Monday, August 17, 2015

Everything comes to an end.

Hello again!

Wow, it's been a while since I have written for this blog. This is a quick update about what is going on in my life now. I have returned to the United States and have been back for roughly two months and boy am I missing Norway, but I am also glad to be back with my family in the US and with my friends. I just wanted to let you guys know that although I won't be blogging anymore, I still continue with my vlogs on my youtube channel and if you'd be interested in checking that out, the link is:

If you want to keep up with my videos, just hit the subscribe button and you'll be notified every time a new video is put up.

Thanks for following me during my exchange year and I hope you enjoyed reading about the experience as much as I enjoyed having it :)


Ethan Block

Monday, April 6, 2015

Bergen Trip


So I have finally gotten around to writing about my not-so-recent trip to Bergen, Norway. I have been meaning to write a new blog post about it and have been reminded multiple times by people that I need to write again, so here I am.

During winter vacation I joined my host grandfather and host uncle on a road trip across southern Norway and the final destination was Bergen. The trip from Halden took about ten or eleven hours of driving before arriving at the place we would be staying for the duration of the trip.

Day One

We started driving around 8 or 9 if I remember right. During the trip we stopped multiple times to take photos or stop to get something to eat. We finally arrived in Bergen when the sun had set and it was night time.

Some photos from the drive:

[Some kind of snowboard-parachuting thing?]

Day Two

On the second day, we woke up and went out to explore the city.

[Yum :P]

[Had to...]

Day Three

On the third day, we began our journey back to Halden.

[Life in the fjord]

[A brewery]

[Norsk Stavkirke]

And that was the trip. I had an awesome time, and if anyone reading this has the opportunity to go to Bergen, do it. It is a beautiful city (when it isn't raining :P)

I also uploaded a video to youtube about my trip to Bergen:

Ethan Block

-Stay tuned for my next blog post about Easter break, coming soon!-

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Hey guys,

The last weekend has been filled with wonderful people, cold weather and a ski trip! This last weekend we attended the AFS Mid-Year Stay Camp (Midtårsopphold) and met with all of the other exchange students in Region One again. This camp marks the halfway point of the year, so essentially it is a camp of mixed feelings. You begin to think about thinks like "I'll be back in my home country in like 5 months." and depending on the person, that can be a good or bad thing. Maybe even both?

I miss the United States a lot, but realizing that I only have five months of my life in Norway can be depressing at times and for those exchange students who are reading this, just make the most out of those five months. The next AFS camp is the end of the year camp in June, which I'm sure will be full of mixed emotions.

Now on to Midtårsopphold!

-Fredag 30. Januar-

I went to school today, but only for a few hours. Thankfully my host mother came to my school to pick me up and brought my luggage and ski's along with. Then I met Time at the train station before our train left from Halden to Oslo.

When we arrived in Oslo, after the train picked up the other students in my local chapter (AFS Østfold #Represent) I of course had to get my Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks, duhhh. At Oslo Sentralstasjon, we met the other students that needed to take the train from Oslo to Hamar, and then we took the train from Oslo to Hamar... selvføgelig :P

[#Mexico and #USA]

Arriving in Hamar, we took a three hour bus trip to the Leirskole we would be staying at for the next two nights.

When we arrived at Gudbrandsdal Leirskole, it was dark out, and really cold. We went inside, did some stuff, ate some food and hung out with each other for the night. It was great to see everyone together again.

I'm also happy that they had electricity and working showers. :)

- Lørdag 31. Januar -

Waking up at 8am wasn't my original plan, but I guess it had to be. Take a hot shower, get ready and breakfast at 9... (The staff came around about every 15-20 minutes to re-wake us up after 8:00 haha)

Finally coming out of the rooms and seeing how beautiful our surroundings were was awesome. We had a full day ahead of us!

There were these, well, interesting 'energizer' games we played and around noon I believe is when we started our ski trip. We could choose between a shorter trip or a longer trip, the short trip being a few kilometers and the longer one supposedly being between 5 and 10 kilometers. The AFS volunteers suggested that the ones who have gone Cross Country Skiing at least twice before should take the long trip, otherwise should take the short trip. But, if you know me, you know I was thinking YOLO. (I haven't been twice before, oops!).

Needless to say, I fell down in a few different ways. Namely the one time where I was going too fast downhill (saying Wohoo!), seeing the other AFS students on the road to the left of me and realizing, "Oh, I didn't think this turning part out... crap." and ended up going on the road straight ahead, trying to stop and failing miserably ending up in a, what felt to me like a face plant, haha. Yolo right?

Anyway, the trip turned out to be somewhere between 16 and 20 kilometers (Between 10 and 12 miles), because we were led onto a path that took quite a bit longer than expected... but I don't and will never regret taking it. The view was breathtaking and we did it together.

[Lunsj pause]
[Lunch break]

We ended up getting back to the leirskole quite later than expected, and we received our mini Kvikk Lunsj chocolates (of course) to regain some calories. I put my ski's away and took an warm and refreshing shower after.

We then had group time and some free time. They even have a disco ball! The evening was full of sitting around tables and talking, listening to music and occasionally getting up and some fun and funny :) dancing!

Sadly, this was the last night of the camp though.

- Søndag 1. Februar -

We woke up. (8:00 again) and went through the morning ritual. After breakfast we spent the rest of the time we had together cleaning the rooms, in our small groups, doing some energizers and spent about an hour of free time together before we left on the bus.

