The Orientation Week

The orientation week here is much better than anything I had my first week as an international student at Cal.

Here is the program from the official orientation welcoming event.

orientation program
Hope you can read the program even despite my camera’s blurry filter.


They had music programs in between talks! Performed by University of Oslo’s students and staff. I found it amazing.

A casual soprano performance accompanied by harp. Culture.


Before you arrive to Oslo you are organized into buddy groups along with other exchange students. They are called buddy groups not only because you become ‘buddies’ with your group people but also because you get one or two ‘actual’ buddies who are exchange students who have already spent some time in Oslo prior to your arrival (usually a semester) or actual, true Norwegians. Wow. These buddies will act as one of multiple resources that the university provides for you to make your adjustment smoother. All because you can ask questions and they can answer!

buddy week
Ice skating in the city. Cold but worth it. (?)


I was put into a buddy group that was consist only of Psychology students (I’m a Psychology/Sociology major). There were other buddy groups that were organized via different principle as well, but you basically end up with exchange students from your own department. If you wanna meet people from other departments, try going to student events, parties, or attend a Norwegian language class. That’ll help!

buddy group
This is a picture of one of the rooms of the National Gallery (which holds the famous Scream by Munch, btw). I went there with a few of my buddy group people. Hope that proves that buddy groups are good places to meet people who would go to galleries with you.


The Orientation week here is called Buddy week. The name is different but the essence is the same–many events, and if you attend all of them you’ll be pretty occupied. Still, try. We had ice-skating events (at an open-air rink in between buildings in the middle of Oslo), pub crawls, and movie nights. Pick and choose! My favorite was half a day sightseeing tour on a bus, to which I was late but still enjoyed seeing the city. You get to get off at a few places, which is nice. They say during summer they had events like barbecues by the lake, which sounds amazing but does not mean that the Fall semester is better than Spring, of course.

THE lake. It’s called Sognsvann and is 10-20 minutes away by foot from my student housing. A different student housing is 5 minutes away from this place. It’s really wonderful here, as you can walk around it, jog around it, or ski and hike around/from it.


All in all, very enjoyable. Highly recommended not to miss and to come on time for the orientation.


Today’s poem is by Olav H. Hauge for a change.

It’s the Dream
Translated by Robin Fulton

It’s the dream we carry in secret
that something miraculous will happen,
that it must happen –
that time will open
that the heart will open
that doors will open
that the mountains will open
that springs will gush –
that the dream will open,
that one morning we will glide into
some little harbour we didn’t know was there.

More on Olav H. Hauge here.


The Classes Start!

Uh-oh, the best part of being a student.

When you register for classes, you’ll find that the system here is very different from that of Berkeley. It’s normal for students here to take 30 credits, which is normally 3 classes. That would make one a full-time student. As I can gather from conversations with Norwegian students, it’s possible to take even less.

My heaviest load. All of the classes start on different dates, so my last class starts in March! Pretty weird for me, but I’ll take it.


Lectures are normally two hours or more, including 15 minutes of late start and 15 minute breaks every 45 minutes, not bad huh? For example, my Gender Studies class starts at 12:15pm and lasts till 2pm, with a break from 1pm – 1:15pm (when my professor is in a good mood). Plus, all classes start at different times! Some of mine started in January, some in February, and my last class starts in March.


You’ll find format of big lectures similar to Cal. Smaller classes, however, feel more directed and supervised than those of Berkeley. I.e. there is too little discussion to my taste, thus, little opportunity to challenge and question assigned readings and other materials. It might be the way professors teach or natural Norwegian shyness; I will never know.

The empty hallway with tables and chairs in Psychology building. Free to use 🙂


One major thing that everybody notices when they study abroad in Norway–there is only 1 exam per course and little to no assignments (non if you’re lucky).  Completely different from Berkeley, where having something due every week is a normal thing. Therefore, overall pressure in the beginning of the semester might seem light and almost non-existent. Though students here promise stressful few days as well as sleepless nights before the exam. Exciting things to look forward to!


I’ve got to express my love to UiO’s truly wonderful study spaces! Study or Netflix, there are numerous places to sit down and do your thing. Almost all of the hallways have tables and chairs, and there are empty classroom-like spaces for you to use as well. Love it.

The big hallway in Eilert Sundt’s hus, the Social Sciences building. It has several big tables for people to occupy and eat, sleep, or study. Freedom of choice!
U1 student cafè-bar in the Soc Sci building’s basement. Did I tell you that every building has its own bar and cafè? It’s completely student run and has 5 kr (~70 cents) coffee. And all those empty tables! What more do you need.


Today’s poem is from Ibsen, of course.

Pallid star! Despatch a sign
From the heights eternal! —
For the soul’s eye twinkle, shine
Friendly, though supernal! — —

Must thy symbolled message seek
To rouse yearning merely?
Teach me so that I may tweak
Future’s veil, see clearly! —

From “To the Star” by Henrik Ibsen, trans. by John Northam

Read the whole poem here.


First Impressions

I fell in love with the city of Oslo in span of few days. It is a city full of nature, snow, and people. Despite having a busy downtown, Oslo is very widespread; this city consists of patches of house-full areas here and there mixed with patches of untouched white, which would certainly turn blue and green “when it gets too warm,” as Norwegians promise.

Piles of snow and a beautiful row of trees in front of the Social Sciences building, Eilert Sundts hus.

Oslo also boasts its rich cultural life. There are many museums both in the city center and in the outskirts. There is the first Literature House in the country which was built “to promote the book-reading culture” according to my tour guide on the school-organized bus tour. The House also provides rooms for writing for aspiring authors or amateurs who do not have an office to write. There is an iceberg-like Opera House, where tourists go to climb the rooftop and the locals go to ski down from it. There is a big National Theater, and a huge park dedicated to sculptures of one talented artist.

The National Theater. There are names of Ibsen, Holberg, and Bjørnson on its facade.
Thanks Caleb for the picture! A statue from Vigelandsparken–a park dedicated to Gustav Vigeland’s sculptures. Credits: Caleb Coffey

The public transportation is amazingly organized; the bus stops dictate minutes it takes to get to another stop. Similarly organized is a Norwegian student’s life: after a lecture everybody heads to the library in pairs or alone, and never in a flock. If you want to blend in–get up early, before the sun even rises, make breakfast and simple lunch of bread and spread (pålegg) and go out in the cold to have your own private study time before and after lecture in one of the many study spots on- or off-campus. Evenings are usually busy and loud; as a ritual one flies off to a bar, now in a group, to a dark student pub where they sell overpriced beer that’s cheaper compared to other bars, or to a normal pub where they sell simply overpriced beer.

If you can see beyond the frosty surface, the negative and positive numbers underneath the names of stops are minutes that indicate how long it takes from the black point (the current station) to other stations.
FullSizeRender (1)
The view outside the huge main library windows is mesmerizing, but rarely somebody looks up.

I am definitely loving this city.


Today’s poetry is from Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.

comes the real morning?
When golden, the sun’s rays hover
Over the earth’s snow-cover,
And where the shadows nestle,
Lifting lightward the root enringèd
Till it shall seem an angel wingèd,
Then it is morning,
Real, real morning.
But if the weather is bad
And my spirit sad,
Never morning I know.

From “When Comes the Morning” by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, trans. by A. H. Palmer

Read more here.