A letter to my past self the day before I left to study abroad

Hello there, Eva. This is your future self. It’s January 7th, 2019. Tomorrow, January 8th, 2009 you will leave for your study abroad experience in Oslo, where you will stay until the end of June. This is not your first time abroad, nor is this your first time in Norway. But this is the first time you’re going to live on your own. Tomorrow you’ll be officially moving out of your parents’ house and starting a new temporary life in a different country. And this is going to be one of the greatest adventures of your life.

Oslo nordmarka from Kringsjå
The view from my room in Oslo.
walking on a frozen lake
My first time walking on a frozen lake. Many more will follow. Oslo, January 2009.

Everybody says that studying abroad changes you, you’ve heard this so many times. Yet it’s always hard to understand how much of an impact such an experience can make on your life. Everybody comes back from their study abroad experience enriched – everyone in their own way. You can’t even imagine how much you’ll grow over the next six months. Yet so many of the things that will matter in your life 10 years from now will find their roots during your study abroad experience. You’ll plant so many seeds during your Oslo days. Some will sprout pretty soon, others will take years. All will lead back to sometime during the adventure you’re about to begin.

In a matter of days you’ll start a course in Postcolonial Literature. You’ll fall hard for the subject. So much that next year you will move to Pisa to do a Master’s in Translation of Postcolonial English Literature. This Master’s will give you a chance to do an internship in Toronto – yes, a year and a half from now you’ll be working in Canada. You will consider taking a PhD many times but you will never really feel like applying. What you will do will be to enroll in another Masters – in African Studies – after 2 years working a corporate job and feeling so brainless you’ll need to go back to school to feel alive again. Your love for languages and Germanic philology will of course never really fade either.

uppsala runestone
Posing with a runestone. Sweden, 2009.
Öland runestone Karlevi
Posing with a runestone. Sweden, 2014.

Those six months living on your own you will discover your love for cooking. In a couple of weeks a Korean girl will move into your apartment and you will forever be fascinated and inspired by her meals. Apart from the Korean girl you’ll share the kitchen with people from Bulgaria, Russia, China, Norway and Burundi – one of them being vegan! – you’ll learn where all the ethnic shops in Oslo are located and your diet will forever change. Of course you will also be the official pusher of Italian meals to all your friends. A year from now you’ll bake your first cake, two years from now you’ll sell one for the first time. During your stay in Oslo the foreign student magazine will publish one of your recipes. Sometime in 2015 you’ll start a food blog.

moose cookies
Probably the first batch of cookies I ever baked. Oslo, 2009.

The University of Torino helped you learn the basics in Danish and Norwegian and you’ll passionately try to get better at Norwegian those six months. Life is strange and it takes many turns and 10 years from now you’ll end up being fluent in… Swedish! Of all the Scandinavian languages you’ll end up owning the only one you gave up back then – sorry Danish and Norwegian! 5 years from now, while studying Swedish you’ll see how Norwegian will wonderfully resurface in your brain and you’ll be amazed by how much you had actually learned back then and how powerful your A2 knowledge of the Norwegian language actually was.

Yeah, by the way, you’ll be fluent in Swedish because you’ll be living in Sweden. In 2014 your dream to move to Scadinavia for good will finally come true. Because of course in 6 months you will come home longing to go back. Everybody does. You go study abroad and you come back wishing you were still there. Yet it will not be Oslo – neither will it be Norway – the place in Scandinavia where you will choose to live. At the time of your Erasmus application there were three options in Scandinavia: Oslo in Norway, Copenhagen in Denmark and Falun in Sweden. You’ve chosen Oslo, and picked Copenhagen as reserve. Because you studied Danish and Norwegian, it only made sense. Sweden didn’t make it to your choice of destination. But life is strange, so strange that 10 years from now it is that third option, Falun, the place you will call home.

summer light oslo sognsvann
Where I learned to love both winter darkness and summer light. Oslo, June 2009.

You will want to move back to Scandinavia, but life will have other plans before you’ll make it. There are other cities you will call home before you make it to Sweden. You’ll move to Pisa for a year. Then you’ll jump across the pond and spend three months in Toronto and three months in New York. Insane, eh? It will take less than a couple of months from your return to Europe and you’ll be moving again: to Krakow, your mother’s birthplace and second home. You will get a job there and you’ll move there thinking of making enough money to escape to Australia as soon as possible. But life will have other plans. In Krakow you’ll meet your future husband, he’ll follow you to all your trips to Scandinavia until one day he’ll decide to move there with you. This is how the two of you will end up in Falun.

Yes, husband. You will tie the knot in Stockholm. It will be a civil ceremony at the Stockholm City Hall, followed by an informal reception where people from 4 continents will attend. This will once more show you that distance is just a number and human relationships can truly defy borders and oceans. This will be the greatest lesson you’ll learn in Oslo and you’ll cry with joy seeing how this will be true on your wedding day.

stockholm wedding photo
Our wedding in Stockholm

 

After all, you’ve been brought up in a multi-cultural family. You’ve learned at a young age that home can be anywhere and that distance doesn’t make family ties and friendships fade. You’ll cherish the fact that you live in a time when your parents are just a Skype call away and so are your friends. You will also learn that this doesn’t work for everybody, some people need physical presence to maintain a relationship. You’ll see people come and go but there will still be some whom you’ll still call friends (or sister) even if you only see them every bunch of years.

Actually, it is during your Oslo days that you’ll learn to break distances. You’ll find your ways to make travel affordable and you will start exploring the world. Something you had never really been able to afford, travel will become part of your lifestyle more than you can even imagine. You will find people to travel with and you will travel alone and you will love every moment of it. It is through travel that you will feel at your most powerful, and you’ll bless the day you decided to make the study of the English language your utmost priority in life. You’ll set foot in 30 countries before you turn 30.

Solo travelling and loving it. Chicago O’Hare airport after a sleepless night, 2012. Sorry for being an instagram wh*re before instagram was even a thing.
Another one of those shots that would have looked great on my instagram if I had had instagram back then. Bergen, 2009.

Those six months in Oslo will make you want to move often and you will. You will get to meet a new side of yourself in every new city you’ll call home. At every move you will be eager to get to know your new personality and you will hold those selves dear. Every new beginning a new style, a new language. Deep down you will always be yourself, getting older and wiser every time you’ll start anew. There will always be your camera in your suitcase, and you’ll always cook for someone. That’s what you are, what you’ve always been deep down. One day your photos and your food will make someone fall in love with you.

Looking back at the past 10 years of your life you’ll often wonder if this all would have happened if you had never signed up for that study exchange opportunity, if you had never boarded a plane to Oslo that 8th of January. Life is strange and it makes many turns, yet so many of the life choices you made were somehow influenced by those 6 months spent in Oslo.

eva in oslo
22 years old, my Oslo self.
eva in california
25 years old, my north American self.
eva in krakow
27 years old, my Polish self.

Tomorrow you will be starting the biggest adventure of your life and that adventure will not be over the moment you’ll board your plane back to Italy. It will seem like the best thing that’s ever happened to you, yet trust me the best is yet to come. Thank you for making this huge life choice and allowing yourself to grow beyond any expectation.

With much gratitude,

Your 2019 self. Older, wiser, with 3 Master’s degrees, married and just a bunch of months away from being eligible for her third citizenship.

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