Tromsø

Tromsø is the Arctic capital of Norway. It’s located on a small island and a bit of the mainland peninsula in North Norway. Tromsø is just there, above the Arctic circle, and every year thousands of people come and go to see Northern lights, midnight sun, and beautiful fjords in that area. My friend Lucy and I were one of the tourists the first weekend of April, when we decided to visit the city to catch the sights of Aurora Borealis before its traces would disappear in the rays of the never-setting Sun.

storsteinen-tromso2
The view of the city from the city’s mountain, Storsteinen. The city is very small, as you can see. Hiking up to see this view was an adventure, but now that my bruises are almost gone I have a feeling I wouldn’t mind doing it again. The people who live next to the mountain climb it very often (i.e. every day) like an exercise routine. Norwegians, in general, seem to love exercise as much as I love food.
eidkjosen
At this place called Eidkjosen. Lucy and I passed by this place in order to get to the fjords. We had to wait for the bus for about an hour but we didn’t complain. There was also a Whole Foods-like store that had free samples of smoked fish and fruits. Maybe that is why I didn’t mind waiting?

It has breathtakingly beautiful views. Tromsø’s a tiny city for my standards but I enjoyed staying there because it just has such beautiful nature. I don’t know how it looks during summer, but when I was there I was able to witness mountains covered with shiny-white snow embracing the bluest sea water and I fell in love with that image immediately.

ersfjordsbotn-4
When we got to Ersfjordbotn, a small village in between mountains, I understood why there even was Norwegian romantic nationalism movement in art in 19th century. It is impossible to see this view and not to want to paint it.
ersfjordsbotntromso
Ersfjordbotn
ersfjordsbotn3
Ersfjodbotn. When we were heading towards the bus station to return to the city as we were slowly freezing, we met a lonely cyclist sliding down this empty road. The possibility to ride in between mountain peaks and calm waters seems very tempting. If only I had enough stamina.

 

Tromsø introduced me to Sami culture. Sami are indigenous people of Scandinavia, who have their own culture and language. Their historical land spans across Northern regions of 4 countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. In Norway they suffered from Norwegianization, a movement from the government to unify Norwegian culture and language which in turn meant to erase Sami culture and language. Now their rights are recognized and protected, and Sami people are rebuilding their cultural values with the support from the governments of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. You can read more about Sami people on Wikipedia, UN regional information center, and this website (informal but informative).

storsteinen-tromso
The view from Storsteinen at the neighboring mountain-hill.

 

Tromsø is one of the places you can go through the Sociology Department’s study abroad program. Therefore, I felt obligated to visit the northernmost university in the world. Well, my friend and I went there because we wanted to see reindeer in captivity at the Arctic biology research center, but shhh. The university’s campus is very modern and curious. Personally, I think I liked the design of the university campus and its buildings much more than those of the University of Oslo.

The library building had a very nice picture collection at randomest places. I enjoyed them a lot.

It also had some weird installations in their reading rooms designed, perhaps, to encourage students to read.

The main administrative building was modern and welcoming, compared to Sproul Hall at least. I liked the big windows, a wall with falling water, and lots of plants towards the entrance.

uit8
As far as I understood, this is a Biology, Fishery, and Economics building. At first glance such collection of faculties seems unusual but I guess it makes sense if you consider Norway’s main products for commerce.
uit7
Reality is merely an illusion, Albeit a very persistent one. -Einstein’s words on something that looks like a garbage bin. I think I like this university.

 

And of course, we were able to see the lights. We were lucky–the weather and solar activity were perfectly calibrated for our visit. But of course, I couldn’t capture the moment on my sad camera on my sad half-broken-but-still-working phone. I will just say that when you see the lines of pure color dancing right above you, you will know exactly why everybody wants to see them at least once in their lives.

aurora
The title of this photo is I Tried My Best

By the way, it is possible to see them in the middle of the city, if the weather is good, and the reason people head out on tours is to escape city lights and clouds in case there are ones above Tromsø. Thanks to our luck and the weather, I was able to lie down on a frozen lake in the middle of the city to see lights perform their dance.

storsteinen-tromso1
Just to show you how much snow there was in April. The house-like structure is actually a slide that is completely buried under snow. Only the top platform remains. Three rods on the right are swings, of course. This was on top of Storsteinen.
bibliotektromso
A very beautiful public library in the city center.
arcticcathedral
The Arctic Cathedral, or Ishavskatedralen. Apparently its stained glass windows are very beautiful. We decided that its exterior was too grand to digest and did not go in.

I would love to visit Tromsø again to witness the midnight Sun in its full glory.

 

Today I got 2 poems for you. They are written by a famous Sami poet Nils-Aslak Valkeapää.  These are opening and closing poems from his book Trekways of the Wind, or, more precisely of the second book of this trilogy, called Bluethroat, Twitter, Sing. The book was translated by Ralph Salisbury, Lars Nordström, and Harald Gaski in 1994 (first edition).

