Stand Out Go North

Nikoletta Spathis

BI Norwegian Business School, Norway

Between its world-class mountain scapes, Northern Lights and ancient history, Norway has become a popular destination, not only for travel but for education and employment. I was fortunate enough to study in its capital, Oslo, a cosmopolitan city set amongst the fjords and forests where breath-taking nature is just one step outside the door.

University Life

BI Norwegian Business School is the largest business school in Norway and the second largest in all of Europe. Located in the urban area of Nydalen, BI can be visually described as a modern architectural masterpiece, with four main buildings connected by a glass pavilion. This design was highly beneficial during the colder seasons as it made it easy for students to move around the buildings without having to embrace the negative twelve or if lucky, negative fifteen temperatures.

BI has a strong focus on keeping close ties with the business world which enables all students to partake in various opportunities. Undertaking the specialization in Shipping Management, I was able to attend a number of industry related excursions and seminars which were extremely insightful and beneficial. In addition, the university ran professional networking events. One such event was ‘Coffee Hour’ where a ‘hot topic’ was discussed by an industry professional (e.g. politicians, CEOs, researchers, etc.). During my exchange, I attended a discussion on gender equality and the economy. This discussion was presented by eminent speakers including former U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The approach to learning at university is somewhat different to what we are used to at QUT. For example, there is no distinction between lectures and tutorials which means classes run for three hour blocks. Although attendance is not compulsory, it is highly recommended as there are no recordings. The workload during the semester is relatively relaxed as there are hardly any assignments! However, it is important to keep studying as most units only have ONE 100 percent end of semester exam. Although the academic structure is different, it is relatively easy to adapt as all the teaching staff are extremely helpful and understanding.

Everyday Life

Norway is a very advanced nation with high wages and living standards which means that everything is expensive, especially for students. The Norwegian currency can be a little confusing at first as they work in large numeric values, for example, AUD$17.00 is equal to NOK100.

Within the first two days of arriving in Oslo a trip to IKEA is a must for all those items that did not fit within the luggage limit from Australia! Located 15 minutes from the city centre, a free IKEA shuttle bus operates daily. There are other homeware stores, like Clas Ohlson and Europris which are relatively inexpensive with stores across the city. On average, grocery shopping can add up pretty quickly, therefore it is wise to look at the weekly promotions of the various supermarkets (e.g. Meny, Coop, Joker, Extra). Unfortunately, it is not economically viable to constantly eat out as it is very expensive. Even fast food chains, like McDonalds, are considerably more expensive when compared to prices in Australia. A must have app to download is ‘TooGood ToGo.’ On this app you purchase a mystery bag, filled with various food items, from your chosen store. For example, I once received two loafs of bread, three sandwiches, two pastries, and a smoothie for only NOK35 – roughly AUD$5.80. The main thing to understand is that Norway is expensive, however, there are ways to minimize costs.

Navigating around Oslo is relatively easy as it has one of the most sophisticated and on-time transport systems in the world. As a student, discounted transport fares apply for all major transport (bus, train and ferry). However, this discount only applies when a 30-day ticket is purchased (around NOK550 which is equal to AUD$90- this may seem expensive, but it works out the cheapest). Even if you are not certain that you will use public transport daily, it is still worth purchasing the 30-day ticket as single tickets are costly.

Travelling is a must both within Norway and beyond. Nature abounds in Norway so making the most of it by travelling to explore the far South to the far North is a must. The only negative about travelling within Norway is the expense. However, planning ahead helps. It is often possible to pick up cheaper flights when you are flexible about your travel plans and staying in an Airbnb are a must. My most memorable visit, within Norway, was to the Telemark region where I was lucky enough to witness nature’s winter magic, the aurora borealis. Once you have explored every inch of Norway, travelling around Europe will seem incredibly inexpensive.

Whether it be for one or two semesters, going abroad may be a daunting thought, however, you will not regret your decision.

Stand out! Take the leap and embrace all the extremes that going North has to offer.

Hej from Sweden!

Jordan S., Bachelor of Engineering
Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden (Semester 2, 2016)

Hej jag heter Jordan Simpson! I undertook an exchange semester at Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg (Gothenburg) Sweden during the second semester of 2016!

Host University

Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg

I found that life on campus at Chalmers is quite different to QUT. A few of the main differences I found was the block scheduling of courses, the really cheap lunches they provide, and the amount of leisure activity rooms. I found the block scheduling of classes to be quite good; it meant not having to deal with class registration and ending up with a shocking timetable.  It even usually allowed for one or two free days a week! Chalmers also offered really cheap and decent quality/sized meals each day for 40kr (which is approx. $6.50). Chalmers also had heaps of buildings that could be used for all sorts of leisure activities (indoor soccer/basketball, rock climbing, even a billiard area!).

Accommodation can be quite hard to come by for the local university students of Gothenburg wishing to move out of their parent’s place. These students have to start queuing to find a place when they are in grade 9 or 10 in high school! However, being an international student, Chalmers and SGS Studentböstader (a student housing company) offers priority 1 when looking for accommodation during your stay in Gothenburg.

From an academics standpoint, Chalmers is very different to QUT. The main difference being that instead of taking 4 courses over a semester, the semester is broken up into two study periods. Each study period lasts 8 weeks, and during this time you take 2 courses. This means that the courses are a lot heavier, but leads to a much easier time during exam block period.

Host Country

City of Gothenburg

The cost of living is almost identical to Australia, only major difference being the alcohol prices in their bottle shops. Getting around in Gothenburg is very easy! The public transport system is phenomenal (well almost anything is compared to my hometown, Mackay).  There are many trams and busses running all the time to get you to where you need to go. If you want to see a bit more of Sweden there are also plenty of top quality trains to take!

I found the culture of Sweden to be quite similar to our own. With one notable difference being people keep to themselves at first so you have to really initiate conversation. But once you start to get them talking they are just as friendly and inviting as we are! If you are also wondering how the language barrier is, I can assure you that it is almost non-existent. Almost every Swedish person I met was able to speak English perfectly and switched to it as soon as they knew you only spoke English!

One of the cool things I really enjoyed about my time in Sweden was actually being able to experience the four seasons of the year! My favourite time of the year was Autumn as I found it cool to see everything go orange, and actually see the physical change from Summer.

Highlights/Tips

It’s hard to choose highlights from my exchange as the whole experience has been absolutely fantastic.  One of the many highlights was being able to meet so many people from different countries.  I got to experience bits and pieces of their cultures and share some from mine, while also learning about the Swedish culture with them.  However, one of my favourite times during this exchange was when my mates and I went for a weekend in Stockholm before going on a 3-day cruise to Talin, Estonia.

Northern lights in Lapland

The best tip I can give is get involved with CIRC (Chalmers’ International Student Society), and make sure to go to all of their events during the first few weeks so you can meet heaps of people that eventually make a good group of friends! Also, the one event I highly recommend (which I personally didn’t get to go to but all of my friends did) is the Lapland trip! During this you travel to the far north of Sweden and get to experience ridiculously cold temperatures, go dog sledging, and see the Northern Lights!