It is great being a Fredskorpset (FK Peace Corps)) participant and one thing they immediately introduce you to is shedding tears and heart breaks, probably as a way to make the participants tough for the challenge ahead. Fredskorpset (FK Norway) facilitates the mutual exchange of personnel between organizations and business in Norway and Africa, Asia and Latin-America. All this is done under Peace Corps which rates and funds the exchange between 54 partners in Norway and the above countries.
The exchange gives participants an opportunity to attend professional and personal challenges over the next one year. Two mutual partners come up with a program where they select and give the opportunity to talented people with very diverse backgrounds both academically and culturally to participate in this challenge. In my case, my two partners include Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) and the Mediehøgskolen Gimlekollen (Gimlekollen School of Communication and Journalism, Norway) in partnership with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, NRK.
1o years of mutual exchange with over 4000 participants, January is here and 46 new FK participants are ready for the challenge and vital is the preparatory course especially for those coming to Norway, a cold country with cold people or rather shy people, Ha! Ha! Ha! Norwegians say so! One thing that is common with all the exchange participants is culture shock therefore, FK ensures that these participants are fully prepared on what awaits them in their host countries. (Click the photos to enlarge)
For three weeks or more the participants are booked into some lavish and executive hotel, team building, great facilitators and guest speakers, great evening session, delicious meals, fantastic accommodation and a great opportunity to make friends from all over the world.
Bonding starts here, lifetime friends are created and of course a number of people have great crush on each other and a week later the groups narrow down into two´s and evening sessions become more of an exclusive affair. But hold on, woe unto you should you be too first to fall in love, because after the period is over, broken hearts and suddenly there is need of more tissue papers because people shed tears as they say goodbye. Hugs and kisses and reality dawns in, life starts now!
Yesterday, I had the honour to meet these new FK participants, to share my experiences on living in Norway and of course as an active FK blogger. Kenya makes me proud!! I stand tall and ask, “How many Kenyans are here?” Unlike during my time where I was the only Kenyan, this time round six hands up and I feel really at home. Association Internationale des Étudiants En Sciences Économiques et Commerciales (AIESEC Kenya), you are officially my hero! This definitely adds to the number of Norwegians living and working in Kenya as well. I love the partnership.
I see these fresh participants with a lot of enthusiasm and I wish I could tell them loud, it is not easy after the preparation course, be prepared. The reality that you are far from home and you have a given period to deal with life in the diaspora sets in. Weather changes, culture shock, home-sickness, new colleagues and different system of living and working, you have to make a choice. To stay miserable as you wait to fit in or to take the challenge and give it your best, it is always a tough decision for any foreigner in whichever country.
My fellow Kenyans and those going to Kenya bombard me with all sorts of questions and for sure I can understand them, so I am very patient as I try to answer to their questions. “How has it been, tough? Do you miss home? How do we maintain our hair? Where can we plait and braid from, which shops can we shop from, is it very expensive as we hear? Curiosity is the word! Of course the answers to all these questions vary depending on where you stay and your assignment here. I vividly remember being in their shoes a few months back.
My advice to the new kids on the block and of course to anyone going for an exchange program is simply, be open-minded! This is a lifetime opportunity, make the best out of it, stay positive and have fun. Get to know the people in your host country and explore their culture. Be curious and adventurous and most important CAPTURE THE MOMENT! Our memory fails us and after the year is over, you can be sure you will not remember everything. So document your experiences, blog, take photos and share them with family and friends. This is where you have no choice but embrace social media!
One year maybe too long or even too short depending on how you make use of it. So go! go! go! go New FK participants and congratulations for taking the challenge, give it your very best!!