A Nordic Adventure: Arriving in Norway

 

When I finally arrived in Norway after months of research and excitement I realised three things very quickly. These were that; yes, there are teslas everywhere, yes, basically everyone speaks flawless English, and yes, everything really is that expensive. But as I spent 3 days exploring the Nordic capital Oslo, attempting to put my duo lingo to use I knew exchange in Norway was about to be one of, if not the most incredible thing I have ever done.

Oslo is a beautiful and exciting city but after months of build-up and a month of living out of a backpack, I was so ready to finally start my exchange. So it wasn’t an issue to wake up at 4 am on pick up day to catch my bus down south to Norway’s 5th biggest city, Kristiansand, home of Universitet i Agder (UiA) and my home for the next four months!

The bus ride through Norway’s famed countryside only continued to add to my excitement. On arrival in Kristiansand ‘buddies’ from the Erasmus student network were there to greet me and drive me to my accommodation. They set me up with my welcome pack promising a full schedule of social events and university orientation. And full hardly begins to describe the first two weeks.

From dinners and hikes to festivals and house parties, study start weeks could not have set me up for a better semester and I don’t believe a place have made me feel more welcome. Before I arrived I had a few concerns when I realised really how small Kristiansand and UiA are in comparison to Brisbane and QUT, but these concerns have not arisen since being here. In fact, despite being expensive, Kristiansand is the ideal student town. Tight-knit with small-town charm but all the necessities of a student city. In fact, Norway is said to be one of the most student-friendly countries in the world. Meal deals across town, free entry days to the local galleries, museums and even the water park as well as free student cruise trips to Denmark. These are just a few of the things a student card can get you in Kristiansand.

So far Norway has offered a very different university experience but it one I am so excited to experience fully. The people I have met in just the first few weeks already offer me new perspectives and I believe I have already learned and grown so much! I am so excited for what is in store for the rest of my Nordic adventure.

 

 

 

9 Time Zones and 16,000 km ~ One Very Long Trip to Oslo

Sarah Yates
Bachelor of Engineering (Medical)
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim (S2, 2018)

I had great intentions about publishing this as soon as I arrived in my now home city of Trondheim. I honestly which I could say it was because I’ve been, you know, working really hard and applying myself at uni. Sadly the last two months of near constant climbing and hiking and cabin trips may have distracted me from actually writing anything! Such a shame. 😂

I’m not sure I really understood just how far Norway is until I spent nearly 30 hours trying to get there. International plane travel is an excellent opportunity to overthink how many times it is socially acceptable to try and get out of your seat in one trip. Once an hour? Every five hours? What’s the go here? I’m still confused.

My sister and I had to resort to using an ad to get that perfect insta background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had the opportunity to use my really good***** Norwegian within about 5 minutes of touching down in Oslo, as I needed to find the flytoget (airport train!) and the only helpful stranger I spoke to was probably the only non-English speaking resident of the whole city. With an embarrassing amount of sign language and a bizarre hybrid of English and Norwegian, this nice old man did eventually point me and my 30kg hiking bag in the right direction.

*****really not that good

I was lucky enough to be able to stay with a Norwegian family for my stay in Oslo, and I was completely adopted within about 5 minutes of meeting them. People do not exaggerate about Norwegians’ love of the outdoors – it is quite literally a national obsession. I woke up on my first morning to a map of Oslo’s forest Nordmarka, which was all of a 5 minute train ride away.

 

The Norwegian outdoors is not the Australian outdoors – in Norway, you can plan an entire walk based on which cabins sell the best hot chocolate. Brilliant. I spent the entire day wandering (kind of aimlessly) around this gorgeous place, between Sognsvann (a big lake close to Oslo) and Ullevålseter (one of the many, many DNT wooden cabins strewed around Norway). While the hot chocolate in Norway is legit FANTASTIC, I’ve got to warn you, “coffee” in this country is more like drinking straight up filtered dirt in a cup. But you can get unlimited refills! Which is just as well, because otherwise you’d be paying $6.50 for a cup of liquid sadness. Thanks, Norway. (Two months in this country and I’m disgusted to say I almost enjoy their coffee now.)

