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I should probably talk more about my exchange experience

April 15, 2012

As the title says, I should probably talk more about my time here in Norway. Between my work on the project and being overwhelmed with…a lot of things that really set of my angry social justice activistey side (would take a while to explain) I never really got around to it. Well, it’s on my mind now, and I managed to get all my work done for this sprint (good old agile programming 9_9), so I figured why not?

Anyways, there are a couple of things worth pointing out.

1. Easter is SRS BUSINESS around here. Most schools and places close the entire week leading up to easter. The school was open for people until Holy Thursday, but the cafeteria staff and other such workers weren’t there. From Holy Thursday until Monday (with the exception of Saturday), no stores are open (AFAIK, I heard some of the international students went out at night, but my sleep schedule was so messed up I couldn’t joint them to find out, also like every other spring break, I had work to do T_T). It’s best to shop before Wednesday, because on Wednesday it’s like people are storing up for the apocalypse. I thought it a byproduct of Kristiansand apparently being the bible belt of Norway (that being said, it has nothing on how crazy the bible belt in the US is). However, one of my group mates (whom is a local) told me this is true for all of Norway.

2. Exams are very different here. At the risk of sounding like I am bragging, I am a pretty decent test taker back home. My strategy usually has the following qualities.
-Treat the test as though you only have half he time alloted. This will enable you to go back and fix any mistakes later.
-Do tests in pencil if possible for the same reason
-Try to answer the question intelligently, and sufficiently. No need to “show off”, as that is just a waste of energy (besides, a smart answer has more impact if it is concise). However, do not be above BSing if need be to shield weak points. Showing off also eats the clock right up.

However, none of these do me ANY good in Norway. Tests are in pen (because they are all essay questions you write the answers to on carbon paper). Also more importantly, the grade for 100% is not an A, it’s a C. Any grade above a C has to not only be all correct, but the answers have to be superior quality (basically, that showing off thing that I try not to do). I spent a week preparing and even now, 20 days later (as of the time I write this down) I feel like I could do decently on an exam. However, I didn’t know it was quite like this.

Honestly, I don’t feel too bad. While I think had I known these things prior to the exam (I was told the grade thing afterward by my group) my strategy would have changed for the better, I honestly feel I did the best I could with the knowledge and expectations I had going in. Part of my time here is meant to be a learning experience about the Norwegian education system, so I have that much more under my belt. Also, call me idealistic and old fashioned, but my primary purpose in college (even though I started so late in life) is to learn. Some say the purpose is a grade and a prestigious degree, others say it’s networking. Both are infinitely better to ensure ones future. However, I love learning and am one of those weird creatures who enjoy learning for its own sake. I learned a lot about both the subject material and the Norwegian education system, so I’m good.

On a more practical “thing’s aren’t so bad grade-wise” note, as one of my group-mates who studied abroad in the states (in my home school, actually), it’s MUCH harder to get a “good grade” in Norway (of a class of 33 people, only 2 people got an A). My group and I did excellently on the report (got an A, balances the final grade to a B for all of us, since we were all C students on the exam). Also, the question on the test were easy. I have no doubt that had I known how the test works, I would have gotten at least a B.

3. This is unconfirmed, but I have heard from one of my group-mates that for any school project involving a company (like the one I briefly mentioned at the very beginning of this post), you aren’t allowed to use any letter of recommendation you receive from it when you seek a job. If this is true, my guess is that the school wants to remain neutral or something like that. Even if this is true, I don’t know if it applies to jobs outside of Norway. I’m going to have to ask the inbound exchange coordinator for more details.

ETA:

One thing I noticed when I got here is that my old strategies for getting work done weren’t as viable. I used to work my butt off when I was awake at night but everyone else was sleeping. It worked well and I could balance my social and scholastic stuff that way (with the right timing of interim naps for the longer days). However, now that I am 7 hours ahead, most people aren’t available to converse with back home until 2PM (7AM at home) at the VERY least. It’s usually people are available at 4PM (11AM) on weekends and 8PM (3PM) on weekdays. Either way, that turns that plan on its ear. Now I’m used to being social late and working up until that point. Makes it easier to do group work. I wonder if I am going to have trouble adjusting to the idea that people aren’t at their social peak what to me is the evening anymore? We shall see.

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