Norway | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

As December approaches, my heart grows heavy. This semester is the most I have grown and learned about myself in my entire life. I have made some of the best friends I could have asked for and will leave with memories that I will never forget. To be perfectly honest, I’m nervous to go back to the same old town and the same old routine I have repeated for so long. Traveling has become the constant in my life and although I’m excited to see my family and friends again, I’ve grown to love the rootless lifestyle I have been exposed to. I had a taste and am now poisoned with the ache to see the world.

November in Norway brought my two favorite seasons. I often walked the parks, passing couples hand in hand enjoying the fall breeze and listening to children scream with joy as they buried each other in leaves. However, the fall leaves were covered by the first snow sooner than most expected. I’ll never forget the way my friends and I slipped down the icy hill to class and the snowball fights outside of my apartment window. Buildings are strung with festive lights and the Christmas market in town is bustling no matter how cold it gets, because there is always enough gluhwein to warm your insides.

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My best advice is to experience the place you go for all that it is worth. School isn’t nearly as demanding here than at A&M, so while in Scandinavia I did everything I could to see what Scandinavia had to offer. Among all of the places I have been, I fell in love with the north in Svalbard chasing the Northern lights and dog sledding through the arctic of Norway. I had no knowledge about how to cope with the perpetual darkness of the polar night, yet I was immediately captivated by the clear air and far horizons. The darkness of the snowy mountains. The sheer power of the ice. I learned to observe in quiet moments; staring at blue shadows, straining to hear the faint cry of an arctic fox, embracing the chill of the wind whirling snowflakes around me.

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I came here to learn about life and I found exactly what I was looking for. However, finals are beginning to loom over me and your entire grade is weighted on either an exam or a final paper so it’s important to manage your time wisely and buckle down when it matters. There were no assignments throughout the semester to balance out a bad grade on the final which weighs as 100% of the grade, so I would recommend keeping up with classes consistently to avoid destructive stress.

Yes, this has been the time of my life. However, I can’t deny that it comes with challenges. Your life may be moving fast, but that means everyone else’s life continues moving as well when your gone. A friend died in my absence, I lost a pet, missed an important time of my newly engaged sister’s life, and struggled communicating with my boyfriend until I doubted everything. Long distance relationships are hard and a few may crumble under the pressure. What I have learned is that complete independence is a time of growth and growth isn’t supposed to be easy. Every pain in your heart makes you more of who you are and that is beautiful. The people who matter will be there for you when you get back, so trust things will work out and don’t let the amazing opportunities you’re presented with get away from you because this is a once in a lifetime chance to take them.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

-H. Jackson Brown Jr.

img_20160929_192947                                     dog-sled

 

Categories: 2016, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange

This place becomes more beautiful with every passing day. Time is moving quickly and seasons are changing but most of my time has been spent outside in the fresh air during the month of September. The summer temperatures are fading into cool fall weather towards the end of the month and Norwegians are taking full advantage of the last days of warm, sunny weather.

September brought more travels around Norway as school is still incredibly laid back. I have no assignments or mandatory homework until my exams at the end of November. I hiked Trolltunga in early September and would recommend this to absolutely everyone who has the chance to come here. The entire hike was beautiful and although challenging, I believe anyone who takes breaks and has proper shoes can do it.

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I also traveled by car to Verdens Ende, which directly translates to “World’s End” and is about 2 hours outside of Oslo. One of my international friends has a car here so we have visited a few other small cities outside of Oslo as well. Norwegians live so simply in the quaint towns and I found it refreshing to leave the largest city in Norway to experience more traditional neighborhoods.

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Outside of my travels I can find beauty right down the road. I spend a lot of time running a lovely trail I found just 5 minutes away from my apartment along the river. Norway has many hidden treasures, you just have to be proactive about looking for them.

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I’ll post for you guys again in October. Ha det!

Categories: 2016, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange

I arrived in Bergen, Norway on August 3rd with my family. My first impression of Norway was that there was a certain “freshness” to the air. The weather in Bergen is a bit more rainy and chilly than Oslo (where I currently live), but I put on a rain jacket and a warm hat and I enjoyed the crisp air as a refreshing change from the Texas heat. Bergen is a very European feeling city on the water with colorful houses, plenty of shopping, and quaint markets with beautiful nature surrounding it.

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After spending a week in Bergen with my family and exploring the extravagant fjords on our vacation, my family moved me into my apartment in Oslo. August in Oslo is warm and sunny with the temperature resting in the 60’s for the most part. It’s lovely!

BI is an incredibly modern school that I find to be beautifully built. The first week is called “Fadderullan” which is a week of activities and parties for you to get to know fellow international students as well as Norwegian students. Heads up, Norwegians DEFINITELY know how to party!