I also spent quite a lot of time exploring Oslo, which has got to be hands down one of the most gorgeous towns I have ever seen. The strangest thing is just how green everything is – really, really weird after Australia in the middle of a long drought. If you go to Oslo, it’s really worth going to Frognerparken, which is a big sculpture park in the middle of the town. Some of the sculptures are a bit ~weird~ (namely the massive pillar of naked bodies) but hey, it’s pretty cool.

 

You can also go and see for real viking ships at the Viking Ship Museum, which – I’m not going to lie to you – is pretty damn cool. About a 15 minute walk from here is the Norsk Folkemuseum, which has everything replica Norwegian villages to live folk dancing performances.

On my last night in Oslo, my host family made me the most Norwegian of all desserts – waffles and brunostBrunost, or “brown cheese”, is this really intense caramel cheese that Norwegians will eat literally all the time (including in the middle of lectures – I’ve even seen people crack out a cheese slicer mid-class). It’s a weird mix between being incredibly delicious and incredibly sickening and I’m honestly sure how I feel about it. The next morning I said goodbye to my host family and took the train along the Dovre Railway (!!) all the way up to Trondheim, where I’ve literally been having the time of my life.

Give me another two months and I’ll update you on that as well. 🤣

How to Teach Yourself Norwegian: A Handy Guide*

Sarah Yates
Bachelor of Engineering (Medical)
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim (S2, 2018)

*Results are not guaranteed as I literally have no idea how to speak Norwegian. Sorry.

  1. Silently mutter the Norwegian words for things as you try and pack everything you own in to your car. When this doesn’t work (the muttering, although the whole car thing is a bit irritating too) spend a few hours watching Norwegian TV (with Norwegian subtitles on!) and get really excited when you understand the word for welcome (Hint: it’s velkommen).
  2. Attempt a conversation in Norwegian over text with an exchange student from France, before realising that they do not, in fact, speak Norwegian.
  3. Book a train ticket entirely in Norwegian! This is a great idea but honestly I’m not entirely sure … when … the train … is leaving …. yep.

Moving on from my “guide”, it’s almost exactly one month until I fly out to Norway! I’m unbelievably excited (and unbelievably scared) but mainly I’m just thinking about whether or not I can get a jar of vegemite through customs. I’ll keep you updated on that one.

At the moment my life seems to be a hectic mix of packing and admin. You would not believe that amount of forms and applications I have done in the last few weeks. Most of them actually are half written in Norwegian, which makes it exciting. Very difficult to tell the difference between a housing application and a cancellation form when one is a leieavtale and the other an angrerettssjema. Fun times all round.

It’s almost impossible to decide what I need to bring and what I should leave behind. My climbing and hiking gear are going to take up about 95.55% of my bag so I’m probably going to have room for a single pair of jeans and maybe a jumper, if I’m lucky. Hey, priorities.

If you look closely, you might find QUT? idk how good your eyesight is.

Getting very, very excited to see this view ^ in 32 days! And no, I’m not counting. For real though, if you actually want to learn a bit of Norwegian my uni in Trondheim (NTNU) has made a handy little site which you can find here. Or you can just use my fantastic guide, which is really some quality stuff.

Cool. I’m going to continue finding new ways to procrastinate actually packing.

Ha det!

Invest in an Italian Experience!

Christen W. Bachelor of Business (Honours)

Short-term program: LUISS ‘Market Regulation and Investments for Growth’

July 2017, Italy

It’s not every day that the chance comes along to attend an exciting, experiential summer school at a top university in Rome, spending two weeks learning from executives at Italy’s major financial institutions – so when the LUISS ‘Market Regulation and Investments for Growth’ program appeared in the short-term exchange portal, I jumped at the chance.

Ready and eager for the program ahead, I arrived in Rome late on a warm July night, my senses immediately enveloped by the soupy summer air, the lively and historical streets, and the rich undertones of the Italian accent resonating around me. I knew I was in the right place.

The LUISS residence that would serve as our accommodation for the next two weeks was renovated in 2016, providing excellent rooms and facilities that you might expect from a high-end hotel. Great views, strong WiFi and lots of space – the dream trio – were all present. The University is only a five minute walk past coffee shops, small European cars and cobbled streets. I quickly grew accustomed to the friendly greeting of ‘Ciao!’ from reception on the way out each morning; I could definitely see myself living in Italy!

