Letter from an exchange student

Hanna var utvekslingsstudent fra USA og tok ett semester på Bjørknes Høyskole i Oslo med freds- og konfliktstudier. Her forteller hun om sine erfaringer med Norge, nordmenn og studiene, og konkluderer med at hun ikke kunne hatt det bedre!

Written by: Hanna ReiersonDSCN0514

My name is Hanna and I studied abroad at Bjørknes University College for the fall 2015 semester. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.x I loved living in Oslo, the classes were engaging, and I made lifelong friends with Norwegian students. Before I arrived in Oslo, I didn’t really know what to expect about the school and the people I would meet, but everything turned out even better than expected.

I immediately fell in love with my little apartment in Grünerløkka, a really fun and trendy part of town that was unexpectedly close to just about everything, including Karl Johans Gate and Central Station. With arrival in mid-August, I was able to absorb the sunshine oriented culture of Oslo which prescribes outdoor cafes, lots of gatherings in parks, and time spent by the water when the weather is nice. Another highlight soon after I arrived was meeting all the other students at the orientation week, or “Fadderuke”, a time when students are encouraged to get to know one another with a week of socializing and parties. There is certainly no American equivalent to this week-long event, but it was certainly effective! I met most of my closest friends during this time!

It’s actually possible to get Norwegian friends

Before traveling to Norway, I was warned that Norwegians are typically more reserved in the process of making friends than Americans tend to be, and I did find this to be true. As an international student in Norway, it is necessary to go out of your way to ask people to hang out, but I found people to be super willing to meet up to walk, grab coffee, or get a bite to eat. With a little perseverance, it is very possible to make Norwegian friends, and the good news is, once the initial effort is expended, that person will likely be your friend for life. I heard an excellent analogy for this phenomenon that describes Americans as peaches and Norwegians as coconuts. It can take a long time to get to the heart of most Americans even if they’re super friendly from the beginning, but with Norwegians, once the shell is cracked, the sweetness never ends!

I recommend a study away program for anyone who….

Along with the amazing location and excellent potential to make a lot of good friends, the academics at Bjørknes University College  were engaging. In my personal experience, there was a lot less time spent physically at school and in class than I was used to in the US, and the amount of “homework” was pretty much non-existent in comparison. Needless to say, I much prefer the Norwegian school system to the American school system because you’re actually given enough time to engage with the assigned readings instead of being constantly overwhelmed with work. That being said, it is really important to prepare for classes. And I can’t say enough good things about the professors at Bjørknes University College. Each individual is an amazing lecturer and I thoroughly enjoyed going to classes each week.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend a study away program at Bjørknes to anyone who

  • Loves public transportation
  • Loves water (fjords!!!!)
  • Enjoys being cozy (candles, blankets, coffee, and chocolate are staples of life in Norway)
  • Wants to make friends with locals
  • Likes being independent/wants to become more independent
  • Craves fresh, healthy, and ethical food  
  • Wants to engage with the world at large and is interested in politics and world affairs
  • Cherishes time to read and reflect

For my final thoughts, my time at Bjørknes University College provided tons of learning opportunities and gave me the priceless opportunity to experience true Norwegian hospitality. Norway truly made an impact on me, and in fact, six months later, I went back to visit! I reconnected with all of my friends and absorbed more Norwegian culture. Someday soon I will return again!

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