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!

Norwegian Adventure

Kathleen, O. Bachelor of Business

Norwegian Business School (Semester 2, 2017)

Norway? Why did you pick Norway? – Most common question I received after getting my acceptance letter. Next in line was Australia *shocked face* gosh that must have been a long flight, how long did it take? Really long mostly, but it was definitely worth it.

Snow = Building a Snowman

So why did I pick Norway? Well it was as far away from Australia I could think of, I was getting the opportunity of immersing myself into a different culture (but where they still speak English) and I was guaranteed to see snow. I have seen snow before just FYI but come on its snow, who doesn’t like snow?!Well I got to see snow, sadly only for a couple of weeks but I can now say that I lived somewhere it snowed, so I’m happy.

Host Country:

Norway is a beautiful country with its extremely picturesque mountains and fjords. For my exchange in Norway, I was based in the capital city, Oslo. It was a bit of an adjustment for me because while it’s the capital city, Norway does only have a population of 5.3 million so Oslo wasn’t really a big city.

Christmas markets

It may be a small city but its big at heart, there is always something going on in the city.

 

Like most European countries, transportation in Oslo was great and easy to use, I love ferries and one of my highlights during my stay in Oslo was catching a ferry to the Islands on the fjord, have a picnic, watch the sunset and see some natural wildlife – I was followed around the island by a couple of foxes, so cute. The downside to Oslo and Norway is that the cost of living is high, so be prepared to come home broke like I did. The transportation card for 30 days costs about 70 AUD, rent (I was staying at the student dorms run by the university) including electricity will set you back somewhere around the 600-700AUD a month. I would recommend the student dorms though, because they mostly come fully furnished so you don’t have to buy much.

Host University:

Studying at BI is a bit different to QUT there is a lot more emphasis on independent study. You still have the standard 3-hour contact hours, but instead of a lecture and tutorial, it’s just a 3-hour lecture. Also at least for me my final grade was 100% made of by my final exam or term paper. Which was a bit daunting and I found that it made studying at BI a lot harder than at QUT, as there was no way to assess how I was

Bergen

actually doing with the course content and if I needed to put more study time in. Thankfully, to pass you only require 30%, which was lucky for me as I spend more time travelling then studying.

 

One of the things I really liked abut studying at BI was the events they run throughout the semester focused but not exclusively towards international and exchange students. So there was free weekly coffee days, hiking and activity trips, and free food. Once a month (ish) BI runs a free food night, usually themed, called BI-nner. You have to get in fast though because everyone likes a free feed and tickets sell out in minutes. The University of Oslo also holds free movie nights once a fortnight, in their lecture halls. Its just a 10min train ride to the University from BI, so as ways to save money but hang out with your new found friends, this is a must.

Travel:

While I was living in Norway, I spend some time travelling Norway. I went to Bergen via the train – the worlds best scenic train ride apparently – and they are not wrong.

Northern Lights

Plus side too is that train is a lot cheaper than flying in Norway, downside it takes nearly 3 times as long to get where you are going. I also went to Tromso, saw the northern lights and went dog sledding. As recommendations go, Tromso or the Loften Islands is a must do if you are ever in Norway. I also got to travel around Europe. I went to Amsterdam with the International Student Society at BI. One of my friends and I also spent the weekend in Budapest – such a beautiful city and really cheap. We also spend a week in London after our exams had finished.

View from Buda Castle

We saw the Lion King and Aladdin, saw the sunset over London from the eye and shopped, shopped until our hearts were content.

I could go on about all the amazing things I did and saw while on my exchange but I would be here for ages. So my parting gift – seriously go on an exchange, I can’t recommend it enough! It is worth every dollar of my spend pennies.

Life of a Travel Blogger

Joel, T. Bachelor of Design (Industrial Design)

Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway (Semester 2, 2016)

Before commencing my venture to Oslo (Norway) I knew a few things, it was expensive, cold and Scandinavian design is what I wanted add to my repertoire. Arriving at Lillestrøm station (10 min train from Oslo central) we were greeted by a young female student how helped us navigate to our Sio accommodation, where we would call home for the next 6 months. The accommodation was basic but what student housing isn’t. I had my own bedroom but shared a kitchen and bathroom with roommate, which just so happened to by my friend and travel partner on this journey.

Tip for future students, be prepared to make a trip to Ikea which is a bit of a trek to get everything. Room has furniture and bed but kitchen literally has nothing except for an oven and cook top. Best preparation would be to try contact residents living there the semester before you go and try and acquire some of their items. This will save a lot of money and time.

Two weeks before classes commenced we explored the city while the summer sun and “warmth” (it was still only 18°C) still filled the air. It was a beautiful day and dockside was a buzz of excitement with cafes and street performers. From here you can also spend the beautiful day, island hopping the little islands situated on the Oslo Fjord – as this is where the ferry leaves. 

Tip for places to visit: North of the Oslo is Holmenkollen, boosting a 60m high ski jump that has hosted ski festivals since 1892.

Norwegians are serious about getting out and enjoying nature, they love nature and hiking mountains. They also love to tell you all about it every minute of every day – just in case you forget *wink wink*. As such the Norwegians love their recently build Opera House where you can actually walk on the roof, via a small hike up the side of the building. I would highly recommend doing so as it has one of the most stunning views of the city and harbour, especially at sunset. 

Uni life….

I studied Product Design during my time at HiOA Kjeller campus. I found it interesting that they only do one subject at a time, it seems a lot less strenuous than QUT. One of the bonuses though was studying at HiOA was the amount of new educational opportunities I received. I learnt how to weld, and also gained numerous skills with ceramics and concrete moulding. Their workshops are first class and even better once you have done a week of inductions, as you are deemed competent to use all the facilities without supervision.

My first group assignment consisted of three girls and one guy. We decided to look into tiny living and the outdoor and active Norwegian culture. We hired a cabin in the middle of the woods with no electricity or running water. It was an hour bus ride and a 6km hike to loose ourselves, but we were alone for miles. We all huddled in a cabin made for two. It was a cosy night, but the experience was a one in a lifetime and a real good look into Norwegian culture.

Highlights …

Travel highlight – Trolltunga, it takes this prestigious role because of how hard I had to work to get there. Five gruelling hours hiking up and five back. Trolltunga aka Trolls Tongue chewed me up and spit me out, but the view from the top was worth it.

HiOA university had many highlights, great people, lifelong friends, workshops. But the ones that stands out is when our concept became a prototype. A finished product made by myself and group, with a lot of the new workshop skills to thank for its polished finish.

This has been a wonderful opportunity for me, I got to travel abroad and this experience has really open mind and broadened my horizons.