Elke - University of Oslo

B Science/Arts
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

I studied America and The World Since 1898, Norwegian World Literature, and Space Physics. A bit of a mix there! I took all of those classes in English, which helped me at the time (because I could understand the classwork), but I see there would have been a benefit in taking a class in Norwegian instead, because it would have pushed me to learn the language. I regret not taking a Norwegian language class - my friends who took a language class seemed to find it easier to get around in Norway. Each of my subjects was challenging, but Space Physics was the most challenging - I'm not a physics major! But completing Space Physics taught me a whole lot about how I can push myself and what motivates me, so I'm glad that I did it. 2 of my 3 subjects, as well as most other subjects I heard about, had 100% weighting for the final exam/assignment, with a pass/fail assignment in the middle of the semester that you had to pass to be eligible for the final assessment - that was quite different to what I'm used to.

Personal experience

I think the most significant skills I learned were actually how to cook for myself, and organise my food and my own space – I live with my parents in Australia! Most of my friends were other exchange students: I was put in an orientation group with exchange students, my classes were in English so not many Norwegian students took them, and all but one of my friends in my shared-kitchen accommodation were from overseas too.

Accommodation

I lived off-campus, in accommodation operated by the student organisation in Oslo (SiO). I was on the 9th floor of an apartment building which was about half an hour away from university by public transport. In Oslo, exchange students are guaranteed a place in SiO housing, so I highly recommend using this accommodation. My advice would be to look at the location of the housing you are applying for – SiO has so many buildings throughout Oslo. Being able to get from your accommodation to the university by public transport (or walking) quickly is something to look for, as well as being near a supermarket (there was one right next to my building). I wish I had been in a building slightly closer to university. Kringsja is the biggest student village, with many buildings, a gym, a bar, and a supermarket, and a lot of the people I met who lived there found it a good place to live.

Costs

I went on exchange to Oslo with someone else – we budgeted $800 for two people per week ($400 per person per week), and definitely spent less than that. I think we spent about $160 for two people per week ($80 per person per week) of that on food. Rent for my room with a bed, desk, private bathroom and shared kitchen was about $800 per month. Food is more expensive in Oslo than Brisbane, but there are cheap options – First Price is a cheap home brand range for almost anything, and I recommend the fruit and vegetable shops in Grønland for cheap fruit and vegetables. I bought an unlimited student transport pass for the Oslo region, which was about $80 per month, from the Ruter customer service centre.

Challenge

I think that getting from the airport to my accommodation on the very first day was the biggest challenge. I took the train in the wrong direction from the airport, then I thought I would miss the office opening hours to pick up my keys (they ended up being open late because everyone was moving in), then I took a taxi from the Oslo train station to the office to pick up my keys, which was expensive ($60), and took longer than (I now know) the metro would have. Picking up the keys went fine. Then there was carrying heavy suitcases onto the wrong metro platform, then the right platform, then trying to understand how the Ring metro line works. I made it though, it was just definitely stressful to be in an unfamiliar place while also being tired, with heavy suitcases. I was travelling with someone else, so we worked together to work out where to go, and we tried to communicate well with each other without fighting. We also planned it out beforehand – we knew we would take a train and then a taxi, and then ask about public transport. But it was definitely important to expect and understand that something would end up going wrong.

Professional Development

I think this exchange experience has helped me most by developing my communication skills. Because of my experiences, I now feel more able to communicate with people of different backgrounds, by working through different ways I can get my message across, and make sure I can be understood well.

Highlight

The most beautiful photos I have of Oslo are from when I went to the Christmas market. The sun was setting so early by that time in the year, around 3:30pm, and I have a photo of the sun setting over the buildings, and all the beautiful colours in the sky. I bought delicious churros, and ate them under the sunset. At the same time, I had someone take photos of me in front of the Law building in the centre of the city – getting a photo there had been one of my goals since before I left Australia.

Top tips

Take up the offer of guaranteed housing from SiO. Buy fruit and vegetables from Grønland. Take a Norwegian language class, or another class to learn more about Norway like Norwegian World Literature. Buy a month-long student transport pass. Travel outside Oslo in Norway.