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School Hath Begun

January 8, 2012

Yesterday (as of the time I type this) was the day before the first official day of school. Dragged myself out of bad at 8:00 AM. Luckily “the buddies” (the Erasmus student helpers) were at my place to direct me school. It is a ****ING 45 MINUTE WALK. I’ve made (much) longer walks, but I was never in a situations where I was expected to do so daily. I’m one of those rare birds who never learned to ride a bike. I could take the #19 or #1 bus to school, but I don’t know the stops well enough. After the experience I’ve had, I have a feeling I’m going to be predominantly walking everywhere despite the bus system. I am going to be in a LOT better shape when this year is done.

We (the interneational students) were given speeches in exactly this order
-“The school is so awesome” (standard speech. Glad they are proud of their school)
-We were given a speech about how to be a student here, and how to get the most out of your international experience (I’ll go into that later)
-We were given a speech on how things are scholastically (apart from the extremely rigidly proctored test system, it’s quite similar to the education I’m used to).

The way I’m told to get the most out of my international experience is “not just be in your room, getting TOO immersed in your studies. True you are a student, but you are here for more then that.” I agree and this is what I would LIKE to do, just like at home. However, life rarely allows this sort of thing. I take these studies very seriously, and I only have limited time. I am a student first and foremost. I do enjoy being with the other internationals (for the most part), but I have a strict policy of business before pleasure (it has the sad side effect of being a bit confusing when I truly enjoy my work). If I have homework to attend to or a group project that I need to get my part of done, then I will do my utmost to get it done satisfactorally BEFORE doing anything. That way if I need to improve it, I can still look at it and tweak it and (if possible) still make time for my friends.

As I alluded to earlier, the way they explained the environment here reminds me a lot of the school I went to. The atmosphere and approachability of the teachers is really almost exactly like the US (or at least UNO). While classes aren’t inherently every school week in Norway (and a bit longer), my schedule did end up looking a lot like one I would have in the US. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the way things seem to be (and have been described to me), as well as a lot of my other experiences, have really hit the uncanny valley. The only real differences in the town (apart from the whole being halfway around the world thing), is that it is costal (Kristiansand is on the south coast) and smaller then Omaha. The population has a “more friendly then other parts of the US, but still detached and somewhat dull” kind of motif about them (although the people I met in the Center were ABSOLUTELY FASCINATED that I was a USian who just got off the plane). However, I digress.

After that we toured the school and it turns out the IS dept is with the business people. Well…at least it isn’t UNO’s business department. I have an instinctive aversion to this department because back home, GF’s mom works for that department (whom I am on rather bad terms with). However, I quickly overcame that. It would explain why EVERYTHING here is MIS like (my course credit for this trip abroad is pretty much an entire MIS minor in one semester). I’m not taking the 20 ECTS group-project course because I WANT to, but that’s the only way I can get a full courseload (I need at least 24 ECTS to get the funding of a full time student, all of which must be approved by the department).

We got free food from “the buddies” through today (a ****ING GODSEND in this expensive country). One thing I found out, Noreweign coffee is STRONG, just the way I like it :D. I hung out with the various international students (one Polish student found out I am a rather infamous critic of my nation*). I walked back to Roliegheden (which a lot of us have come to call the “far dorm”, it’s about 45 minutes on foot) with two other male students (one Australian, one British). I got back and then after a brief rest I walked AGAIN to one of the “buddies” dorms in the Center (SO MUCH WALKING). We hung out for a bit, and then it was a walk back. Again, I am going to be in so much better shape when I am done with this semester form all this walking. Oh yeah, I found out that non-beer is hard to come by in Kristiansand (you can buy beer in Kiwi…for a brutal price, as with everything else), but anything else is only in one shop (or you can go across the water to Denmark and get it that way, or you can be like that one person we met and make it, something I’d like to try. This has been way too long for a parenthetical aside).

*Don’t misunderstand, I love my country as much as I ever have. My relationship to it is as though someone you care about that you see engaging in some very bad and dangerous habits. You beg, plead, and yell and wish every day for it to stop. However, no matter how far it falls, not matter how twisted up inside and out it becomes, I’ll never turn my back on it.

THE NEXT DAY

Today (as of the time this is typed) I got up a little earlier. No buddies to guide me this time, but I could figure the general vicinity. Most of the side streets on the way there are named after Nordic gods (makes sense, given where I am). Odin’s gate, Tor’s Gate (before you ask, yes, there is a Balder’s gate, in fact, it’s on the way to school). Today were were given a speech about registering for classes and one about culture shock.

Culuturally, I find myself very detached. Sure, there are things I bring from the US despite myself, but I have spent a lot of my life questioning things that are “given.” Some things I agree with (rape is bad, and I will never accept otherwise), but I ask hard questions about what I truly believe versus what I am told to believe. Things like social roles, expectations, etc. Another thing I swear by is I try to live my life without presumptions of places. I didn’t have much presumptions of Norway apart from it being cold (it hasn’t been as much this year, and for that I am eternally thankful), so I’m good there. Countries I’ve more immersed myself in the pop culture of (for example: Japan) I’d probably have a harder time with.

After that, we took a group photo and went to IKEA. There isn’t one of those in the Midwestern US (is there any in the US at all?). They only contact I’ve had with it is the magazine (and the movie fight club, that iconic line kept playing through my head). It’s big, bigger then any Wal-mart I’ve been in. It’s cheap for Norway but expensive for everywhere else. I bought the absolute minimum for what I needed (a few towels to help spread out Laundry trips, Some cookware (although I didn’t get my rice-pot), one knife-fork-spoon set, and 2 plates (incase one gets too dirty to eat off of). I have enough to cook very basic stuff, and that will save me cash (and I have learned very quickly that that is the one thing I need to save. I had a bit more plans to expand this further, but with the “norway prices”, I’m not sure I’ll go through with them. At least the bus was awesome enough to take us back to Roligheden and not make us walk with those bags.

Sidenote: Proof that Scott Village was expensive. The price of rent there is COMPARIBLE to the price of rent for a 4 bedroom appt at Roligheden. If you have been paying any attention to what I’ve been saying about the prices here (or especially if you’ve been here), you know how brutal a claim that is to make.

Other sidenote: Apparently, phones in Europe all generally work here (or at least they can get unlocked). If I did that to a US phone, I would void my contract (possibly pay a fine). I don’t know if phones are covered under the whole EULA “you own your phone, you own a license to use it” thing like some software is. I do know that one of the new exemptions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act put in place last year said that people are allowed to unlock their phones (the phone company doesn’t have to contractually allow it, but they can’t make a copyright case if the customer does it).

After that it was a walk (again) to the school to get a free dinner (again, a godsend) from “the buddies(tm).” Had some interesting chats (one para-buddy from Oslo is what I would call a “kindred opposite.” We have very different worldviews, but the same kind of core persona in a weird way. She and I had much debate). After that, my buddy group decided to call it a night. This time I DID have to hoof it back to Roligheden.

Now it’s sleepytime. Supposedly tomorrow, we’re gonna see the Museum (this also means I have to wake up earlier and walk to school on a non school day. Oh well, the museum sounds interesting, and it’s free. I’ll take all the “free” (and not poisonous/unnecessarily-dangerous/etc) I can get in this county.

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