Hope you can imagine North-Norwegian landscape better when reading these poems. You can read more about Valkeapää here.

Can you hear the sound of life

in the roaring of the creek

in the blowing of the wind

 

That is all I want to say

that is all

 

The redness of evening

Birch tops sway against the sky

The reflection of light in the river

 

Everything remains unsaid

Still

 

 

Advertisements

Bergen

Bergen is one of the cities you can choose to study at through the same program I’m studying abroad in Oslo! (more info here) I had a chance to visit this beautiful city during spring break.

bergen
The city’s view from Fløyen, one of Bergen’s mountains.
ulriken2
The view of the city from the cable car ride back from Ulriken, the city’s highest mountain.

 

Bergen is the second biggest city in Norway. This country has a very small population indeed, so in fact, Bergen’s total size (including its urban and sub-urban areas) is comparable to San Jose but the population is 4 times smaller. Therefore you’ll rarely see apartment complexes but mostly colorful detached houses.

plass
The view from across Lille Lungegårdsvannet, a small lake in Bergen’s city center. The side I’m taking the pictures from is the street with Art museums and galleries.
bryggen kyle
The famous Bryggen! Bergen’s most famous old part of the city. They say it inspired Arendel, the city from Disney’s Frozen. Picture taken by Kyle 🙂

 

It’s a city surrounded by 7 mountains on one side and the sea on the other. It’s really easy to visit two most popular mountains Fløyen and Ulriken. The first has its own cable funicular (first opened in 1918!); the second can be conquered by riding a cable car to the top. You are free to hike them as well, and you feel like it, you can even hike from one to another.

ulriken1
The top of Ulriken is covered in snow during the last week of March. The dots on the photo are my camera’s fault but you can imagine they are snowflakes. Which they might as well be, as it was in fact snowing when I was there.
ulriken
Another picture in midst of Ulriken. It was very foggy so I couldn’t go far in my not-very-winter shoes. But I managed to find some running water.

 

As Bergen is also surrounded by the sea, there are many fjords around Bergen area. We went on one of the fjord tours and saw this beauty.

fjord
Tour to Ostefjord.

 

Bergen’s very suitable for active lifestyle people but it doesn’t mean that nature is the only thing that it has to offer. While I was there I saw a poster about Bergen’s own Bergenfest, which I think is a music festival. Plus it has a very pleasant 4-building art gallery as well as a modern art museum.

art
You can go here and be artsy and cultured. This picture is taken in the first (or last?) Art Gallery building, KODE 4.

 

If I was not so fond of big cities I would have definitely chosen Bergen as my study abroad city. I even think that if I were to choose Bergen I would not feel captured as it usually happens in small cities, as there are so many places to visit in such proximity to the city.

fortress kyle
Bergenhus Fortress. Some of its parts date back to 13th century. You can go inside some of the buildings but by the time we got there they were closed. You can imagine being inside though! Picture taken by Kyle.
bryggen start kyle
Follow these pretty buildings and in two seconds you’ll end up in Bryggen area. The red and yellow building on the right is Bergen’s Hanseatic museum. Photo taken by Kyle.

 

When you travel from Bergen to Oslo or vice versa make sure to ride the train at least one way. The railway is famous for its scenic views, and I tell you, the views are gorgeous.

kyle
The train goes up the mountain region and at one point it reaches 990m above the sea level. Therefore, snow in late March. PC: Kyle!
kyle1
Fjords on the way along the railroad. Or it might just be a lake but still pretty. PC: Kyle.

 

Last but not least I want to thank my roommates Kyle, Mayleen, Angie, Yurie, and Yujung who traveled from the states to visit me and made this trip to Bergen possible. And to Kyle, for donating pictures for this post. Tusen takk!

 

Another poem by Olav H. Hauge:

Your Way
Translated by Robin Fulton

 

No-one has marked out the road
you are to take
out in the unknown
out in the blue.

This is your road.
Only you
will take it. And there’s no
turning back.

And you haven’t marked your road
either.
And the wind smoothes out your tracks
on desolate hills.

Find the original here.

 

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.

orientation
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.

sognsvann
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.

schedule
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.

FullSizeRender
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.

IMG_8559
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!
IMG_8557
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.

IMG_8352
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.

IMG_8312
The National Theater. There are names of Ibsen, Holberg, and Bjørnson on its facade.
12546252_1107288462628556_1580409571_o
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.

IMG_8351
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.

When
comes the real morning?
When golden, the sun’s rays hover
Over the earth’s snow-cover,
And where the shadows nestle,
Wrestle,
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.
No.

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

Read more here.

 

Deciding on the Norway program

Deciding to come to study in Norway was not the hardest decision to make. I found out about the program on the Sociology department’s website. I saw the tab “Study Abroad in Norway” on the bottom right, when I clicked on the Undergraduate Program tab. I was intrigued, as I wanted to visit Scandinavian countries before. That was the first step, and then, after a few months of document collection, preparations, goodbyes and hellos–I am here. If you, however, need more than just a click on the tab to be interested in this program, please read further.

