As December approaches, my heart grows heavy. This semester is the most I have grown and learned about myself in my entire life. I have made some of the best friends I could have asked for and will leave with memories that I will never forget. To be perfectly honest, I’m nervous to go back to the same old town and the same old routine I have repeated for so long. Traveling has become the constant in my life and although I’m excited to see my family and friends again, I’ve grown to love the rootless lifestyle I have been exposed to. I had a taste and am now poisoned with the ache to see the world.

November in Norway brought my two favorite seasons. I often walked the parks, passing couples hand in hand enjoying the fall breeze and listening to children scream with joy as they buried each other in leaves. However, the fall leaves were covered by the first snow sooner than most expected. I’ll never forget the way my friends and I slipped down the icy hill to class and the snowball fights outside of my apartment window. Buildings are strung with festive lights and the Christmas market in town is bustling no matter how cold it gets, because there is always enough gluhwein to warm your insides.

snapchat-8402629070283520203                                                                christmas-market

My best advice is to experience the place you go for all that it is worth. School isn’t nearly as demanding here than at A&M, so while in Scandinavia I did everything I could to see what Scandinavia had to offer. Among all of the places I have been, I fell in love with the north in Svalbard chasing the Northern lights and dog sledding through the arctic of Norway. I had no knowledge about how to cope with the perpetual darkness of the polar night, yet I was immediately captivated by the clear air and far horizons. The darkness of the snowy mountains. The sheer power of the ice. I learned to observe in quiet moments; staring at blue shadows, straining to hear the faint cry of an arctic fox, embracing the chill of the wind whirling snowflakes around me.

20161112_112632                                                    northern-lights

I came here to learn about life and I found exactly what I was looking for. However, finals are beginning to loom over me and your entire grade is weighted on either an exam or a final paper so it’s important to manage your time wisely and buckle down when it matters. There were no assignments throughout the semester to balance out a bad grade on the final which weighs as 100% of the grade, so I would recommend keeping up with classes consistently to avoid destructive stress.

Yes, this has been the time of my life. However, I can’t deny that it comes with challenges. Your life may be moving fast, but that means everyone else’s life continues moving as well when your gone. A friend died in my absence, I lost a pet, missed an important time of my newly engaged sister’s life, and struggled communicating with my boyfriend until I doubted everything. Long distance relationships are hard and a few may crumble under the pressure. What I have learned is that complete independence is a time of growth and growth isn’t supposed to be easy. Every pain in your heart makes you more of who you are and that is beautiful. The people who matter will be there for you when you get back, so trust things will work out and don’t let the amazing opportunities you’re presented with get away from you because this is a once in a lifetime chance to take them.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

-H. Jackson Brown Jr.

img_20160929_192947                                     dog-sled