Since I was young I remember watching for the first time a documentary about Norway and the fantastic nature and welfare state. Not only that, the gender equality and education were things that really caught my attention during the teenager-hood. However, the far far away country from Brazil (my home country) became just a dream, not a reality. Life continued and in 2018 I discovered a master’s program in Migration and Intercultural Relations (EMMIR), a Erasmus Mundus program from the European Union. As my wish of departing and living an international experience was always there, I applied to the program and for my surprise, I was accepted. Thinking about Norway is quite a journey. Are the people there cold? Is it cold? Is Norwegian difficult? Which places can I hike? In January of 2019 I arrived in Stavanger, a city that I have never heard about before I saw that this would be my home for one semester, as part of my master.
I have watched many videos on YouTube about life in Norway but, as an Exchange student, I could see all of it by myself. First of all, I thought I would be bored in the first week, since it’s not a big city as Oslo. However, what really surprised me was the many activities I could get involved during the semester. There were days I didn’t know which activity I should go to because there were three things I wanted to do at the same time. I entered the gym of the university, two volunteer organization, started learning Norwegian in the university and also on Saturdays at a volunteer organization. Not only that, there was a bar you could be a volunteer and earn free tickets and beer. I had already been to other countries as an exchange student but it was the first time I felt I was not only welcomed but all the people were able to make my experience as a volunteer or student greater.
I could tell about specific situations, but let’s keep it with the macro vision. Like the challenges of understanding why relationships in Norway are different from many countries. For example, usually for a date you invite the person to a coffee and then if it is good you go for a beer and then if it is good you go for a dinner for only then you finally match in all the senses, if you know what I mean. In Norway usually you go first for the match in all the senses and then if it was good you go to have coffee. If the coffee was good then you go back to the match in all the senses and then if it was good you go for the next steps. It is quite different but when you get how it is, things become easier.
But what I really learned was the culture of doing things by yourself. Norwegians have the culture of doing things by themselves. Taking the books in the library, cooking, installing a new program, searching for a place to go, doing your own program at the gym and so on and so on. This was a little different because I usually asked for help when I was in doubt or lazy, but now I become much more independent on my daily life. Tusen Takk for that! Another important thing is the language. Norwegian is like a cute German. Since the first classes I realize it was connected to English and German, which made it easier to catch what the meaning of some vocabulary. Even though it is not mandatory to speak Norwegian to communicate on the streets (I did not find anybody who could not speak English), learning Norwegian helped me to learn more about the culture and literature from the country.
Finally, I must say that Norway was and has been an enriching experience. From nice people to the culture of hiking to the beautiful landscapes and opportunities to get involved in society. Being an international student in Norway is having the opportunity to get involved from people all over the world and feel that you are learning about living in a way that you can find a balance between studies/work and your personal life: hiking, staying with friends, making new friends and of course: going to a Cabin!