Uma Subramanian, India
norsk english

Tusen Takk for a Norwegian adventure

I was one of the youngest participants from CIF India to be selected for this international fellowship. There was a lot of excitement within me because it was my first international trip, my first chance to represent my work internationally and also to learn from people who are doing some amazing work all around the world. I got selected in 2010 for the Norwegian CIF program I packed my bags, did all the research about the country and was at the airport ready to board my flight, only to realize that my first international trip was down the drain. The volcanoes erupted and the ash clouds came in my way. I was extremely disappointed and disheartened. But life came around in a full circle; I got the opportunity to go to Norway again in 2011. Once again I packed my bag, refreshed my memory about Norway and went to this beautiful country.

My Norwegian experience is something that has played an extremely important role in shaping my attitude towards my work, different cultures and people. It was an interesting group of people who participated with me in the program who had varied experiences in different fields of social work. The learning in this fellowship are far too many. I summarize my experience as an ACE experience with three learning keys:

  1. Adaptability:

    One needs to learn to adjust and adapt quickly to situations. I had to adapt to many things including the climate, the food, the language, travel rules, clothes, host families and situations. For instance there were 10 beds when we went for a cabin trip and we were eleven. That night I slept on the floor and we made a bed of cushions for me.
  2. Communication:

    It is important to be able to communicate our work, our feelings and most of all our personalities to people who are with us and around us. In this program I always told myself that I was representing the Social Work fraternity in India and Indians. Communication was the key to face the different professional and personal challenges that came about. It also helped me break barriers between people and form strong relationships with my host families.
  3. Experiential Learning:

    All my experiences from childhood, India and social work played a very important role in ensuring that I completed this fellowship successfully. As human beings we sometimes tend to forget that experiential knowledge is the key to success for most of the situations that we face in life. There are certain things that are not taught to us in classrooms but these things are perhaps some of the important lessons of life.

    The visits to organizations and lectures at the Oslo University College gave me a complete perspective of the Norwegian Social Welfare system and its policies. I was aware that some of the things that were being implemented in Norway were impossible to replicate in India, however it was a benchmark and an ideal which I would aspire to achieve in my country.

    The 17th May celebrations in Norway were a pleasure to watch. I almost felt a part of Norway, the pride and enthusiasm shown by Norwegians was infectious. The highlight of my trip was meeting my host families. I miss them a lot and even today we are in regular touch. I got to learn so much about Norway and its culture. I got a complete Norwegian experience when I stayed with my host families and they played a very important role in this fellowship.

    I miss Norway and will visit my friends again. The people of Oslo and their warmth is something that made me survive some of the cold days. I enjoyed the bread and cheese, the black coffee, taking the ferry to the college, sharing experiences about India, cooking for my host families and most of all understanding that human beings are all the same across the world.

    Tusen Takk to CIF for giving me this life changing experience.