Fadderullan

Oslo has a city feel, but if you take the metro a few stops outside of the city you can find some great hikes, parks, and lakes. Norwegians love to be outside, so if you’re an outdoorsy person, this is the place for you! The nature is absolutely breathtaking and the school offers a lot of opportunities to go on group hikes and travel to famous nature spots around Norway.

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Pros:

  • Norway is BEAUTIFUL
  • The weather is perfect in August
  • The people are super friends and willing to help. Not to mention everyone speaks English (Thank the Lord because Norwegian is a weird language that is difficult to learn)
  • BI is structured in a way that caters to international students and gives you plenty of opportunities to travel and explore Norway

Cons:

  • Norway is expensive. Eating out is difficult and it’s much more common to have friends over to eat a home cooked meal.. or a frozen pizza called Grandiosa, the unofficial meal of Norway!
  • Going out for drinks also gets pretty expensive. If you enjoy drinking with friends get used to “pre partying”, which is drinking before going out for drinks since alcohol is less expensive in the grocery stores and government regulated liquor stores.

Norge

Categories: 2016, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange

BI Norwegian Business School
Overall, my study abroad in Norway was fantastic. Not only did I have the opportunity to study in a different country and culturally enhance my education, but I also met a lot of people from all over the world in the process. Moreover, being able to travel to nearby countries made it even better. I would definitely recommend this program to any management and marketing major that is looking to combine a fun way to learn and make connections. Although the title of the class was Intercultural Management, about half the class was over marketing material, therefore this should definitely be taken into consideration.

As far as experiencethe social aspect for this program, it is extraordinary. The program had a lot of social activities planned to make sure you had the opportunity to do everything there is to do in Norway. For example, we had a shrimp cruise, a rafting trip with lunch and diner included, social events at the school, and guided tours of historic buildings in Oslo. One definitely gets a lot in return for a small social activity fee. You are also given a lot of free time in order to travel through Europnorwaye, which is a plus. BI Norwegian Business School is a very well designed campus, as you can see in the picture, that you will be proud to call your school. I have provided some pictures from my study abroad in Norway to give you an idea of how life changing this trip was.

Categories: 2016, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange

Excited to go home, but sad to leave the month long experience of a lifetime has come to an end. My absolute favorite part was still all the new friends I was able to make. It’s quite amazing how easy it is to be outgoing when you’re faced with possible loneliness for an entire month.

However, besides all the new Facebook statuses I will have the pleasure of reading for the rest of my life from my new friends, I was also able to discover some distant relatives. Quite a while ago a distant great uncle of mine out together a family tree including addresses. This was so long ago that I was not ever represented on it. My mother’s third cousin sent a letter to my mom wanting to connect with some of her more distant relatives. Her son was also interested in studying abroad in Texas at some point (they live in Sweden). His school actually has a program with t.u. (hissss), but I’ll get back to that later. My mother and her third cousin Maria began emailing and discovered they had a lot in common. Eventually it was settled that Maria and her family would come visit us in Texas while I was in Norway, and towards the end of my trip I would visit Maria and her family in Sweden.13754386_1729046950645489_8116482587907943936_n

Now, back to t.u. (hissss), my mother set up a tour of both A&M’s and t.u.’s campuses because southern hospitality knows no bounds.

Later on I finally made it to Sweden. I took the wrong train and ended up paying a pricey cab fare, but I did not miss my flight, which felt like quite an accomplishment. When I met my fourth cousin, Maria’s son, Fredrick he and his father were wearing A&M wristbands; and Fredrick should me all of the A&M paraphernalia that he received from my mom and from the campus. I would not be surprised if he ended up there for graduate school, or at least I hope he goes their for graduate school. One can always use another Aggie in the family.

My mother also found a picture my grandmother took when she was in Norway. It looks different now with more buildings and trees, but it was special for me to be able to walk where she must have walked such a ling time ago.img1469278641558

I am currently on a giant airplane heading back to TEXAS! I am praying that my last two years at A&M allows for another study abroad, but if that is not the case then I suppose I will have to backpack through all of Europe on my own. Being in a student exchange rather than a faculty led trip has definitely given me the confidence to venture out on my own to far off places I had never before dreamed of exploring.

Thanks and gig’em

Categories: 2016, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange

 

Keeping myself from bursting into tears as I hugged my mom at the airport to say goodbye was when it became real for me. I was about to get on a plane and go to a different country alone. Shaking I made my way through the security line with no problems. The plan was to fly to Newark, New Jersey. Then from there we would head to Oslo.

This was not only my first time going out of the United States, it was my first time to fly alone- hence why I almost broke down when my mom told she could not go any further. I think subconsciously I was expecting her to be there until I arrived in my dorm at the BSN.