Fantastic, modern accommodation

At our lecture in the Bank of Italy

Our program was a fast-paced, content-rich exploration of the various financial institutions of Italy, including those that seek to regulate and ensure level playing fields, such as the Italian Competition Authority and the Bank of Italy, and those that seek to catalyse investment in projects to spur growth, such as the European Investment Bank. Our small group of eight students was fortunate enough to visit and hear from senior figures from several of these organisations, providing us a first-hand glimpse into their operations and role within the larger European framework.

The level of academic rigour and expectations of the class were quite high, but with the enjoyable nature of a summer program; it was easy to be motivated to complete assessments and engage with lectures in such a stimulating environment. Our assessment pieces consisted of an in-class open book exam and two reports to be completed outside class times. Active participation was also encouraged and recorded to be put towards our final result. Being such a small group was a great advantage of this program – we were able to leverage maximum benefit from the classes, business visits, and our Professor, and I now have a network of fantastic friends around the world.

While in Rome, there were many chances to explore the local attractions and history, enjoy the famous cuisine in its home country, and even travel outside of Rome on the weekends. As I held the title of travelling the longest distance to participate in the program, it made sense that I would maximise the spare time on the program. The train network in Rome and Italy, including the Metro, inter-city and regional trains, are highly efficient and affordable, making them a great option for travellers; this is in contrast to the buses and trams of Rome which were often less than reliable (and much maligned by the Roman public).

The Duomo, Florence

The Leaning Tower!

In front of the Trevi Fountain

On the first weekend, I took an early Saturday morning train from Roma Termini to the popular and beautiful city of Florence. The day was full of walking and enjoying most of Florence’s attractions, including the Duomo, the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio. Sunset from Piazza Michaelangelo sealed in my mind that Florence is no ordinary destination. After some final sight-seeing on Sunday morning I took the short trip west to Pisa, where I spent Sunday afternoon in Campo dei Miracoli, taking in and climbing the leaning tower, the baptistery, and the nearby museum. It wouldn’t have felt right returning to Rome without this stop!

On the last Saturday I headed east from Rome to the ancient town of Tivoli, which made for a fantastic day covering many kilometres through the highlights of Villa d’Este, Villa Gregoriana and Hadrian’s Ruins. Some of the best places are those that are little known or underrated – discovering them is one of the great joys of travelling.

A small piece of advice is to budget generously for food, as the delicious meals that Italy is famous for do come at a price. Try to occasionally eat in – your bank account will thank you! I would highly encourage anyone interested in this or a similar program to take the plunge; the experience, the international friendships, and the broadening of horizons made it beyond worthwhile. You won’t regret it!

At the Colosseum

The end of a great program!

Top tips for Copenhagen

Yasmine E
Bachelor of Business
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

 

Need a go-to guide to Copenhagen?

Yassi’s Top CPH tips:

  • Buy a good quality bike
  • Learn the basic phrases
  • Go out and enjoy everything Copenhagen has to offer, trust me there is loads
  • Grocery shop at Lidl and Netto before Fotex
  • When it’s sunny have a day on the Go Boats
  • Eat at Paper Island, Moller and Grod
  • Spend time cycling around the cool little areas like Ostebro, Norrebro and Frederiksberg

  • Use a travel card such as the QANTAS card, it’s the cheapest way to spend money, Copenhagen uses card for everything, very few places will take cash only but many are card only. I would also recommend having multiple cards in different places in cases one is lost or stolen. No need to open a Danish bank account it will be more of a struggle and it’s super easy to just use your Australian bank card it will just charge you a few cents every time you make a purchase.
  • When you arrive in Copenhagen go to Central Station and talk to the people there about what is your best option for a transport card. I personally had 2, one monthly pass that required a passport photo and it would be a once a month payment for unlimited rides on all transport in Zone 1 and 2 but I also had a Rejsekort card which is kind of like a Go Card which I would use if I was going into Zone 3 and 4. Always make sure you pay for transport because the fines are huge!
  • Get a really great everyday backpack
  • Get comfy fashionable sneakers

  • If you are going to make any big purchases make sure they are done within 3 months of leaving Europe to get your tax back at the airport
  • Go for lunch in Sweden… literally it’s like 50 minutes away!
  • Visit other cities in Denmark like Aarhus it’s a really cool town
  • The Danes are not rude just private, don’t be offended if they seem like they are keeping to themselves but if you do need anything they are really lovely.
  • Make your room feel homely, take a trip to IKEA and get little things that will make you feel more at home.
  • PORTABLE CHARGERS!!!! They will save your life! Because it gets so cold your phone will freeze and just shut down so always have a charger with you.