[And instantly becoming a model.]

After packing everything and finding our seats on the bus (and me forgetting my camera and ski shoes, luckily as I'm going out of the bus to run inside and get them, someone is bringing them out!), we took about 2.5 hours to go down the mountain to Hamar train station. The bus ride was mainly listening to good music, playing cards, eating candy, enjoying the view and just spending time with each other. (Also searching for any moose that might be near the road!)

Well, we arrived safely in Hamar and got on our train. The train was full with people though, so most of us ended standing for the two hours from Hamar to Oslo Sentralstasjon. Again, I got Starbucks :P and after spending time with a friend, made it to my Oslo-Halden train with about 5 minutes before it left, yep! 

All in all, I think it was a nice camp, definitely could have been longer but I appreciated the time I did get to spend with my sometimes/most-of-the-time crazy, fun, intercultural family of AFS students.

[The fam]

I'm a changed person because of these wonderful people and I can't imagine not knowing everyone I've come to know throughout this entire roller-coaster of an exchange year.


"The travel impulse is a mental and physical curiosity. It's a passion and I can't understand people who don't want to travel." -Paul Theroux

Sunday, January 18, 2015

10 Ways Studying Abroad Changes You


This post is for anyone who is looking to become an exchange student, is an exchange student or just anyone who loves to experience the spectacular world around them. I've compiled a list of 10 ways that studying abroad can change you, and hopefully it encourages more people to take the leap into an amazing adventure.

1. You learn that bravery isn't the half of it.

Whether you're boarding the plane to go or just living in your host country it can be common to hear people saying how brave you are for going on exchange. While it definitely takes a degree of courage to get on that plane in the first place and leave your comfortable and familiar life behind to make a new life, bravery is only like 1/5 of the equation. The rest is the need to travel and the need to experience a new culture. That's the other 4/5 of it. You really have to want it with your whole heart.

2. Your confidence level soars.

Leaving your comfort zone, leaving your family and friends back in your home country and having to adapt to a completely new culture and completely new way of life makes your confidence go through the roof. At first, you're a little shy but when you learn the language, learn the culture and learn how to live in the host country you'll be more confident than ever because you have to meet new people, you have to ask for help and you have to grow in order to survive.

3. Normal does not exist.

What you think is normal can be completely different than what is normal in another culture. When you go abroad, you learn what is normal in your host country. You learn to realize that normal isn't really even a thing. Every culture is unique, every person is unique. No one is normal, we only think that things are normal because they are familiar to you. What is familiar to you though, is not familiar to another person.

4. You get the travel bug, and you'll never be the same.

Once you get a taste of traveling and immersing yourself into a new culture, you'll never go back. You'll always have the urge to get out of your comfort zone, the urge to dive right into a culture that is unusual to you, to walk in someone else's shoes and survive. There's no getting rid of it.

5. You find things that tourists don't.

Yes, there is a difference between being a tourist and being a traveler. A tourist spends a week or two in a city seeing the sights while a traveler immerses themselves into new cultures and learns what it's like to be a member of that culture. They stay more than a few weeks and see things that tourists do not. They see how people go about daily life and they learn the culture and beliefs of that country. They are observers. When you study abroad, you find things in your host city that normal tourists wouldn't find. That nice coffee shop on the corner that serves the best americano or the shop owner just trying to make ends meet.

You learn to see a country by it's people and not by it's representatives like we so often do.

6. Your personality will change.

Sure you seem the same on the outside, but inside you change so much. Learning to be independent, building the courage required to survive in difficult situations and learning the beliefs of another culture. You're beliefs will most likely change while abroad, you'll see the world in a different light and you'll have more patience and tolerance for the people around you.

7. Studying abroad makes you smarter.

You learn to be flexible, you learn to adapt and you learn to become a new person. Essentially when you're on exchange, you're building a new life from scratch. No one knows you from before, everyone you meet is new. Studying abroad makes you a better problem solver and makes you more creative, studies show.

8. You appreciate what you have.

After being away for a year, you appreciate the days you have with your family and friends. Even during the year, the limited time you have with these friends in your host country is valuable to you. That passes over when you return home. You learn that it's better to spend money on experiences rather than objects. Items will break eventually and leave your life whereas experiences will be with you forever.

9. Your expectations of a place completely change.

For example, before I came to Norway I had many different expectations. Of course, before I came I researched a little bit, so I knew that it was an expensive and safe country, but I still believed that the Norwegian people were cold, they were different than most people I knew from the USA and I thought that everywhere in Norway had a lot of snow all the time during the winter. Well when I arrived here, I realized that when you get to know a Norwegian, they can be very caring people... even more than some Americans. They're not so different than people I know in the US. Where I live in Norway, we barely had snow... right now there isn't snow on the ground and it was raining yesterday...

10. Life is too short not to live.

Most people think that they'll get a job, make enough money so they can enjoy life when they're older. I don't know how anyone believes that's the way to live life, because it isn't... Sure, try to get a steady income and try to keep your head above water. Basically what I'm trying to say is do what you love to do instead of doing work you dislike. Live your life.

Well that was a deep article to write :P

All of it is true, which is why I encourage everyone to study abroad. When you first tell people you're going to study abroad, some people will tell you "You're going to miss a year of your life if you go." That isn't true, you don't miss a year in your life, you gain a life in a year.


Ethan Block