I was not alone for long though. After changing flights I sat next to a girl going to the same summer program as me! Upon arrival we discovered that we were also going to be roommates for the entirety of our summer adventure.

Celebrating the 4thThe rest of the people I have had the privilege of meeting range from thirty-nine different countries, and because of this trip I can now confidently say that I have made a friend from every continent!

Academic wise, this management class is very similar to MKTG 321. The end project was selecting a product from your home country and marketing it to Norway, but prior to this project we spent a week focusing on Norwegian culture. Norwegian culture is fascinating, with their shy tendencies and their complete avoidance of sitting by others on the bus. However, I believe I enjoyed listening to my fellow students compare their culture to my own. Even just comparing cultures with people who live in the US but not in Texas.

SjoaNorway is an amazing and beautiful country, despites the fact that it is ridiculously expensive. My favorite thing about Norway is that everyone speaks English! Most signs are written in Norwegian, but I have not asked anyone for help that could not speak English, at least not yet.

Categories: 2016, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange

Well it’s officially time for me to return to the States and start a new job. I can’t express how much I am going to miss Europe and the lifestyle here but I also look forward to starting the next chapter. As a graduate student I think I probably had a bit of a different experience at WU. For example, I was the only American and with the exception of one Canadian (in a single class) all students and instructors were from Europe. I was somewhat surprised to find that both students and professors were highly interested in the U.S. This was especially the case in the classroom, where I was frequently asked to comment on class discussions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m awesome, but I think this was a result of the demography/composition of the class and the strong global influence of American corporations. In any case, this put me in an interesting position and plenty of entertaining conversations and group dynamics. Sometimes American students report being mocked overseas (probably mostly in a good-natured way) but this was simply not my experience. If for some reason you are worried about that – just read the journal before travelling. Europeans tend to be more knowledgeable about politics and international affairs. So read up so you aren’t one of those “stereotypical Americans” overseas.

What did I learn? My communication and interpersonal skills were tested and absolutely benefited from this experience. Not only in speaking with people who were less than fluent in English, but also from appreciating cultural differences. Germans for example tend to be more assertive in group dynamics. Once you understand this is nothing personal you can adapt your personal style as needed. If you find this frustrating, just remember you will run into similar personalities in your future workplace. Classroom dynamics were also very different in Austria: MBA classrooms in the States are more adversarial and assertive – take a position, make recommendations, defend with debate. In comparison the environment at WU was much less spirited. Improving soft skills (i.e. communication or being more flexible and adaptable) is probably the most valuable part of a study abroad experience. And believe me, traveling through Europe provides PLENTY of opportunity to work on this stuff. Case in point, I’ve also become more assertive in my travels. Americans seem to want to apologize for everything, but over here, you have to be more to the point. Be prepared to have to push your way into lines or cram into public spaces such as trains.

I made a lot of amazing friends from all over the world and feel very blessed to have taken part in this program. If you are still deciding whether or not to study abroad, I definitely recommend it. You will have a blast and will probably never have a better opportunity to grow and learn about yourself. These sort of experiences challenge your mental models and help you become a better person. Just be sure and embrace the culture once you arrive and don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone; that’s kind of what it’s all about. Some of my favorite quotes talk about living your life in a state of “expanded curiosity” and feeling at home in the world no matter where you are. Try and do this when you travel, and if for some reason it doesn’t seem like you are finding what you are looking for, find instead what is there.

Categories: 2016, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange

trolltungaAs soon as I found out I was going to Norway, I googled “Top things to do in Norway.” To my surprise, I learned that Trolltunga was one of the best things to do in Norway. I soon began to do some research as to what exactly Trolltunga was. As I read articles and blogs, I soon was informed that Trolltunga was an 8-12 hour hike but the views made the hike an incredible experience.

During my first days in Norway, I heard many students in the program talk about Trolltunga. By Wednesday (my third day in Norway) I planned a trip with four other students to take on this hike. The next day, as I was was walking to class, I unfortunately rolled my ankle. Thankfully I did not break anything, but I was feeling pain. I was very upset because I was really looking forward to the hike. As I saw how swollen my ankle was, I began to realize that the hike would be impossible. Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to participate in this hike, I still planned to go with my peers to Odda, a six hour drive from Oslo. We left Friday afternoon and arrived that night. Since my ankle was feeling better, I kept thinking that maybe this hike would be possible after all. I decided to wake up the next day at 5am with my group to go with them to Trolltunga. While in the car, I wrapped my ankle and I felt determined to at least try and do some of the hike. As we began to our hike, I quickly began to regret my decision because the first 45 minutes were the hardest. There was a lot of mud, which made it extremely difficult to hike, and the elevation made it worst. Fortunately, things began to get easier. hikeThe more I hiked, the more determined I felt to get to the top. We hiked through snow, mud, and rain but all the views made it extremely interesting and adventurous. After five hours, we were finally at the top. I felt extreme joy because I had completed what I wanted to do! This is the one thing I really wanted to do and I did. At this point, I did not realize how much harder the hike going down would be. It took six hours to get back to the parking lot. Although this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, I’m very glad I did it and would definitely recommend that others try this hike! As you can see in the picture, it is definitely worth the 12 hours!

