Being an international student here? That’s nothing unusual, first of all. Here are many international students, especially in the master program. I think about 25 % of all students here are not from Norway. Even, if students from abroad are nothing special here, mixed classes with people with very different backgrounds and nationalities brings a unique climate into the classroom. We all have our focus and our point of view, shaped partly by our personal character, but partly also by the culture we grew up in – and bring our story with us to Norway, into the forest and the snow – to Evenstad.
After twenty years in Germany, I felt myself everything else than very german. I did not have so much sympathy with this country – which is already a typical german characteristic – I found out later.
But suddenly, outside of Germany, I felt other peoples reactions to my behaviour and views. First in Cyprus, where I spent one semester with practical work: When I got upset about plastic cups («typical german environmentalism»). When I was five minutes too early at work and waiting for the door to open («typical german»). When I got upset with children, because they were “playing” with a cat («germans and their wired relationship to animals»). Because then I was really, really german, people told me.
In Norway, things are a bit different from Cyprus for me. The cultures seem to be closer to each other and it is much easier for me. But also here, I have some moments, that make me think about my own views: In the beginning I felt very strange about the omni- presence of hunting. Coming from a curriculum, in which most of the students were vegetarians or vegans and hunters had not the best reputation, I was surprised to find such a different behavior in studies, which seemed so similar. But after a while, I could solve this riddle. Both, hunting and vegetarianism, are what follows admiration and love to nature and the distance to industrialized and harmful livestock production (This is a very, very short summary of a very, very complex topic!). But after all: Nature, the relationship to it and also being in it seems to be rougher, but not less loving.
Another funny, even famous topic (as it is treated as a subject in the book Navigating Environmental Attitudes by Tom Heberlein; also very readable if you do not study this stuff!) is catch-and-release fishing. We talked about the cultural differences that exists between Norway / America and Germany / Switzerland in one of our courses: Human Dimensions in Ecosystem Management. And also here, I was so german suddenly.
In Germany and Switzerland, catch & release is forbidden, because it is not compatible with our animal-welfare law and neither with our moral judgment, as it seems. I feel it as a useless, painful procedure, because I see the individual fish.
But when I think more or rather different about it: On the other hand, if we concentrate on viability of fish populations – yes, then it makes sense. And also from an economical point of view, when regions have their main income from fishery – it makes sense. And again: Prohibition of it and the promotion of catch and release fishing are both an outcome of an “ecological correct” intention. Good intentions can lead to very different solutions.
My conclusion here: It is good to be an exchange student anyway: To understand yourself and the influence of culture on your own personality and behaviour better. I learned to be more quiet, to wait, to observe what is around me and as well, what is within me. If you can imagine (and maybe especially, if you can’t) – maybe it’s time to get out of your city or your country for a while.
Actually, at the moment I am back in Germany to visit some spring and green grass. But I am looking forward, to come back to Norway and to Evenstad in some days.
Even if the carrots our garden produces do not feed me for too long, I like to remember them as a beautiful product of our garden from last summer. Let’s hope for a nice spring and some warm sun… for us, and the small carrots to grow again some day! 🙂
Vi sees – og ha en veldig fin påske!