Living in Norway was a fantastic experience. This was the first time I really knew what it meant to think in a global way. When we got to Norway, I went through orientation with nine other kids from all over the United States who had come to live there as well.
I had never before met anyone who lived in places such as Iowa and Indiana. Our teachers and chaperones were a married couple who were also professors from Yale. Shortly after our arrival, we met our respective families, who typically had a child around our age. The family I was placed with lived outside of Oslo, in an island community. They wanted to host an American exchange student because they wanted their children to practice speaking English. Many citizens of Scandinavian countries encourage their children to learn English as a second language, so although I didn't get to learn much Norwegian, I did get to experience their culture. It was interesting to talk to my Norwegian family, who asked me lots of questions about the Kennedys, American politics, and American opinions. This was an awakening for me because it was the first time I had stepped outside my own country as a "representative" of the United States of America. It was the first time I felt a responsibility for the way I spoke about America as an American. I wasn't sure I had all of the right answers. I hadn't spoken of these things to anyone else before this trip to Europe. But I knew the Kennedys were revered in our country, so I could easily speak to that. The world admired President and Mrs. Kennedy. It wasn't a hard sell.
I was very lucky because the family I lived with had the means to open many doors in their country, giving me the best possible exposure and experiences. My Norwegian father was a doctor, who was quite successful. His wife often took my Norwegian sister and me into Oslo to shop and sightsee. She actually knitted a beautiful Norwegian sweater and hat for me as wonderful souvenirs. She took me into Oslo to pick out the pewter buttons she later sewed on. I adored the sweater and hat so much that I still have them.
On weekends, we spent time at their home on a small island in the southern part of Norway, where dusk settles somewhere around one o' clock in the morning. Those long days of sunshine allowed for lots of outdoor living. We often took boat rides, walked around the island, picked bluebells and put them in a flower press, and enjoyed all the beauty this wonderful place had to offer.