Have you ever wondered how it feels to go to a foreign country, without knowing anyone there or the country itself?
In St. Hanshaugen student homes we meet Silvia I. Reyna Rickert. She prefers "Sil", because in Argentina it is much more common to have nicknames. She is nothing but a great, big smile when she meets us outside the elevator. She has prepared coffee and cookies in her room.
Easiest in English
She has been in Oslo since February last year, and she has made great progress in learning Norwegian. We do the interview in English, because it can be difficult to explain complicated things in Norwegian.
-I had heard of the country, but I didn't really know anything. But then I applied for a three month long scholarship, and was chosen to go. I remember the first time here being pretty much nothing but school work. With all the new impressions I got everyday, I tired easily. Simple things like surfing on Norwegian websites, and watching Norwegian television took a lot of concentration. Also, it was really cold. I had to wear a lot of clothes, and everything took so much more time, she says.
"What am I doing here?"
The girl is from Buenos Aires and she has long, dark hair and a skin colour most Norwegians would die for at this time of year. Her big, blue-green eyes, her great, white smile and her dark features tells us she is Latin-American. She admits to missing her country sometimes.
-Of course, I miss my family and friends. When you arrive at a new place it takes time to build relationships of trust like the ones you have with your childhood friends at home. Some days are tough and I ask myself "What am I doing here?". But you get through it. After those three months, I had to decide if I wanted to stay longer. That turned out to become a really stressful time for me. One day, I just started crying in the street. It felt like my chest was going to explode, and I freaked out because of all the stress. My Norwegian friend, Miriam, who has a studied in Argentina earlier, helped my through it. She gave me a hug and told me it would be easier after six months. It was still hard after that incident, but after a while things started going upwards. It takes time to adjust to a new environment, and I'm a person who never quits something halfway through. If I start a project, I have to finish it before I can start a new one.
She tells us about herself with an open heart. She has noticed some culture differences between Norway and Argentina.
-In Argentina it is common to talk a lot, and explain more deeply when someone asks you something. Many Norwegians are more reserved. I have noticed that some Norwegians get a little annoyed when I talk so much, she laughs.
We ask if she has had any funny experiences related to language or culture differences. She leans back, obviously searching her memory. She puts her hair behind her shoulders and lets it down her back.
-Yes, no, I shouldn't say this... There are some words in Norwegian, that means something completely different in Spanish. The adjective "pene" for example. In Spanish that means "penis", she says with a smile.
She mentions that she also mix up Norwegian and French sometimes, because she has had four years of french in school, and she finds the languages to be quite similar. It annoys her when she speaks Norwegian and they switch to English when they hear she is not fluent.
-It is just by speaking the language I will get better. But I've learned some tricks, for example I just keep speaking Norwegian, even though the other person speaks English to me.
She has just turned in her masters in International Social Welfare and Health Politics. She is also an accountant, and she worked two years accounting, before she came to Norway. She works part-time in a cleaning business, but now she is looking for a full-time job in her field. Sil is not sure what her plans are for the future, but she does not rule out staying in Norway.
-I don't know where I'll be in five or ten years, but I am 27 years old, and I have to start thinking about settling down. If I meet the right guy, I don't mind staying in Norway. But I have to have the opportunity to go home to Argentina and visit my family and friends occasionally. Or else, it won't work, she adds.
Before we leave, Sil shows us around the student home. She shares a kitchen and three bathrooms with 15 other people, many of them are international students. It is a little worn, but it has its charm. Out on the terrace there is a fantastic view of the city. We thank her so much for letting us come visit, and Sils smile is just as big while we wave goodbye and the elevator door close in front of us.
Written (and translated from Norwegian to English) by Hildegunn Fallang.
Published in the student magazine ERGO April 2011.
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