Monday, 17 March 2014

The most difficult decision ever

As I'm the only international student in this group of bloggers I feel like it's time to talk about studying abroad.

Choosing to study abroad, leaving all my friends behind and go all in for a "new life" in a foreign country is probably the hardest decision I've made so far in my life. As with every life changing decisions it has its pros and cons, a list constantly expanding with new things. Before I moved to Oxford I studied International Relations and History in Lillehammer and Political Science in Oslo, two cities in Norway, but I felt that neither was what I was really looking for. So at the end of the first semester in Oslo my boyfriend suggested a trip to the education fair, because he was thinking about applying to the Norwegian Police University College. When we walked out of the education fair we had completely changed our decisions about continuing our studies in Norway. We wanted to study abroad, and the UK in particular.

After the education fair I spent like a week just browsing the Internet, discovering how many universities there are in this country! In Norway we have 8, and if I'm not entirely wrong I think the UK has 116... It's a jungle!

I didn't tell anyone at first about my plans about studying abroad, because I was quite sure my mum wouldn't approve of it and if I didn't get accepted anywhere it wasn't necessary to enter a discussion with her. When the dreadful UCAS application process began, and I was really pleased with my letter of recommendation and motivation letter, I told my family that I was applying to universities in the UK, and so the months of struggle begun. On one side I had my dad, really supporting and kind of jealous that I got to do something he always wanted to. On the other side I had my mum, sceptical about the whole thing, worrying about the expenses, future employers and so forth. She Googled her way through the Internet, e-mailing me different university rankings, and that this was too expensive, too risky and not worth it when I could get an equally good education in Norway at a much lower price (we don't have tuition fees in Norway). I was quite frankly torn. I got accepted at the universities I applied to, and Brookes was the university I wanted to choose. Eventually, after several weeks of heated discussions and telling the rest of my family that I was moving, kind of turning them against my mum to get her to see that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity (kind of cruel, I know..), she finally "made peace" with my decision. As of now, she is enthusiastic and happy that I moved, getting a degree, standing a bit more out in the crowd, and I think her scepticism was rooted in lack of information.

I thought I would have gotten homesick by now, but that hasn't happened. Probably because there's always something going on, always an essay to write or a presentation to prepare. The only one I actually miss when I'm in Oxford is this little boy

And sometimes my sister

I haven't regretted my decision for a second, and in fact, I love studying abroad so much that I'm pretty sure I'm doing my postgrad here as well. So sorry mum, not coming home for a while!

If you're an international student thinking about studying abroad - DO IT! You will learn so much other students won't, make friends from all across the world, become so much more independent, and of course be able to speak English fluently.

On Friday Brookes hosted LiveFriday at the Ashmolean in Oxford, which turned out to be really fun.

Artie (the robot) was definitely the main attraction for a huge part of the visitors at the Ashmolean, and it was so fun to finally get to see him, even though he was constantly crowded.

I hope you had a fun weekend and wish you all a nice week! 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Dating, queuing and crisps

As a thank you for reading my blog, and because this blog post contains generalization, I wanted to show you how many Norwegians dress on Christmas Eve, the Norwegian National Day, christenings and sometimes at weddings. If you're invited to dinner with the Norwegian king and queen you're also allowed to wear it.

It's called bunad in Norwegian and is a folk costume representing different parts of Norway, and come in all different shapes, sizes and colours. My bunad is from the northern parts of Norway because my dad's family lives there. Northern parts of Norway are colder than southern parts (that's where I'm from), and my bunad is completely made of wool. On the 17th of May when we celebrate our National Day, let's just say it sometimes get's too hot underneath the bunad. That's my little sister on the right by the way - she's almost 5 years younger than me, 5 cm taller and wears shoes almost 2 sizes bigger than me. While I'm in Oxford she's living the dream as an only child, getting oh so spoiled... 

Before I moved to Oxford the possibility of big cultural differences didn’t really strike me as a possibility. I mean, the UK is a two-hour flight away from Norway, two countries only separated by some water and they're on the same continent. If I had moved to the US the culture clash would have been inevitable, as Americans are known for being extremely outgoing and chatty. The first week or so in Oxford I suddenly discovered how big the differences actually are. You queue for everything, you say thank you, sorry and please – words you hardly ever hear in Norway. If you’re lost in Norway and you need help with directions you will realize that it’s quite hard to get people talking. In Oxford however, people seem to be kind and helpful, which is handy when I’m lost and just want to see the Radcliffe Camera.

