So here I was. Back to Europe after an adventurous trip to Israel questioning myself – what next? When I discovered this A-mazing place, One World Institute.
It got everything! Studies, work, travel, volunteering in one big bundle. Moreover, it’s in Norway! One of those countries I’ve always dreamt about.
Sitting in the chair, scrolling through I started to think about how to make this happen. I had some commitments here, in Slovakia, but not that serious. It was May 2014, the spring just began. I got in touch with the institute, figured out the details and stood in front of this big decision. If I enrol to the study program, I will leave at least for two years.
It didn’t take me long. Everything just fell into place. I quit my job and my apartment. In August I was already sitting on a plane to Oslo, with two big suitcases and two backpacks – I know, hilarious. But that first time, it felt like I need all of this stuff.
There’s a first time for everything
After two hours of crying my heart out, I arrived at Gardermoen airport in the late evening. The next step was to take a train to Lillehammer, a small town some 200km northeast of the capital. The next train, though, was at seven in the morning. So it came to my first night ever spent at the airport (it sounds a bit funny to me, writing this five years later after countless sleepless nights at airports). I was so excited that even if not heavily uncomfortable in the chair and freezing because of the diligent aircon, I would probably not fall asleep anyway.
The train journey was astonishing. Norwegian nature with all its glory opened up in front of my sight. Rocky mountains, dark green forests, glancing lakes, twisting roads, meadows with wildflowers and waterfalls – it all seemed unreal, like from a postcard.
And now, when I wanted to look around and watch everything, my eyes were refusing to stay open any longer!
By any means, after two hours I was in Lillehammer – picturesque little town, which hosted the Olympic Games back in 1994, yet to discover. At this point, I realized that I didn’t have any contact for the school and was only left to the mercy that hopefully, someone was coming to pick me up. The school, you see, is located up in the mountains, another 40km away. A girl in early thirties with short blonde hair came to me, speaking Czech and invited me in her gang car, 30years old VW Caravelle. We managed to crank up the engine and off we went.
The idyllic landscape continued all the way to a tiny town of Øyer and up the zigzag road when houses started to disappear and deep green forest took over. At this point, my driver asked me if I wasn’t getting worried where she was taking me 😀 Welcome to Hornsjø, old mountainous hotel on the top of the hill, at the end of the road. Large L-shaped block of wooden buildings majestically watching over the lake – that’s where the place got its name from, ‘sjø’ in Norwegian means lake.
My driver and guide took me around the labyrinth-like corridors and rooms, introduced me to heaps of random strangers, which I wasn’t able to perceive not to remember. Gratefully entered my very own room and fell directly into bed. It was still just morning. My very first morning in Hornsjø, one of many more yet to come.
Different kind of school
This place became my basecamp and home for the upcoming three years full of travels, adventures, first-tries, learning, volunteering, meeting incredible people, discovering new horizons and changing perspectives. Also, hard work and tough times, do not misunderstand. Different kind of school, as OWI defines themselves, is not for everyone. It requires determination, endurance, cold head and warm heart, feeling for community and absolute trust in the universe.
This article is my tribute to OWI because most of the stories you will read in my blog are inseparably connected to their study programs. In those three years, I have visited European, Asian, African and American countries. Became a part of incredible projects and a unique network for life.
If you don’t know what to do with your life and can spare two years for wonder/wander, this is the place to be.
Over and over again, this was the best decision I could ever make.