If you would like to know more or have any questions at all no matter how long or small feel free to add me on Facebook and ask away! You are going to have the time of your life, trust me!

Sometimes, you’ve gotta go with the flow on exchange

Yasmine E
Bachelor of Business
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

 

“You will love Copenhagen”
“Copenhagen is such a great city”
“Everyone in Copenhagen is so good looking”
“You will bike ride everywhere”

These are just a few of the lines I heard over and over again when I told people I was going to Copenhagen on exchange. Of course, this made me overwhelmingly excited! I mean who wouldn’t be right? But there was still this voice in my head saying “how could everyone love one place?” “Can everyone be that good looking” “I never ride a bike at home, I can’t see myself doing it every day there” Boy was I so wrong, so very wrong.

Yeah, so I did end up riding a bike… a lot.

But it wasn’t all roses at the start. Let’s go back to the beginning. I arrive into Copenhagen from travelling around Scotland and England for close to two weeks. I touch down and am instantly blown away by the amount of ridiculously good looking people, I mean everyone everywhere is drop dead gorgeous.

So I continue on in my sheer awe grab my luggage… which I am still feeling smug about getting an extra 7 kgs on for free (winning already) and catch up with my buddy that my uni Copenhagen Business School (CBS) had organised we get chatting and make our way to the Metro, this is by far the most efficient Metro system I have ever seen, there are only 2 lines and they run every 2.5 minutes. So there is no waiting and very little crowding.

We arrive at our stop and walk to the bus located in Copenhagen’s main district Norreport. It is at this point I feel an overload of new information, it is freezing cold, I am looking out for not only cars but pedestrians and now bikes too.

We cross the road and make our way to the bus, which unlike the metro is very busy and only arrives every 15 minutes. We shuffle on with try to find a decent place for all of my luggage without annoying any other commuters. I am in awe of all the buildings. The bus comes to a screeching halt and naturally I fall over all of my luggage, I am shuffling around trying to pick myself up while repeating profusely “undskyld” (pardon me) it is at this point I pull my handbag back to the front of my body and find my zipper open and my wallet was gone… sneaky bugger got me!

Instantly I was devastated and did all the right things like cancelling my cards and going to the police station to report the incident (which was not on the top of my ‘to visit’ list). It took me a few days to settle into Copenhagen after this but once the welcome week festivities began it was like nothing had gone wrong.

Even though it was a rough start, and sometimes things do go wrong, you are going to have the time of your life, trust me!

If you would like to know more or have any questions at all no matter how long or small feel free to add me on Facebook and ask away!

 

Find a real winter in the UK

Tayla B
Bachelor of Creative Industries
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

 

My experience living in England for six months studying at SHU was incredible. I had never been to England or Europe before, but having many friends living there I knew what to expect, but nothing could prepare me for the weather. I arrived in winter to freezing temperatures and I think the thing I struggled with if anything was the lack of sunlight. Once every two weeks during winter you would get a sunny day, which is nothing like I am used to growing up in Australia.

It’s colder than you might think!

Other than the lack of Vitamin D, my experience was one I will never forget. I made such an amazing group of friends, all international students, from countries all over Europe, America, Australia which made for an interesting collection of people. I was living in the city in student accommodation, which made it easy to access everything by walking and was studying in the city so class was only a 10 min walk from my house.

 

The university was super accommodating to international students and had weekly activities for us and organized trips over the country to make sure we had plenty of opportunities to meet new people. This is how I made majority of my friends, and was the best thing the university did for us.

Making friends while on exchange is the best experience

There wasn’t a lot of culture shock as it was an English speaking country, but the Brits have their own slang words that took some time to get used to!

It was a struggle to accommodate to the idea that I wasn’t on holiday the whole time- I was living there- and that it was okay to not be busy the whole time or always doing something.