Some weeks ago during a group discussion about culture differences during a seminar, a friend of mine asked me how Norwegians date. The answer is that we don’t. We don’t even have a word for it. Either you’re a couple or you’re just hanging out as friends. It’s not like we don’t go on dates, but you hardly ever do it unless you would categorize your relationship as exclusive. And don’t think you’re able to date/go out with several girls or boys at the same time, if you do that you will get a bad reputation and the whole country will know it. When watching American movies where the girl gets picked up by the boy in a car (it seems like they always gets picked up at 7pm as well), the boy pays for dinner and then drives the girl back home, it all just seems so far-off. If you're Norwegian and going on a date you take the bus, the bike or simply walk. Now, we could use our cars, but it’s a strict zero-tolerance on drinking and driving in Norway, and of course we drink on our dates. That’s something I’ve never understood, why do they always drink and drive in American movies when so many are killed by drunk drivers? Shouldn’t they promote walking, or at least riding bikes?

Another big difference between UK and Norway is probably the way we approach strangers. In Norway we don’t talk to or smile at strangers, and if you ask a Norwegian a question on the bus you will either get the evil eye or just be ignored. In the UK, or Oxford to be more specific, I’ve been called darling and honey numerous times, talked to strangers on the bus and even been told by complete strangers that my hair looks nice. I guess Norwegians aren't best at everything (even though we really like to think so). The first time a stranger complemented my hair I instantly thought he was flirting. Norwegians don’t do that. Unless we’re drunk. Really drunk.

And whilst we're talking about alcohol, I don't get used to the alcohol advertisements, or the tobacco advertisements for that matter. In Norway it's illegal to advertise alcohol and tobacco in any form, so I always get surprised when I see it during prime time on TV. 

Apart from the obvious differences as groceries and alcohol being so incredible cheaper in the UK (a beer in a pub in Norway usually costs £8 or more), Britons eats an awful lot of crisps. I mean, when I’ve actually made an effort to do a whole day of studying at the library, it’s quite annoying having to not only hear but also smell bacon flavored crisps, making it really hard to concentrate on the political theory I’m trying to understand. You don’t eat crisps in Norway unless it’s a Friday or Saturday night. You just don’t.

I don’t know which culture I like the most though. I should probably say the Norwegian so I don’t piss off any Norwegian readers, but it’s something really nice about being able to talk to strangers or when the lady in the reception at the gym calls me darling. I think I will have to go for a combination of both, but if you stop eating crisps at the library when I’m there I would probably choose the British culture. 

If you were at Brookes applicants day this weekend I hope you enjoyed it and got answers to your questions (and if you didn't, that's what I'm here for). 

On Friday 14th of March, Brookes are hosting Live Friday at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, to announce Brookes 150th anniversary celebrations. It's a free event where you can, among other things, turn your smartphone into a microscope, talk to robots and see a bamboo mountain bike! Click here for more information or here for even more information about the artists performing, the robot and other announcements. So if you're in the area you should definitely join!

Now I'm going to finish my sociology essay about Marx, which is a dreadful thing to have to do when Oxford is soaked in sun and it's 18 degrees outside!

Hope I see you at the Ashmolean on Friday! 

Monday, 3 March 2014

Oxford in pictures

Norway is a pretty small country compared to the UK, with a population just over 5 million. The city I grew up in, Drammen, located just outside of Oslo, has a population of 66,200, so Oxford with a population of 150,200 suddenly feels quite big. Just to put things in perspective; London’s population is bigger than Norway’s combined. One of the things I love about Oxford is that there’s always something to do or see. I’m a big fan of walking and love to explore cities by foot rather than on a bus, and especially when Oxford is soaked in sun! My favourite places so far in Oxford are located outside of the city centre, and tend to be discovered by coincidence, but that’s part of the charm with this city, there are always new places to see! Of course there’s a lot to see in and around the city centre, but the hidden pearls, at least in my opinion, are outside of the city centre, and the best part is that you can escape what tends to be overcrowded tourist attractions. I don’t know about you but I really can’t stand slow walking groups of tourists occupying the whole sidewalk. 

If you're attending one of Brookes' open days (click here for more information and dates) you probably won't have enough time to explore the city in much detail, so I though I should show you every now and then some of my favourite places in Oxford. 

This time I ended up in Port Meadow, a really pretty place and many people's favourite place to take a walk. The recent flood made it difficult to walk the whole way around in my trainers, but I did have my fair share of “oh this view is so pretty I could die” moments. The Norwegian animal life in parks and meadows are quite boring, usually only consisting of a sheep or two, or a cow if you’re really lucky, so a meadow with rabbits, horses and geese was kind of exotic in a strange kind of way. Being a previous rower for 5 years it was also fun to see all the boats! So without further ado, here are some pictures: 

Radcliffe Camera

Any decent meadow needs a pub of course

University of Oxford's examination building

I also thought I should show you the difference between January in Drammen and January in Oxford.

The picture from Oxford (the one without the snow, just to make myself clear) is what it looks like in Norway in April.. No wonder why I love Oxford so much. 

If you have any questions or something you would like me to write about then please comment below! And if you want to share your favourite place in Oxford or anywhere else with me, then please do! I would love to hear about it :)