Pernille Rudolfsen from Norway shared she has left her heart in many places around the world, but there is no place like Texas.
“The first letter in your name rhymes with our Texan sweet tea, so I’m going to call you Sweet P.”
The words my three-year-old host sister said upon first meeting me at the Austin airport will never leave my mind.
I had fearlessly embarked on my journey as an exchange student, and her enthusiasm instantly comforted me. The curiosity and wanderlust I was left with from traveling with my family around Europe was the sole reason I chose become an exchange student at the age of 16. As an exchange student, I had the chance to move to a completely new place for a year, which just happened to be Brenham, Texas.
I had the opportunity to leave my heart in many new places, and truly experience almost everything the State of Texas had to offer. I attended Brenham High School, and played for the Cubette varsity soccer team. I watched Friday night football games, and even dated a football player. I tasted ranch dressing, and ate Texas BBQ for the first time. The host family I stayed with, whom I had never known in my life, is now like a second family to me. I do not know what was more bewildering: leaving my life in Norway behind for a year, or building a brand new life I’d potentially have to leave forever.
The most unique thing about my experience was the city of Brenham and its people. I made lifetime friends there, and with its population of only 16,000, I felt, in a way, some kind of closeness to everyone. I might be big city-living as of right now, but from the bottom of my heart, I am truly a small-town girl, and Brenham showed me that. In a big city like Oslo, the current place I live and have grown up, the space and population is far too crowded to enjoy the countryside pleasures like those in Brenham. I am a believer in home being where the heart is, and I am thankful every day for being fortunate enough to have two families and two places I can call home. Stretching my boundaries and getting outside my comfort zone turned into the best decision I have ever made.
My exchange year, along with traveling since a very young age, has not only helped me grow as a person, but also made an impact on me into realizing how important education is. My educational experiences at Brenham High and the American College of Norway has shown me that I am much more comfortable and confident in the American learning environment rather than the traditional Norwegian environment. The experiences I have had all around the world have shaped me into an independent and self sufficient person.
Because of the cultured lifestyle I have been privileged to live, I believe that I currently contribute greatly to the diversity at Texas State University. I share my unique experiences with others. My goal is to encourage others to be daring and take a chance, because just like my exchange year in Texas showed me, taking chances can end up changing your life in ways you never even fathomed. It has, with no doubt, shaped me into the person I am today.
I left my heart in Texas.