rails. After visiting the Berlin Wall, we rode down to Munich to see the home of Oktoberfest and Neuschwanstein Castle, which is a fairytale fortress in the German Alps. I found myself deliriously laughing out loud at just how amazing the views were and left Germany with a new appreciation for its extreme beauty (and an eternal fear of the Autobahn, but let's not get into that).

From Germany I traveled to Barcelona, Spain, to accomplish three goals: eat traditional tapas, play in the Mediterranean Sea and practice my Spanish. All three were attained in addition to visiting some gorgeous parks and the museum of one of my favorite artists, Pablo Picasso. I also got to experience the crowd outside of Barcelona's professional soccer arena, and unfortunately, my participation in Fillmore Central's "Black Hole" my senior year did not even come close to the performance of those Spanish futbol fans.

Paris was the last city on spring break's agenda, and it did not disappoint. My main anticipation was for the Louvre so I could indulge in my obsession with art and sneak a peek at the Mona Lisa, but I have to admit that the pastry I enjoyed while waiting in line for the museum was almost as good. Food actually encompassed a majority of my time in the City of Light: I had a Nutella crepe under the Eiffel Tower and spent my entire week's food budget on one really special French meal (consisting of duck patè, lamb with housemade pasta and crème brulee, of course).

Though I have exhausted quite a bit of money and energy on traveling in these last few months, I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to experience everything I have. Being in big cities and so deep into the unknown has made me realize how much of a home I have made in Norway because I was always ready to get back to Lillehammer. When the time comes to go back to my home in Minnesota, I'm going relish in the comfort of the familiar (and the 55 speed limit) but miss the excuse to travel and the new home I have been coming back to.

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