9:00 06th May 2020

Going on exchange in Norway

Jemima went on her SCCE student exchange program to Norway for 3 months in October of 2019. Her story gives a wonderful idea of the adventures and emotions you can expect on your own student exchange journey! Enjoy.


Getting off the airplane in Norway for my student exchange program was so nerve-wracking! I had a bad flight that was delayed, and I felt guilty for making my new host family wait. Once I got through immigration and baggage claim I had to stand for a few minutes to collect myself and try to be calm. I had butterflies in my stomach, but I just walked out dragging my extremely overweight bag behind me and heard a little voice yell ‘Jemima’. I turned around and my family were waiting for me, massive smiles on their faces and we headed for the car. They were so welcoming and cheerful despite the fact they had already been at the airport for hours. We all had so much to learn about each other and talked all the way home.


We lived in a suburb with about 1000 people called Slevik. When I pulled into the driveway it was a literal dream, a wooden house overlooking snowy fields and other cute houses!! We had lots of surrounding land but also neighbors close by that had kids very similar age to my host siblings (who were 8 and under). It was about a 15-minute drive to the city centre where I went to school. Fredrikstad has a population of about 80,000. I was so fortunate to be placed where I was.


My family were so eager to show me around the amazing country. On my second day I got a tour of the local area, even of my school that I would go to the next day. We did a few trips to Oslo to visit the most famous sites and got some absolutely spectacular photos. Even experiencing small things like their favorite hiking tracks and restaurants added to the feeling of being ‘home’.


My host family and I did EVERYTHING together! I don’t even know how, but my family made me feel like I was one of them from the second I met them. From little things like having a responsibility to do things, but also trust to do other things made me feel like I truly was at home. We made lots of gingerbread! We made some cookies for us to take to school for recess, some for snacks at home and some for other members of the family. We even made a kangaroo! We also made a house for a Christmas party and the house was the same shape and layout as my one in Sydney!!


Hockey, as my host dad and I liked to say, was ‘interesting’. I couldn’t ice skate to save my life, but I had to learn some day! My class had chosen to do ice skating/hockey for P.E. when I arrived, so I borrowed my family skates and helmet and gave it my best shot! This was actually where I became close to my two best friends. We went to a frozen rink in the middle of the town to play.


This photo was taken in the capital Oslo, which was about 1.5 hours away from Fredrikstad where I lived. It was such great lighting and called “” from the top of Oslo Opera house, looking straight down Oslofjord. My friends and I would often travel to the big city because they had lots to do and so many shops!


I was placed in the South of Oslo near the ocean, so it was quite ‘warm’ (Norwegian warm that is!). We went to the cabin in Trysil (a mountainous region in the east of Norway) to go alpine skiing at the Christmas break. When it did snow enough, we were able to go cross country skiing in the backyard after school and in the surrounding streets as well. We would walk to the end of the road, clip into our skis and off we went!! Our expeditions ranged from 200 m to about 5 kms and it would never get boring. Whilst we were at the winter cabin, we skied for hours each day, normally from around midday to late at night. My host brother and I would swap between Cadbury Freddo frogs and Norwegians famous Kvikk Lunsj as our chocolate bar treat for halfway. We were the best skiing buddies!

Exchange student skiing in Trysil with host family


I have skied before but compared to the Norwegians I really wasn’t that great. Considering I was 16 and had been skiing for quite a few years, I did consider myself ‘good’, but this was before I went to Norway!! It was very humbling because seeing my host sister who was 4 skiing almost better than me blew me away and my 8-year-old brother was doing tricks and skiing better than most adult Australians! Nevertheless, I can definitely say I came back to Australia a much more competent skier and have my host family to thank for that.


I was able to meet up with my fellow Aussies in Abisko while I was there: Sam who was in Denmark and Yanick who was in Sweden!!! We went on an exchange student trip organised by SCCE’s partner association in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. We no joke had the best time!! We went a few days after NYE to see the northern lights, which we saw every night we were there! It was so amazing being able to see something not many 16-year-olds can say they have seen, standing with some of your best friends!


My host dad and all of us kids wanted to surprise my host mum with a Christmas tree, so we went and chopped down one ourselves!! We went for a short walk into the forest, found a perfect one, and my host brother chopped it down. With help from me, we carried it back home. The girls cut down some smaller ones to place at the front door.

Norwegians along with many Europeans celebrate Christmas on Christmas eve. We had a day of skiing, cooking and relaxing. Then at nighttime, we had a huge feast, with tons of traditional food prepared by my host dad’s parents. The celebrations went on well into the hours of the next day. Santa came to visit the kids and handed out lots of presents to everyone.

Extended family at christmas

It was a bit strange to be away from home for Christmas, but you really don’t have a lot of time to dwell on it. Although I missed my family, I knew that what I was experiencing with my new family was so special. I felt literally apart of the family, and I’m not just saying it. I got a Norweigan teddy bear and some socks and a ski band and I used all of it. The teddy bear is now on a shelf in my bedroom! Everyone thought it was pretty cool that Santa could do an Australian accent, and I found it hilarious! Both of my host parents treated me as one of their own children, I laughed, cried, talked and made just as many memories as I do with my own family.

Pictured above is my host mum’s side of the family and some very close family friends. It is tradition to wear either a red or green sweater, so we all look so cute together! My host grandmother even knitted me my own Santa hat so that I fit in with the rest of my host siblings!


This was taken when I returned home from my Christmas Day ski. I took a head torch out of the drawer, layered up and off I went. I had some music on, and it was a great time to reflect on my day and burn off some of the Christmas food!

Final night with my host family


I had to be at Oslo Airport in the early hours of the morning for my flight to Doha, so the night before we drove to my Host dad’s parent’s house in Oslo to stay the night. It was a bit frantic but the night before we left for Oslo was very special. We had a bonfire in the backyard (something we frequently did) and had hot dogs and drinks together and went back inside to watch a movie and get ready for school the next day. It wasn’t that extravagant, but the fact that it was my last routine and ‘normal’ night made me really appreciate everything about my new day to day life. It was so strange to say goodbye. My oldest host brother (8) sort of knew what was happening but the other 2 young girls thought I was coming back in a few days. It was quite sad, especially knowing that I couldn’t really explain what was happening, but I gave them some sentimental things and then they hopped off to bed.


Overall, I cannot thank SCCE enough. After being home for nearly 3 months I am so lucky to have the most vivid memories of my time on exchange. I truly won’t ever be the same again, and I can’t thank my friends and host family enough for this! I cannot recommend student exchange enough. It truly is one of the best experiences I believe anyone can have and Norway is literally the most perfect place to go!

“Go out and live the other life that is waiting for you!”

Thank you so much for sharing your adventures Jemima.

Enjoy a lifetime of special times with your new Norwegian family.

Jemima in Slevik-Fredrikstad


The experience of a lifetime

A high school exchange program is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will build your confidence and help prepare you for success in life. Please join a free Information Session Webinar and check out this short guide to help plan your exchange program abroad. Then contact our high school exchange experts to make that plan a reality.

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