In an average high schooler’s life, one is hard pressed to find a sense of unity anywhere. Yet, that is exactly what I found during my three weeks at an international camp in Norway. In a rural village outside of Oslo, I found “Norgesskolen,” my home for the next three weeks.
By Luke McGinty
[Editor’s note: This article was written before the tragic events last month in Norway.]
In an average high schooler’s life, one is hard pressed to find a sense of unity anywhere. Yet, that is exactly what I found during my three weeks at an international camp in Norway. In a rural village outside of Oslo, I found “Norgesskolen,” my home for the next three weeks. There, I met others who would live in the giant farmhouse with me, and become my friends. Kids from 8 to 18 came from all over the world — Canada, Mexico, Texas, and all corners of Europe — to learn about Norwegian language and culture.
The thing that really brought us together wasn’t a Norwegian class, or a poorly conceived team-building exercise, but soccer. When I first brought up the soccer field at the edge of our campus, I got nothing but blank stares. Then they realized that I was talking about “football”. I soon learned to call a soccer field a “football pitch”. No matter where they were from, everyone knew how to play soccer. We Americans did seem to be at a slight disadvantage. When we started to play that first game, I got a taste of how things would be for the next three weeks. We learned to work as a team.
When our first Norwegian lesson came around, I had plenty of support as I struggled to grasp the most basic of concepts. I did get better at speaking the language, although that’s probably because I couldn’t get much worse. To be honest, I hadn’t really been expecting to get much better, or to learn anything at all. I didn’t count on the effectiveness of an immersion camp. Even though all of the kids spoke English, the counselors pretended that they didn’t. It was hard not to pick up some Norwegian.
I met some very interesting people at Norgesskolen. Eric from Canada played hockey, and had an irrational fear of beavers. Caspar and Karl were brothers from Germany, but they were as different as any two kids could be. Caspar always talked about getting into fights, while Karl was a perpetually happy vegetarian. Emil from France spoke the best English of anyone from France, and we still called him “Frenchie”. There was a girl from Ireland named Signe who was an amazing dancer and had a really great sense of humor. My point is, these people from all over the world weren’t the same, but they weren’t so different either. It didn’t seem there was any reason why we couldn’t all get along.
Then, before I knew it, my three weeks were over.
My last day at Norgesskolen was one of the saddest days in my life. I had to say goodbye to all the friends I’d made and grown close to in a short span of time. Some of them would be coming back to camp next year, others wouldn’t. It was unlikely I’d ever see most of them again. I would never again share a meal or a laugh with the people who had taught me how bad I am at soccer.
Before I boarded my shuttle to the airport I walked once more through our fields and around our little pond. I had learned a lot in those three weeks, but not just about Norway. n The author will be a Rye High School sophomore this fall. This is his first article for the paper.