Another chance again to see the new FK participants in Norway. A group of 58 motivated people from all over the world looking forward to their new experiences in their host countries as agents of change. I am happy that I know what it feels to be in the their shoes, it is all coupled with mixed feelings of anxiety, worries and excitement.
2 weeks at the Hadelland Hotel outside Oslo is where they are meeting for the next two weeks, attending a preparatory course set to give them an insight of what awaits them as exchange participants. Memories are made of these. Last year, same place, same month, together with other FK participants we camped at Hadelland Hotel for 3 weeks.
We ate apples, went for nature walk, had various presentations, assignments and we bonded, lasting friendships we created. “Been there done that, enjoy it your best” is all I could tell these new participants.
“Many stories we hear about Norwegians, that they are racists and that they do not like black people, is it true?” asked one of the participants from Tanzania. “How is it like to be in Africa, I hear it is not secure at all, what do I need to know before going there?” These and many more are questions that most exchange participants will always want to inquire about.
Yes, it is called the fear of leaving a familiar place and heading to unfamiliar one, totally different from what you are used to. Culture shock, new people, new environment, new rules and regulations and generally, a shift of events. A stretch out of the comfort zone.
Out of the comfort zone
The question remains, “Are you ready for this”? Your guess is as good as mine, no one forces you to become an exchange participant. It is an opportunity made as a rational decision hence what we make out of it, entirely depends on us. Leaving your family, relatives and friends, colleagues, job, and within a turn of events you are in a totally unfamiliar environment, it needs a lot of self motivation and courage.
A great applause to all who have ever given it a thought. As an African, coming to Norway for the first time, you are definitely concerned about “racism, cold Norwegians, the bread culture, the winter experience, the cultural differences and basically about the Mzungu lifestyle.”. Those going to Africa on the other hand are concerned about the African culture and of course not very sure if they will manage it. These are some of the thoughts that cross our minds as we make such a decision.
Reading from some of the blogs posted by the new partipants, it is clear they are experiencing change in many ways. “ I arrived in Arendal, Norway on Wednesday 14th of September 2011 at 19:00 hours and it looked like 17:00 hours. I was imagining of the traffic jam we would meet before arriving at the apartment I was to stay for the four days. To my surprise the place looked too silent, no hooting and buses come on schedule,” wrote Khazila from Uganda.
Reality as it is!
This is just the start; a great opportunity for many of us to move out of our cocoon and to see what the world out there is made of. Too many stereotypes and ideologies tagged over different continents and it´s people, but is it true? You only get to unlock this reality on stepping out of your comfort zone, which is what the FK exchange program is all about.
“I was born a star, knew that I was bright, but didn’t know how I shined till the day I found myself in the dark, waiting… on the light of hope, then I realized that I’m that light….I’m that hope and that hope comes within me, to face a another day that’s why I’m a star, to shine bright like the sun to give hope that tomorrow may come as another day…” wrote Errol Anrich from Namibia.
We all start with such big dreams and we cannot wait to see them come to pass. Positive energy and positive attitude is one key ingredient to making an exchange experience remain successful. Take it as a challenge and have fun, as I always say, it is a lifetime opportunity, grab it and make the best out of it when it presents itself!!
Enjoy your week!