The beauty of Scandinavia
- What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB?
I was taking classes in English the Faculty of Social Science at the University offered, with other exchange students and Norwegian students. They were quite similar to UCSB in that they had lectures and discussion sections and/or labs once a week.
- What was your favorite class abroad?
I really enjoyed going to my class called North-South Development, that approached current global issues and discussed solutions to them.
- How would you describe your host institution?
The University of Oslo had campuses at two different locations. One, the Faculty of Law, was located in the city-center in a beautiful building. The campus that hosts the other faculties was located towards the North-West area of the city, and it has many department buildings, a cafeteria, a gym, and other services, like many student campuses.
- Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?
The university has a lot of different clubs and organizations that any students can join, they are open to all! These clubs can sometimes host people from different universities in Oslo, not just UiO, and they always have events going on. I joined activities organized by the diving club, a cinema club, and the capoeira team, so anyone can find something they like!
- Describe your housing situation.
I lived in student housing with a couple of other students from around the world. I had my own room with a private bathroom, and had to share the kitchen with the Norwegians, one Australian, and another American. The student villages include multiple housing buildings, grocery stores, and easy-to-access public transportation.
- Where did you eat most of your meals?
I would sometimes cook for myself in my kitchen, or eat on campus. Going to restaurants in Oslo was a nice thing to do as well!
- How much was an average meal? Do you have any budgeting tips for future students?
Depending on where you eat, an average meal costs between 10 and 15 dollars. One of the things that might make this experience abroad challenging is managing money. Norway is a very expensive country and budgeting is essential!
I found cheap grocery locations near Grønland, and I would try to make myself lunch at home before heading to the university. Buying some food while travelling is a great option as well, especially when travelling by train or by bus!
- Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals?
As a vegetarian, I did not have any hardships feeding myself. Grocery stores, the cafeteria and restaurants offered plenty of options!
- Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.
My most memorable dining experience abroad was probably dining around a fire camp, inside the Polar Circle in Trømso, under the stars and northern lights !
- Describe your host city.
Oslo is a capital city with all the eagerness that goes with it. It is large enough to be able to come across new places, meet new people without getting bored. But I thought it was also the perfect size to quickly feel familiar around neighborhoods, and to find my way around.
- Was it easy to get around?
Getting around is the simplest thing in this city. Oslo has a very easy-to-understand transportation system, with a few metro lines and plenty of bus and tram lines. Carrying a physical transport card isn’t necessary because having the pass on the smartphone application is enough. Oslo is also small enough to be able to walk around without any issue.
- Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students?
Oslo is definitely one of the safest – if not the safest – cities I have been to in my life. I felt very comfortable getting around, during the day or at night, and everybody is willing to help if you feel lost. It is obviously recommended to pay attention to pickpockets and to try to be in a group as much as possible, especially when coming back home late.
- What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?
Being able to roam around the city by myself or in a group, going to my favorite bar with a friend, and attending events organized around the city is a lot of fun. For those who don’t mind walking, strolling along the river Akerselva and noticing the change of landscape, from one neighborhood to another one, felt particularly nice. One of my most pleasant memories is probably going to this artsy bar, Blå, on Sunday afternoons and/or nights, and listening to the band they host weekly.
- Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.
Scandinavia can seem like a very culturally different place than in the US, and especially than California. People seem cold at first and approaching them can seem intimidating (at least it was for me). People do not hug as often as here and gestures are more reserved, but once you “break the ice”, you discover that Norwegians – as well as Swedish, Finnish or Danish (I haven’t met any Icelandic person) – are the nicest and always willing to help out.
- How did you handle culture shock?
Although settling in a new country might be hard for some, it is important to know that feeling nostalgia is completely normal; everyone goes through those moments sometimes, and being aware of it is very valuable. I never really felt on the edge because I was constantly surrounded by exchange students just like me, and I knew who to turn to in case I felt homesick or if I needed to.
- What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?
Norway probably has the best cinnamon rolls!! (“Kanelboller”)
Other than that, Norway probably has the most beautiful landscapes and hikes you could see and do, and the population is very outdoorsy, if this is what you are into.
- Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.
Travelling across Europe is really accessible: there are so many places to discover and finding cheap bus/train/plane tickets is easy. My favorite moment was probably spending a weekend in Stockholm. My friends and I were cold, we had spent the night on the bus from Oslo and we were feeling a tired. But we had an amazing weather, and we could wander across the city the entire day, going to the old city area, to food courts, and to museums, before heading back to the hostel room we had rented for ourselves and getting ready to go out. There is no single travel story I have, as travelling in general is what makes me happy!
- What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?
Any aspect from studying abroad can be scary, but finding myself in a country with no friends and feeling lonely was I felt the most nervous about. This turned out to be an unnecessary fear: I met most of my friends during the Welcome/Integration Week.
- How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?
I definitely became more assertive as a result of studying abroad. Placing yourself in a brand new environment and having to talk a different language, or deal with different cultural elements makes you learn a lot about yourself, and about what counts truly for you.
- What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?
Spending time abroad is a chance: it brings the world to your door and every aspect of it, good or bad, is valuable. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, take decisions for yourself and most of all, say yes to any opportunity you want to explore!