Hai Ling- Bachelor of Business (International Business Major)
BI Norwegian Business School, Norway (Semester 1, 2019)
I spent three weeks in the UK prior to going to Oslo, to visit family and reunite with old friends, I spent three weeks trying to prepare myself for the next six months. But how are you supposed to prepare for something like this? How do you ready yourself, physically and mentally for something like this? Even after the exchange I still can’t answer that question, truthfully I don’t think you can, you simply put the pieces together as you go.
Now I’d never lived away from home by myself before, not in another country let alone the other side of the planet, this experience was completely new to me. I knew no one going there and I knew no one when I got there. But the next six months would change me completely, in what was and will always remain the greatest and most beneficial experience in my life so far. I would make lifetime friends from completely different countries, many of whom I would visit and see again after the exchange when I traveled across Europe. I would create memorable experiences with those friends that will stay with me forever, events I will never forget and people I will always miss.
I arrived in Oslo at midday on the 31st of December 2018. It had not yet dawned on me what was to come, I still couldn’t fully grasp the idea that for the next six months I would be living here, sleeping here, studying here, thousands and thousands of kilometers from my home, my family, my friends… and my cat.
Very few times during my trip did I get close to that realisation, I think the whole time I was just too engulfed in the whole experience, so much so that I couldn’t fully understand the extent of what was really going on. Not that it was a bad thing, instead that it was something new, different and so far out of my comfort zone that it had to be done.
I remember my first time getting to Kringsjå, the suburb and student village where I would live for the next six months, I had met an Aussie by pure chance at the housing registration place in Blindern, and we both made our way up there. Funnily enough we ended up in the same building, three levels apart. It was an impressive place, practically a suburb designed for students, the accommodation there ranged from private individual rooms, shared apartments to family apartments. Of the many towering buildings, mine stood tall close to the front, Building 8, to be my home for the next six months. I had managed to get a room on the 9th floor, at the top of the building, and with it, an amazing view of the mountains and tree lines. At that point they were brown, almost dead, covered with snow, something I found to be truly awesome because that is something you would never see back home in Brisbane. Also something that would provide a base of understanding, because in six months’ time those trees would be bright as day and as colourful as a painters pallet.
BI wasn’t a breeze, it wasn’t incredibly difficult either, but it was by no means easy. trhis wasn’t a university where I could catch up after the lecture or tutorial, you had to go to class and you had to take part. BI only hosts a fraction of the number of students that QUT can boast, something that makes them focus on micro development in ways that QUT can’t. I am in no way saying that QUT is unable to, simply that with increased volume, things begin to get diluted. Professors have much closer relationships with students, classrooms are smaller, and students can engage more. I feel that small scale teaching makes for a more passionate learning environment which I really enjoyed. Something different that you take note of having studied in a huge university like QUT.
I had classes two days a week, Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s. Wednesday night was kroa night (the BI uni bar), Friday’s were snowboarding days and weekends tended to be occupied by parties and events that people planned (trips out of the city or hiking, often we would have dinners together too). The nightclub scene in Oslo is unimpressive if you’re used to large city night life like Brisbane or Sydney though. The Norwegian people come off as introverts, they seem wary of outsiders almost, that is until you get them drinking, there’s a funny book on the guide to Norwegian culture. Below is the front page, I can’t even begin to explain how true it is.
I really enjoyed my time at BI, it was an architecturally impressive and aesthetically pleasing campus. A single building dominating the area, the size of a small warehouse with multiple floors above and a floor cut into the ground, designed as a cube almost, it has 4 sections of which it hosts classes, A through to D. In the ground floor, a cafeteria where they cooked new and interesting food each day, that was decently priced for how much you got. I mean simple stuff like rice and stew, but even that is a culinary explosion from the same two minute noodles you’ve been sustaining yourself on for the past semester or two… maybe three. The classrooms are modern, similar to the style of classrooms at QUT, of the four subjects I did, two of them taught in lecture format, two in tutorial. Classes were small, even in lectures, the lecture room looked like it could fit maybe 100 to at best 150 students max. But never full, they were smaller, more intimate, the same goes for the tutorial format classes, these were regular subjects, one class a week sort of thing, not enough students to use a lecture hall, but enough that made the class worthwhile.
My advice to students considering going in exchange, it’s really simply, socialise as much as you can find time for. Meeting new people and making new friends, it sounds simple, but I have never been a super social person, I’ve always been comfortable being around the same few people, so to reach out into new groups was something I wasn’t entirely comfortable with. But I’m glad I did. It’s friends that make the experience so much more worth it, I went on multiple trips to different cities and different country’s with the friends I made there. We would always have parties and look to invite people that we met, I met a really good mate of mine simple because he was going to throw out the rubbish in shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops…. in the middle of winter whilst it was snowing! We were huddled outside the door chatting, and we spoke to him a laughed about it. He came out with us to a pub that night and become very close, we still talk.
I wanted to write for the QUT Global blog after my exchange because I wanted to be able to tell people how amazing my experience has been, but writing this now, I don’t quite know what to say! I could talk about how the food at the cafeteria in BI was actually pretty good, or how we did a bus trip across Sweden for a week, jumped in a frozen lake and saw the most beautiful northern lights all in one night. Hiking for three hours through knee deep snow? How about going snowboarding with my Brazilian mate for every week of the winter season? Having Australia day on a frozen lake, drinking wine and listening to bush music? There is too much to share, too many hilarious stories, truly great moments with great people. The consistent shenanigans that this trip held, the constant laughter, the unforgettable memories.
Rarely in life do you have memories so good that you can revisit them in your mind and every time smile or laugh about it. Many times I’ve had people stare at me like a moron because I’ve done this in public and burst out laughing. They don’t know, they can’t understand. To understand required them to be there and they weren’t, don’t consider going on exchange to be just an opportunity, consider not going to be a missed one.