Du kan aldri krysse havet før du har motet til å miste synet av kysten – You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. (Christopher Columbus)
This would be the Norwegian proverb that best describes my experience, as a Romanian in a foreign culture, in Norway. That’s what I did: I overcame the fear of the unknown and with courage and faith, I fulfilled another dream. I took the chance. I am Anastasia David, and I am an exchange student at the Univeristy of Agder, in Kristiansand.
Staying in Norway as a student? A whole adventure so far. I’ve been here for a month already and I can tell you about some real-life experiences I’ve been through – which made big differences between Romanian and Norwegian cultures and lifestyles.
People here are so nice that you might find yourself being taken home at 23 o’clock by a police car, and not because you would have represented a danger to the peace of the community, but rather because you seem like a potential partner to socialize, who missed the last bus. Yes, the police are really cool!
And that’s not all! Norwegians know how to have fun even if there is an interestingly strict alcohol discipline. At my first Norwegian party I learned so many new things about this culture that I felt like I was actually witnessing an exhibition in a museum, with a guide introducing me to traditional Nordic parties. At that party we had a live ‘concert’ of the Norwegian choir, I saw photos from ’97 with men and women having fun without inhibitions, I ate Smash snacks for the first time, and I even learned a few Norwegian words. I was so impressed by the cultural differences that at the first party I only stayed for an hour, and then I stayed for another hour to process how cool the shock is when you explore a new area.
Anyway, I really like the fact that people live a healthy life here, the environment is clean and you feel really safe wherever you are. Since coming here, I’ve been doing 4-5 sports and eating much healthier. Speaking of food, most of the sweets here are actually salty, the barbeque most often made is with hot-dogs, and Surprise! the Vikings created their own type of pizza before the 1200s. By the way, the meat is awfully expensive!
Moving on, let me tell you about the academic experience. Politeness is practiced in a totally different way than it is in Eastern Europe. Surprisingly, here you address the Professors using their first names, and the way of writing an email is totally different from the Romanian style. The mail can start directly with Hi Linda! and with the essential question you have to ask, instead of Dear Mr./Ms. and a mini autobiography of yours (who I am, what I study, what year, group, etc + many marks of politeness), as I would write in Romania. Going to classes is actually very relaxing. Here attention is paid to make the student feel as comfortable as possible during the classes: they can eat a small snack d
uring the classes or even take off their shoes – behaviors in contrast to those in the university in my country.
Overall, Norway is perfect for sports and hiking, for exploring incredible landscapes. Until now, I have taken advantage of every event that has been organized for the residents of Kristiansand (and many events are organized for free, which is impressive) and for university students. In my hikes, I saw a lot of things for the first time in my life – statues of trolls, houses with roofs of grass, very big insects, different rocks, black moss, magpies, and even a “fat” bike with “fat” wheels.
On the whole, I really like the city of Kristiansand because it offers you as many activities as possible to do and things to see. These are some of the experiences I lived in a month in this city. I will keep you updated on what adventures await me in the coming months.