Where did you go? When?
I studied at the University of Oslo in Oslo, Norway. Because I really wanted to become immersed in Norwegian culture, I decided to study there for an entire year (August 2010 to August 2011). I'm glad to say it is something I don't regret.
Would you recommend this location to another student? Why?
The University of Oslo was an excellent choice and I would recommend it to all who are considering studying abroad in Norway. The city, along with the surrounding areas, has just about everything anyone would want.
City life in Oslo was outstanding. There is always something to do. Concerts and performances are going on all the time. Many well-known artists came and performed while I was there. Sporting events were also common. For those who enjoy the nightlife, there are all sorts of clubs and bars around the city. In addition, each faculty at the University of Oslo also has its own pub where students can come together and be social.
Those who want to escape city life would also be satisfied by knowing nature and open spaces are not far away. A ten minute ride from downtown Oslo on public transportation can bring you to the forests surrounding the city. There are hundreds of trails to be hiked and beautiful scenery to be seen. The university also allows students to rent cabins located in these forests. Similarly, Oslo also has a number of ferries that transport people to the islands in the Oslo fjord. I have many fond memories meeting up with friends, stocking up on some barbecue supplies, and sailing to one of the islands for a barbecue on the beach.
What was your most memorable experience/day/moment?
I had so many incredible experiences that it's hard to pick any single memory. I can say with full certainty that joining Den Norske Studentersangforening, the oldest male choir in Norway, was one of the best decisions I made while studying abroad. The choir was fairly well-known around the country and sang at events I never would have imagined I would take part in. We toured around Norway, sang for the Minister of Defense at Akershus Fortress, performed in front of a few thousand immigrants who were becoming Norwegian citizens, and performed on national television three times on the 17th of May. The friendships I made in the choir as well as the places we would get to sing were some of the most memorable.
What was your worse experience/day?
The worst experience I can think of was when I lost my keys to the apartment. I was stuck in a suit and it was raining outside. I gave security a call to ask for help to get in. Their response was it was going to cost 350 kroner (around 65 to 70 dollars). That was money I didn't have.
An idea came to me. With my room being on the 7th floor, I went to the 6th floor and pressed the buzzer. I had no idea who lived on this floor so it made the conversation all the more awkward. A girl answered the door and I explained my situation and asked if it would be alright if I could use the fire escape (a simple removable metal lid found on each balcony that connected the floors). She was sympathetic and allowed me to make my way over to the balcony. As I mentioned earlier, it had been raining. A fair bit of water had built up on the floor on my balcony. So sure enough when I pushed up on the lid, the water residing on my balcony happily soaked my suit. I was wet but I didn't really care. I finally got into my apartment.
What are the benefits of study abroad? (Personal/academic)
Living in a foreign country for the first time required a leap of faith. I fortunately took that leap and became a stronger person because of it. The confidence I gained from living and adapting to this new environment gave me an edge I didn't have before. I became integrated into a new society and because of that, I learned that the world really isn't as intimidating as one might think. I learned a lot about myself and who I am. I feel stronger. I am stronger.
Academically, the University of Oslo challenged me. My main classes at the university were Norwegian courses. The language program consisted of 4 levels of Norwegian. I had already taken a year of Norwegian at UND so I began at level 2. When I began, it was intensive. A normal day would consist to around 4 or 5 hours of Norwegian. They covered everything. Time was devoted to pronunciation in the speech labs, listening to the news on the radio, reading and comprehending newspapers, preparing and presenting presentations in front of the class, and debating on topics pertaining to Norwegian life such as the welfare state, the healthcare system, immigration, and retirement benefits. By the end of the year, the amount I learned was incredible. In addition, the credits I received from these classes alone have put me just a few credits shy of a Norwegian major. Talk about efficiency!
What advice would you give someone considering study abroad?
Don't let the fear of uncertainty or doubt keep you from studying abroad. If you are looking for an experience that will strengthen you as a person and open your eyes to the great things the world has to offer, studying abroad is for you. Studying abroad, in some cases, may not be as efficient as UND in regards to earning credits but the experiences gained abroad far outweigh a few extra credits.
If you do decide to study abroad, travel somewhere you have an interest in and become immersed in the culture and society. Joining a local organization or group is the quickest way to do that. Once you do that, everything else will take care of itself.
Would you recommend Student Leaders International (SLI) to students when they return from abroad?
I definitely would. It takes an adjustment when you come back from an extended stay in a foreign country. Being around others who have done the same is a great way to become readjusted, share stories, and make some friends.