picture this: i decide last-minute to attend one of the admitted student previews at the state university. my helicopter parents unexpectedly dropped me off rather attend with me as they usually do, and i learn for myself just how daunting large, foreign campuses are. as someone renown for having no sense of direction, i’m surprised i didn’t get lost.
i guess i haven’t had all that many opportunities in my life to wander in unfamiliar spaces by myself, so this was surely a reality check for me. ironically, for such a large school, i felt much lonelier than i did when touring smaller colleges. everyone had places to be and no way to notice that i was a complete stranger unsure of which panels to attend and how to find them. the seattle freeze truly decorates this part of town.
so, because i didn’t want to stand around clearly unsure of myself, i hurried into the nearest information session marked on my map: scandinavian studies. i quickly found myself in an empty, deserted hallway, with only a small table overflowing with biscuits and punch illuminated under a dim, florescent light – kind of like an ominous spotlight. then, out of nowhere, adults came flooding out of the doors and ushered me into a little chair by the biscuit table, pushing the snacks my way. was i at grandma’s?
a certain koselig hygge, or homely and comforting warmth, emerged from this little hallway, despite being encircled by the entire faculty of the scandinavian studies department – most of whom were of course, very tall and if male, then bearded. i appreciated how, these people immediately shattered the seattle freeze (is that why we call it breaking the ice?), and immediately engaged me in conversation about vikings and their study abroad experiences when they were students. they welcomed the nervous norwegian sentences i put together for them (imagine if i went to the slavic languages department instead, oh god), and i truly realized how valuable language is in building instant connections with people. you could say these professors were just eager to transform me into a norwegian major, but when someone speaks your language – one that you can’t use with many others – it feels like being in an exclusive club with them. well, except that club is an emotionally-packed, all-inclusive package of memories and deeper homely (and sometimes political) sentiments. even though norwegian is not at all one of my first languages and is especially nerve-wracking to speak in front of world-renown experts in the language, i felt like we could relate and understand each other on a greater level. we shared interests, knowledge, and annoyances at strange grammatical rules. that’s something i need more of.
although i’m still undecided as to where to attend this fall, i know a few things for sure: i need to continue studying and refining my other language skills, and i should start extending more hygge on my own. i’m on a path to meeting more people and having to break much, much more ice, and using language will be so useful in finding or founding my next community.