DCF 1.0
Hoddevik village near Stadt cape, Sogn og Fjordane county. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Landscapes_of_Norway#/media/File:Stadt_Hoddevik.jpg.

First, I have to speak about the great aspects of the program. Studying abroad, in general, is highly recommended to everybody. It gives an opportunity to see the world and to live in another country as a student and to be more than just a passing tourist. You get to meet so many different people from the country you are going to and from other countries, and to learn about their cultures and languages. You probably get to learn a new language or a new accent. And most of all, let’s admit, as Berkeley students we get to take a break from a really stressful campus environment.

This program, in particular, appealed to me because I was interested in studying abroad but was not planning on paying the international student fee that I have to pay when going abroad through the UCEAP. This program, on the other hand, is an Independent Study Abroad Program, which is not affiliated with the UCEAP. Therefore, studying here is so much cheaper for me than a semester in Berkeley. This is because the education in Norway is free so you would only have to pay high living expenses. Fret not, however, because you can also apply for a scholarship provided but the Sociology department, which would cover more than half of the cost of living! Plus, depending on your Financial Aid program, I believe that you can get even more help. (More on that here, under Consortium Study Agreement Program tab.) Also, because this program is facilitated through the Sociology department, you are prioritized when you apply to study in those universities, so admission to the programs is basically guaranteed.

Secondly, then why Norway? It’s an incredibly beautiful country despite its cold winters. It’s close to other European/Scandinavian countries (including Iceland), which allows you to travel. It has a very interesting political system which is in some ways similar to the Great Britain’s: a constitutional monarchy with highly developed welfare state (see: Nordic Model). It is simply worth visiting, and now you have an excuse to do so.

Third. Deciding on studying abroad is mainly difficult because it requires a lot of planning. I wanted to graduate on time despite studying in Norway, therefore, I had to figure out my schedule to fit best a semester of taking a minimum load of classes. You can only satisfy major electives or breadth courses requirement when you study abroad (although you would have to check with your department on number of electives you can take outside of Berkeley). The minimum amount of classes you can take at UiO (University of Oslo) is 30 credits, which is usually 3 classes. If you just want to do the minimum, make sure you plan out your semesters ahead, until graduation. One good thing is that you are required to visit your major advisor as well as your college advisor. You can discuss your graduation plan with them in depth and ask some advice.

And this is it! Hopefully you are more interested to study abroad in Norway after my very convincing arguments.

2010-10-25_Oslo
Oslofjord and city of Oslo. Souce: Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Landscapes_of_Norway#/media/File:2010-10-25_Oslo.jpg

When you are decided to study abroad, you have a list of universities to choose from. Bergen, Oslo, Trondheim (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), and Tromsø (Arctic University) are the ones that have programs right now. You are only limited by your preferences of where to live for the next few months. I chose the University of Oslo for my Spring 2016 semester. Studying and living in the capital of Norway appealed to me, as I prefer big cities to small towns. There are students who studied in other universities and loved it there! But in this blog I am going to focus on the University of Oslo and its beautiful campus and student life.

 

Eilert_Sundts_hus_UiO
Eilert Sundts hus. The Social Sciences building, simple and grand. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Eilert_Sundts_hus#/media/File:Eilert_Sundts_hus_UiO.jpg.

 

That’s all. Today’s portion of poetry also comes from Ibsen.

Far in the North a great oak-tree soared, —
The heathen days saw its dawning; —
Deep down in the soil its root explored,
Full noble its heaven-bent awning; —
The massive great branches, lush growth from the bole
Spread out from the Eider and north to the Pole,
It flaunted its shade over Svea’s reaches
And wreathed the Atlantic’s rock-bound beaches! —

From “The Giant Oak” by Henrik Ibsen, trans. by John Northam

Read more here.

Ha det bra! 

Have a good one!

Welcome!

Hei! Hello!

My name is Dasom. This blog is dedicated to my time studying abroad in Norway, Oslo.

I am an undergraduate student from University of California, Berkeley, where I study Sociology and Psychology. I decided to go to study abroad for a semester in Norway, and here I am!

Some posts might not be chronological, some posts might not be too relevant, and some posts might be too personal. But I hope this blog will give you a taste of what studying abroad is like. If you have studied abroad before, I hope this blog reminds you of your time. I hope you enjoy this blog and find it helpful.

 

IMG_8299
Dancing tree silhouettes in the park in front of the Royal Palace.

To give you a taste of Norwegian culture, I will quote the words of Henrik Ibsen–one of the most famous Norwegian poets and dramatists.

 Yet midst the affectionate starlets there,
Our eyes seek out one with much pleasure, —
It gleams with a shimmering, wistful air
And yet it’s the star we most treasure! — —

From “Recollections of Leave-Taking” by Henrik Ibsen, trans. by John Northam

You can read more here.

 

Hyggelig å treffe deg!

Nice to meet you!