Categories: 2016, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange

Hallo!

In preparation for this trip, I did what anyone would do and made a Pinterest board full of all the adventurous things I wanted to do and amazing places I wanted to explore! In hindsight, I realize I probably should have focused more on practicing the (very confusing) Norwegian language and becoming familiar with the modes of transportation in Oslo. Luckily, the program coordinators at BI were very thorough with their instructions and even met us at the train station to help us take the correct metro line and give us directions to get to our dorms. Here’s a picture of me outside of the gorgeous and very modern university after 12 hours of travel, arriving at the dorms, and going to the grocery store to finally get some dinner (because everything seems to close early in Norway, especially in the summer)!

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My first impressions of Norway was that it was cold but that was pleasant after leaving the Texas heat, the people were generally tall and reserved, and everything was beautiful! My first impressions of the program was that there would be a nice balance of academic work and social activities. I was extremely excited to start going to class because I was about to be surrounded by almost 90 other students from all over the world with extremely different backgrounds than myself. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about how well I’d mesh with everyone. The first weekend there was an optional hiking trip to Nordmarka, a beautiful forest in Oslo full of trails for everyone to enjoy, and my nervousness was put to rest. During the hike conversation flowed and friendships started to form already. Here’s a picture from halfway through the hike including students from America, Australia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, and Hong Kong!

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Lecture in Norway is undoubtedly different than in America. Our professors insisted we call them by their first name and we got a fifteen minute break for coffee and tea every hour without fail. It was much more discussion based and there were many more breakout sessions with groups to gain a better grasp of the material and to spur discussions. The first week of class we dove into intercultural theories by Hofstede, Project GLOBE, and Hall. We discussed sophisticated stereotyping and how when done properly, stereotypes can be extremely helpful in identifying with cultures. Discussions in class led to discussions between students and we already started to develop a better idea of our similarities and differences. I hope by the end of this program I will gain a better grasp on intercultural communication and improve my skills when interacting with people much different than myself. I also hope to be pushed out of my comfort zone and to learn not only about the world, but about myself as well during the process. I’m definitely excited to see how the different experiences of this trip will change how I view the world around me!

Thanks (takk) for reading!

– Tricia Chittenden

Categories: 2015, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange

It’s taken me a long time to sit down and write this. It’s so hard to believe that this semester flew by. I’ve been home for two weeks and I’m still waiting to go back, to pack my backpack and head back to the little dorm I called home for the last 5 months. I suppose the best thing I could do for the readers at this point could be to give you my opinions of the pros and the cons of Oslo. Let’s begin on a good note and start with pros.

Pros: -There are cafes everywhere and the coffee shops and baristas are awesome and the coffee is the best in the world (Really!). -The scenery is amazing and if you are a nature lover it will put you in a hypnotic trance, a state of adoration and comfort here-to-for never experienced. -Everyone is extremely friendly and most people speak English so getting around is quite easy.  -Brunost is awesome brown cheese that tastes like cheddar cheese and maple syrup. I prefer the one in the blue package made from goat’s cheese. It is just so awesome so if you are going there please, for me, try some. (It’s great on Vaffels.) -You will meet amazing people from everywhere and learn to drink cheap Danish beer together. -The people in Norway, not so much in Oslo but other places, have the same sense of trust in each other that us Aggies have.

Cons: -SIO housing is AWFUL! If I were to go back I would stay in BSN. They charge you for ridiculous things and its really expensive. I would have fought the charges they put against me if I wasn’t already in TX when I got them. -The prices are outrageous, but that is a given. -There is not a lot of selection for food unless you go to mega stores, and even those don’t have anything on H-E-B. You get used to eating the same 6-7 things over and over again. -Nothing is open on Sundays except a few cafes and those are extremely busy then. -It is really easy to get a little depressed during the winter months when you’re getting maybe  hours of sun a day. Make sure you are out in the sun a lot. -The University is completely different from TAMU… it was a little crazy for me to work my way around.

I honestly had a really great  experience and can not wait to take my SO and maybe even my children someday. I hope this blog has helped in some way.

p.s. sorry for no picture, I could not find one to do my last days justice….

 

Categories: 2015, Norway, Reciprocal Exchange