Victoria Keire

A bit more than a year ago, on the 4th of January, I took the plane to Norway. The capital city Oslo was my destination, where I would spend my adventure of studying abroad for one semester. I planned everything perfectly and prepared myself for the rough Norwegian winter with a lammy coat, woolen long-sleeves, warm gloves and a small bottle of Jägermeister. Apart from some minor complications, like arriving at the wrong airport, the trip went very smoothly. After picking up the keys of my new house, I dropped my luggage, searched for the free Ikea bus and bought one plate, one fork, one spoon, one knife, one bowl, two pans, some bed linen, and of course ate the famous Swedish kjottboller as dinner. Although somewhat confused by the Norwegian prices (650 NOK in total??), I had the feeling I handled it quite economically.

Apparently, I applied for a private university called BI

The next day, it was time to go to the university. Even though it was a walk of only ten minutes, I safely took the bus. I was too scared to get lost in -15 degrees and 30 cm of snow. When the bus arrived in front of an enormous newly designed building I was not sure whether I was at the right spot. I walked in and got even more amazed: high escalators, glass elevators, a fancy coffee shop, and a gym inside the building. Apparently, I applied for a private university called BI Norwegian Business School, while still paying the low Dutch tuition fee. Not bad at all. In a lecture room with 200 other exchange students, the rector gave us a welcoming speech in which he spoke out his amazement, “You guys chose for the coldest, darkest, and most expensive country in Europe”. To soften this tough reality, he gave us some typical Norwegian goodies like a mixture for waffles and liver paté.

Introduction Weeks

the Dutch “hutspot” was appreciated, the gravy not so much

The first two (!!) weeks were full of introduction activities. We learned a bit of Norwegian, went on a bus tour through Oslo, had to participate an intercultural workshop, made dinner in groups of our own nationality and shared all this food with each other (the Dutch “hutspot” was appreciated, the gravy not so much), and went to a hilarious lecture/comedy show called “How to be a Norwegian student?”. Although it was quite exhausting to participate all these social activities, it really helped to meet new people. In no time I became friends with Fins, Canadians, an Aussie, a Brit, Germans and even some Dutchies.


Educational Experience
After two weeks of fun, the serious part of the exchange started. I was excited and curious about the teachers, the level of education, the ratio of international versus national students, and the size of the classes. Compared to the lectures at the University of Amsterdam, the groups were pretty small, and therefore the classes were highly interactive. But also because of the low-existence of hierarchy between teachers and students at Norwegian universities, classes were always open for debate and even encouraged you to think critically. The level of English of the teachers was excellent (apart from some apparently Swedish funny pronunciations like “sheep money” instead of “cheap money”). 

for the first time during my finance studies, I heard about the genius man Minksy


Among other things, we went on a Shell field trip where we had to give a marketing pitch for the Shell stores in Norway. Besides, I learned how to make use of rhetorical devices with the end goal to give a speech of fifteen minutes about a topic I was interested in. Furthermore, for the first time during my finance studies, I heard about the genius man Minksy and his famous financial stability theory. And last but not least I learned all about Norwegian culture and history; how and when Norway got independent, the difference between Nynorsk and Bokmal, and how the in 1933 initiated “Law of Jante” (the unwritten law that states “you are not to think you are anyone special or that you are better than us”) is still influencing the current Norwegian society.


Trips
But an Erasmus exchange is not an Erasmus exchange without making adventurous trips. My girls’ squad and I decided to go to the north of Norway, Tromsø. Hearing exciting stories of fellow students about the Northern Lights, made us thrilled to see them too. We searched for the best spot to see them, bought a huge jar of candy to stay awake, listened to and sang along with an awesome 90’s R&B playlist, and had our fully charged cameras at the ready. So we waited, and waited, and waited… No Northern Lights for us. With fresh courage we repeated this ritual the next day but unfortunately we were not the lucky ones. To ease the pain, we planned a dogsledding trip, which was terrifying and incredibly beautiful at the same time.

Nightlife & Dating

hook-ups with the more shy Norwegians ended up in fb-message conversations

 After some detox days in the north, we were ready to party again. Because of the ridiculous high alcohol prices, pre-drinks at student houses with Schiphol-imported beverages were common practice. Games and music were played until a complaint of the neighbours stopped the party. No problem at all. Around 22.00 it was time to head to the club anyways. With a whole group of exchange students we conquered the dance floor and the first romances appeared. Most of the time, hook-ups with the more shy Norwegians ended up in fb-message conversations, whereas kisses with other exchange students resulted in exciting and interesting dates. Dating was fun and unconditional, the knowledge the romance would probably stop after the semester ended, made everything easy and less serious.


Political Debates

“Fransje is just a hippie”

Although we had the best parties and funniest conversations within our group, along with the Brexit, European Refugee Crisis and pre-elections in America, we could not avoid some heated discussions. A Brit who considered voting in favour of Brexit, Canadians who felt closely related to the US elections, were split up in a democratic- and a republican team, a Dutchy (me) who was the only one who fully supported Merkel’s “Wilkommenskultur” (welcoming culture), and an Aussie who felt a bit disengaged from these items but was constantly interested how we felt about these happenings. These conversations were tense, however, we could often end the discussion with a smile and conclude, “Fransje is just a hippie”.


Summertime and the livin’ is easy
As the months were passing by, the days were getting longer and longer (it barely turned into darkness), and in May already, it was beach weather in Oslo. To chill and relax in between the exams, we went for a swim (according to my Finnish friends a symbolic moment of getting rid of your “winter jacket”), biked through the city with the city bikes, or made a barbeque in one of the many nice parks in Oslo. One by one, exchange students were heading back home as they completed their exams. For a reason, I just could not leave this country already. The beautiful nature, delicious coffee, best kanelboller, and stylish people felt like a fairy tale. Also, there was one goal I still needed to accomplish: the Trolltunga hike. A 22 km long hike with a height of about 900 metres, located near the little town Odda. The landscape was gorgeous, almost as if you were walking through the scenery of the movie Frozen. But at the same time it was rough, climbing uphill, walking through snow, small waterfalls, and mud. But yesss thanks to my hiking boots and the helping hand of my Canadian friends I managed to survive it!

Although it was hard to say goodbye, it was a great relief to realize I could travel around the world and visit all these people in their own countries.

If you still have any doubts going on an Erasmus Exchange, I can only give you one advice: please just do it! The deadline to apply is the 1st of March, so there is still one week left!

For more practical information and handy action plans, please read my previous article or visit the study abroad site. If you still have any questions, you could make an appointment with the Exchange Office via the consultation hours, or ask your questions via the digital question form.