Phase one - preparing and getting things ready

I emailed back with this lady from Aspect for a few weeks before I recieved the paperwork in the mail - 15 pages of release forms, personal information, rules that needed to be understood and signed and everything in between, Holy cow, I thought, but after a while I realised that this wasn't that bad. Since I live in the northern part of Norway, far from most people and offices we couldn't meet and we had to do a phone interview.

The program fee was a little high - about $8000. When I applied I had no idea where I was going to get that kind of money from, considering I had about $500 on my accout. My parents were kind enough to add that to the house loan, since I was 17 and couldn't get a loan myself. The Norwrgian government has a student loan foundation where kids who gets the year approved as a year in school here (don't have to repeat it) can get a scholarship to cover most of it, but I went to a vocational high school and my year wouldn't get approved.

My soon to be hostfamily visited us in April, the reason was my grandfather being very ill but he died right after they arrived. It took me a good month or two to recover and I didn't focus too much on my exchange. My grandfather lived with us for a while in february when my grandma was sick and we would often sit together and talk over coffee. He said he was excited and happy for me, but a little worried since his youngest son Eivind (my uncle/hostdad) went over there on an exchange and married a local girl there. And also since the US isn't the safest place on the planet. Oh those protective grandparents, hehe. I promised him I'd be careful.

Then there was the visa application process. Because of 9/11 the rules had been changed, and everyone over 17 years of age had to go down to Oslo and be interviewed in person. I went down in the middle of May, the flight from Narvik to Oslo is about 1.5 hours. It was one isane day.....

I had emailed the embassy and scheduled a meeting, and they said your interview is at 11, you should be there 20-30 minutes prior for the security check. I took the earliest flight and left Narvik at 5 in the morning. I'd been to Oslo once 8 years ago, and with the good help of a map I managed to get from the airport to the city and locate Aspect's office. There I was surprised with an English language test. It took about an hour and a half, and was rather silly in my opinion. When it was almost 1030 Nina walked me down the street to the Embassy. There was a bunch of people waiting in line outside and I understood quickly that I'd be standing in line way past 11:00....

It was 1130 when I was in the first security check to get inside the fence! There I was in line for another hour before I got inside the house. I met a girl from the philiphines who was standing right behind me and we got to know each other quite a bit. After one last security check where they took away everything but my application and passport I was let in the house where I waited another half hour. First they took all my papers and asked me to sit again. Everything was so strict and when a lady called my name I was starting to get a little nervous. She spoke english and I was a little rusty which was no fun. But she was very nice and made me feel so relaxed (thank god, I needed that after the mess earlier today). They didn't like the picture I'd taken myself (and cut down to fit all the requirements) and I had to run down to a special photographer and take a new one. I also had to send my parents tax report, the one I already had wasn't enough. So I ran down and took the picture, and ran up again and gave it to one of the guards with a machine gun. The rest I was going to fax. It was past 1430 when I left the embassy. 4 stressing hours, gaaah. I hadn't ate since 430 and I was so hungry.

After all that stress it was nice with a walk in the sunlight, I'd also never seen much of the capital and I like seeing new places. I had about an hour of exploring before I started to look for this church where there was an exchange meeting I was going to attend. I found it without getting lost (go me). There was about 40 other kids there, all from the Oslo area. All of them were college-prep students who wouldn't have to repeat the year so I felt a little like an outsider, hehe. There was a girl who went to California and a guy who went to Australia and they talked about their experiences. Afterwards there were food and we got a present - a big Aspect backpack. I had to put my little backpack inside the big one and run for the airport after a while. I found the trainstation but couldn't find the ticket automat at first. It was starting to get late, my plane left in under an hour, I was exhausted and whiny and I just wanted to go home damnit! I ended up paying twice the price for an adult ticket but I was too grumpy to care. Of course I had the gate at the very end of the terminal and the flight was delayed. Perfect. I got home, and at 02:30 I crawled into bed, thank god tomorrow was a saturday! Today I am still proud of myself for staying calm that day.

I got my visa 3 weeks later, it came in a sealed envelope and to avoid crap with the immigration I left it that way even though I was desperate to see what it looked like.

In May I heard about a company that needed extra workers for the summer, and I got hired. I worked 40h a week all summer + extra shifts and made what to me was a buttload - $6000 in 2 months. That was going to be my pocketmoney when I was in Lynnwood. I was done with work one week before I left Norway, and I spent that last week saying goodbye to family and friends, packing my room into boxes (my sisters were stealing my room when I was gone) and trying to fit everything into the suitcase. There was just enough time, and no room for air in my suitcase when I was done. My flight to the US was early in the morning on august 24th, and I left Narvik the night before. I was too excited to cry at the airport, but my family cried a little. I'm the first born and I wasn't just leaving the nest, I was also leaving the country.

part 2 - arriving and settling in