Zar: First Impressions at the University of Oslo

Hei hei !

I am now one month into this exchange and am still in complete disbelief every time I say, “I live in Norway.” Despite a rocky start to O Week, feat. me becoming a walking advertisement for why you 110% need travel insurance (fair warning that if you want to drag a suitcase all over Europe for a month before exchange make sure to a) get some gains before you leave and b) wear appropriate shoes)), I made it! So, for my very first post, I thought I would share my first impressions of Oslo with you.

1. Oslo is a good city for people who like to walk

I love Oslo but it does remind me of Auckland. Southern Norwegian scenery is beautiful in a very similar way to New Zealand –the gorgeous fjords and stunning mountains that border the city are so cool to explore, but the city itself is very conventional.

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Having a modern and familiar city has been useful for setting up and just plain living life, but it does mean you have to work a little harder to find all of the super special spots. The best part is that while Oslo charges A LOT for public transport (a monthly student ticket is $90 NZD, and a daily pass is $20) your ticket gets you unlimited access onto every kind of city transport, so you are fully equipped to travel everywhere you want to go. In my experience (all one month of it), the best way to explore is to pick a general area, transport yourself there, and then have a good walk around. Highlights for me have been Sognsvann lake, the beach at Bygdõy, and an impromptu ferry trip to the island Hovedøya.

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“The University of Oslo Law School is beautiful (no offence to my second home, The Davis Law Library).”

Also, don’t get me wrong – inner Oslo city definitely has some cool sights. The Norwegian palace is literally right in the city centre, and the University of Oslo law school is beautiful (no offence to my second home, The Davis Law Library). However, on the whole, I have found all of my favourite places by putting on a good-to-average pair of walking shoes and setting off with no map and no time limit.

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“Inner Oslo city definitely has some cool sights. The Norwegian palace is literally right in the city centre.”
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“On the whole, I have found all of my favourite places by putting on a good-to-average pair of walking shoes and setting off with no map and no time limit.”

Also, note that I am not a Top Athlete, so when I say “like to walk”, I mean generally enjoy a nice trek that is mostly flat. That said, if you are into tramping, Oslo has some of the most spectacular walks and views, so definitely bring your gear if that’s for you.

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2. Everything is in Norwegian

I know this sounds obvious, but I had read SO many google posts that said everyone in Norway can speak English and so was a little bit slack on my Duolingo language tutorials.

Norwegian is a hard language to master if you only speak English – e.g. I live in St Hanshaugen, which is not as phonetic as it looks and took me three weeks to pronounce to a passable level. All signs, transport systems, supermarkets, and niche things like self-checkouts and automated lines in stores are in Norwegian too.

Luckily, everyone is really kind about my language incompetence, and though they appreciate you making an effort, they will all bail you out if you get really lost. My biggest advice would be, first of all, to do your Duolingo lessons, but when in doubt have Google Translate handy. Don’t let language barriers put you off, though! You can get away with muddling along, and it’s a super happy, glowing feeling when you finally say something right.

3. The rest of the rumours were TRUE!

Like everyone who ever goes on exchange, I spent a lot of time Googling Oslo before I arrived.  Based on first impressions, I would say a lot of what I read is pretty spot on.

  • Norway is beautiful –100% fact; the scenery is stunning.
  • Norway is $$$$$$ – transport being $90 NZD a month is a pretty fair representation of living prices. Eating out is normally well over $20, and buying essentials from the supermarket is also $20+ for just a handful of items. If you live in Norway full time you get higher pay cheques, subsidised health care, and almost free education, so the prices balance out – but a 6-month exchange is right in the sweet spot of having to incur the expenses without benefitting from the savings. It is manageable! But it is definitely something to keep in mind.
  • It’s cold! There are still a few beautiful days, and I even went swimming in August, but on the first day of autumn we dropped to 10-degree days/4-degree nights, and it has been getting gradually cooler ever since. Student accommodation also won’t turn the heaters on until its “actually cold” (???), so I 100% recommend packing some warm clothes.

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So far, I am definitely enjoying myself, and this week I finally learnt to say ‘no bag, thank you’ at the supermarket, so I am also #winning. I also can’t believe that as I write these first impressions I am already halfway through this exchange!?!?  Time flies when you’re living your best life.

Catch you next time!!

Zar

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