The main thing that drove me to pick England was the ease of being able to travel all over the country by train and how close it was to be able to go to Europe. I spent my 22nd birthday in Paris and it was the most magical thing I could’ve ever imagined. My exchange experience was the greatest thing I have done with my education and can’t recommend it enough for anyone thinking about it.

“This exchange to me was a defining moment in my life.”

I will admit that moving to Italy was not an easy challenge personally as I had not had this type of experience before, in addition to the language barrier that I had to face. It was very intimidating. However, in the moment of being overseas and living there for 6 months I knew that everything there was because of me and thus I was responsible for everything that happened next. As a result I took courage and ventured forth to put myself out there, seeking help, making friends, getting as much experience as I could.

Riva del Garda, the biggest river in Italy on a summers day

To go on exchange is not easy, you expose yourself and let the world absorb you and you experience what the world has to offer. I would definitely recommend anyone to go on exchange, I considered myself to be an introvert before the exchange and during this period I had a change of heart to force myself out there and I can really see the benefits. It’s a risk, but the risk is worth if even if there are times were things are lonesome or grim but the fact of the matter is, you’re on exchange, you’re overseas. Make the most of it, pick yourself up and just get moving.

 

This exchange to me was a defining moment in my life.

 

Despite being 6 months, these six months are what made me choose and reaffirm my position not only in this career pathway but the decision for QUT being a university for the real world. I have changed personally, wiser, smarter and generally more open to anything and anyone as to feed my now fond spontaneous nature. Academically, I have had a revelation as to what it is to study, the importance for self-discipline, routine and the need to ask for help when needed. For my thesis work that I had completed, I worked on it alone and to my luck, had someone that worked on a similar material and was able to collaborate and get enough help to push me over the line.

Trying hot pot with a friend from Hong Kong

Working in a lab every week for a long period of time also enabled me to have a sense to how a professional job would feel like, the experience of having meetings, emailing updates, forms, presentations and events. It felt that in the work environment, a laboratory that is close functions well and brings morale high.

This experience is something unlike anything and definitely is my point of reference in my life as to when I changed for the real world. I would strongly recommend anyone to take the chance, take that leap of faith and venture outside the comfort zone and see how it is outside of your own culture and home. To go on exchange is a must at least once during a degree.

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

From big city Brisbane to small town Trento

The currency in Italy is the Euro which is generally about one third stronger than the Australian dollar. This was a bit of a blow as the money from the scholarship (9.5k) became lesser than anticipated and in this regards the concern of converting it all in one swoop or continuously was a dangerous risk as in some instances (what happened personally) the Australian dollar consistently dropped in strength meaning that when converting you were losing money comparatively if you had converted it all in the beginning.

Compared to Brisbane there prices are rather, odd. Expensive things in Australia would be really cheap in Italy and vice versa. This made a bit of an issue on then seeing the necessity of certain products.

This made having a budget key,

there were three major bills the pay and consider; accommodation rent, phone bill and public transport bill. These monthly would chew a large chunk of your budgeting expenses and didn’t leave much wiggle room, however, after consideration it is reasonably prices putting considerations into effect and made budgeting an easier very serious thing to do.

Personally I used a travel visa card which helped and lessened the need to withdraw money which would have a standard fee to do so and so the travel card was accepted in essentially all cases (besides a flea market).

Trento being a lovely place was easy to settle in and understand how it functioned, it being a small town made it feel safer comparatively to Brisbane big metropolitan city lifestyle. Although I had taken precautionary methods to ensure my safety I found myself being too critical of the locals and the people who were there and decided to present myself to strangers, saying hello, talking, interacting and to my surprise everyone was willing to stop and have a small dialogue.

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

Leeds Survival Guide, Part 4: Travel

I’m now one week away from travelling back to Australia and I realise that I’ve picked up a lot of great advice in regards to travelling while studying in the UK. Take it from someone who spent her birthday in Paris, Christmas in Amsterdam and New Year’s in Edinburgh, I have done my fair share of travelling, and I have the pen collection to prove it:

From York, Manchester, Lincoln, Wales, Durham, Paris, Lake District, London, Tenerife, Amsterdam, all the way to Scotland

So, here are some of the top travel tips that I have learned so far.

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