Kirsty, BA Philosophy, Religion and Ethics student, explored the breath-taking Norwegian landscape, travelling to Oslo for her year abroad.
Whenever I tell anyone that I am living in Norway for a year it is always received with slight shock. Even though the flight is just under 2 hours - a shorter journey from my home to Birmingham funnily enough - I think the breath-taking Scandinavian landscape we see online and, on the TV, tends to be considered slightly alien to us Brits living in the squished-up suburbs. This, though, is the amazing thing about doing a year abroad; you have the opportunity to go somewhere completely different to what you’re used to, and even though Oslo was not my first choice, there is no doubt that this is where I was meant to land.
Although my degree, Philosophy Religion and Ethics, didn’t require me to study abroad, I had always been set on going away in my third year to a completely different environment that would be cultured and inspiring. Here in Oslo, I have been presented with many opportunities and experiences that have done just that. With COVID-19 being very much under control as I arrived in August, I was able to get on with having a proper student experience meeting a huge range of people from around the world, as well as really getting to know Norway. Living in a flat with five Norwegians has given me insight into their lives here and their cool traditions they have grown up with. But also, through exchange student events, societies like the UNSA Oslo and the student radio that I have been part of, I have learnt a huge amount hearing about other cultures and perspectives.
Oslo is a city made for students, and although there are similarities to home it has been fascinating to experience the exciting and studious Norwegian student life. I am at the University of Oslo, part of the humanities faculty where we get to pick a range of modules. In first semester, I took a Norwegian language course. Having not studied a language since my GCSE Spanish, I was not sure how it would turn out, but it ended up being my favourite class due to the fun school-room environment with other exchange students and the subsequent excitement of being able to mildly impress my flatmates with what I had learnt. Furthermore, it has been interesting to meet likeminded others through courses related to my degree but also widen my knowledge through other subjects, for example, ‘Celtic Mythology’ and ‘Witchcraft and Magic’ that have always fascinated me but would not have done at home.
Other than the astonishing Norwegian prices that have made it a real challenge to view my bank statement every week, the most challenging aspect of this experience has really just been keeping up with the constant plans and an ever-changing schedule after 2 years of a coronavirus induced anxiety and lack of social interaction. I was extremely lucky to settle in straight away without missing home at all, and that was definitely due the university creating a buddy group where we had a base of British students (strangely enough where I met a girl from where I grew up) which gave it a more homely feel. The mid-semester blues did bring us all to a bit of a halt, but the ‘non-covided’ first semester we were very lucky to have allowed an experience where we could get outside, be around others, and get involved which really helped us all before the end of the semester.
My best memories so far have been comprised of parties by beautiful lakes, cabin trips in the hills and city nights out, as well as long walks and rekindling my skiing ability! Also, it has been a great opportunity to travel within Norway – we had a weekend trip to Bergen on the west coast and have also planned a trip up north in March to Tromsø. Overall, however, I would say that it is the Norwegian landscape at our doorstep that has been the most memorable aspect of my time away. I have experienced the rare beauty of the Northern Lights, but have also watched the nearby lakes, forests and even the centre of Oslo transform over the seasons which has reminded me that there is so much to see and be grateful for, especially after the last few years. These sights, completely incomparable to my local London park or the streets of Selly Oak, have produced moments of awe that I will never forget.