Month: May 2019

The life of an international citizen

One of the hardest things about living a year abroad, at least as an exchange student, is that you get to know people. And then, all too soon, you have to move.

Even if it’s just Chinese girls that you’ve mostly had contact with in your classroom or met as you pass each others in the hallway, leaving is always hard.

International friends

As much as I love travelling, and as much as it’s made me quite restless – sometimes there is nothing I want lesss than staying in one place for the rest of my life – one of the biggest downsides is that I have friends scattered across three continents, some of which I rarely get to see.

This can, of course, also be a positive – it means that there’s always, if not accommodation, then certainly people who are glad to see you wherever you go. But it can also make you blasé, in the worst case scenario. Or, at least, very restless. If you stay somewhere for too long, you get the feeling that there’s people on some part of the globe whom you need to see, and places you need to be.

But as much pride as I take in calling myself an International Citizen, there are still places that take up more space in my heart than others. Right now, Moscow is obviously one of them. I think, for as long as I live, Moscow and St. Petersburg will remain two of my all-time favorite cities, not least because I lived and learned Russian in them for so long.

Hopefully, as I grow older, some of my restlessness will disappear. Until then, my heart will always remain in the last city I fell in love with.

Yes, we love this country

There are two national anthems that I rank at the top of the list of anthems in the world. At the first spot is Russia’s – mostly because of the melody.

Then, at the second spot, is my own country’s anthem – Norway. The melody is second to Russia’s – but only marginally so, but the lyrics are amazing. It starts by declaring the most obvious thing in the world:

Yes, we love this country!

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

The lyrics are a completely unabashed declaration of love for the country, namedropping all the greatest kings of Norway, and making sure to remind every Norwegian about our hard-earned freedom in the form of our constitution.

Norseman, whatsoe’er thy station,
Thank thy God whose power
willed and wrought the land’s salvation
In her darkest hour.
All our mothers sought with weeping
And our sires in fight,
God has fashioned in His keeping
Till we gained our right.

Bjørnstjerne bjørnson

But we also have a rich poetic and national romantic tradition which we invoke heavily on this special day of our constitution, the 17th of May. When Ivar Aasen was assembling our new language, Nynorsk, he wrote one of the greatest poems ever written in Norwegian history. It is about how Norwegians have, despite the harsh conditions of our country, clung to our land come what may.

 1. Millom Bakkar og Berg ut med Havet
heve Nordmannen fenget sin Heim,
der han sjølv heve Tufterna gravet
og sett sjølv sine Hus uppaa deim.
 2. Han saag ut paa dei steinutte Strender;
det var ingen, som der hadde bygt.
«Lat oss rydja og byggja oss Grender,
og so eiga me Rudningen trygt.»
 3. Han saag ut paa det baarutte Havet;
der var ruskutt aa leggja ut paa;
men der leikade Fisk ned i Kavet,
og den Leiken den vilde han sjaa.
 4. Fram paa Vetteren stundom han tenkte:
Giv eg var i eit varmare Land!
Men naar Vaarsol i Bakkarne blenkte,
fekk han Hug til si heimlege Strand.
 5. Og naar Liderna grønka som Hagar,
naar det laver av Blomar paa Straa,
og naar Næter er ljosa som Dagar,
kann han ingenstad vænare sjaa.

Ivar Aasen

This poem has been sung, performed and recreated in countless iterations. One of the best ones in recent history may be a TV commercial that highlights the brilliance of Norway.

As a Norwegian living abroad, celebrating for the first time in my life away from Norwegian soil, I can honestly say that I’ve never been more proud of or longed back to my country more than today.