Exchange student Pernille Rudolfsen throwing the signature Texas State hand signals. Photo courtesy of Pernille Rudolfsen.

The first letter in your name rhymes with our Texan sweet tea, so I’m going to call you Sweet P. ”

“The first letter in your name rhymes with our Texan sweet tea, so I’m going to call you Sweet P.” These are the words my 3-year-old host sister said upon first meeting me at the Austin airport, never to 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 growing up traveling with my family around Europe was the sole reason I chose to become an exchange student at the age of sixteen, and how I ended up coming back to pursue a bachelor’s degree in public relations at Texas State.

Not only have I had the opportunity to leave my heart in many new places and truly experience almost everything the state of Texas has to offer, but it has made me realize how important technological communication is in our diverse world.

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 attended Brenham High School and played for the Cubette varsity soccer team. I watched Friday night football games and dated a football player. I tasted ranch dressing and ate Texas barbecue for the first time.

The host family I stayed with, whom I did not know before, is now like a second family to me. I did not know what was more bewildering, leaving my life in Norway behind for a year, or building a brand new life I would potentially have to leave forever.

However, the most unique thing about my experience was the city of Brenham and its people. I made lifetime friends there, and with a population of sixteen thousand, I felt some kind of closeness to everyone. From the bottom of my heart, I am truly a small-town girl.

In a big city like Oslo, Norway, where I grew up, the space and population is far too crowded to enjoy the countryside pleasures like those in Texas. I am a believer in home being where the heart is, and I am thankful every day for being fortunate enough to have two places I can call home. Stretching my boundaries and getting outside my comfort zone turned in to the best decision I have ever made.

As I furthered my journey back to the U.S. for a bachelor’s degree, I developed a passion for expressing myself creatively through my public relations major and sought out opportunities to develop my marketing skills.

Texas State has opened doors to several opportunities for me, including an internship. Because of the cultured lifestyle I have been privileged to live, I believe I contribute greatly to the diverse community in San Marcos. I want to share my unique experiences with others and believe I do so best at Texas State.

Above all, I hope 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 to be the person I am today.

After undergraduate school, my goal is to become a PR or marketing coordinator for businesses in the Austin area, as to grow and further develop my marketing and communication skills. Working closely with the wonderful professors at Texas State these past three years has not only given me hands-on PR insight, but the reassurance of my career goals for the future.

I believe being bilingual will be a positive trait to have in our diverse society, and home being where the heart is. Stretching my boundaries and getting outside my comfort zone turned into the best decision I have ever made, and I desire nothing more than to further my career in the U.S.

I left my heart in Texas.

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