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August 20, 2013

Academia, Near and Far

August 20th, 2013
     The first couple of weeks in Norway have been kind of tough (especially with the recent bedbug outbreak in my apartment), but being in a culture not unlike but so far removed from my own has given me a much different perspective on the way that nations relate to each other. The vast majority of international students, surprise surprise, do not come from the United States. Most do not even come from countries where English is the predominate language. While English has been a comfortable safety net much of the time, I am thankfully becoming more reliant on speaking Norwegian, the common language that many of us aspire to learn.
     The class structure at UiO is peculiar but not entirely foreign. Of my three courses, one started yesterday and ends early October, one does not start until September, and the other has a day-long lab on Wednesdays (though the actual labtime we are expected to use ranges from one to three hours). This university also expects a lot of independent learning from students which, while similar to the goals of the University of Minnesota Morris, makes me feel that there is a distance between student and professor and student not present at Morris. The huge student body probably also factors heavily into this, though. Either way, I don't think I'm going to be invited to a barbeque at the local ethicist's house in my time here (and not for lack of trying).
     I took another long walk through Bjerke today and snagged some really good pictures. I'm pretty sure I'm the number one bird harasser in Oslo at this point, and the courts have plenty of photographic evidence to convict me.

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     Fugler er så pen her. Jeg tror at deres skjønnhet er på grunn av den unike urbane område samt deres fremmenhet til meg. Også, graffiti her er like pen som i USA. Jeg liker ikke vandalisme, men jeg liker kunst av by.

IKEA, Here and There

August 8th, 2013
     "Bruised and sullen stormclouds have the light of day obscured." - Rush
     It's been cloudy and rainy since I got to Norway. The rain has not been too oppressive; only sudden, light spurts here and there. Still, I really want to get out and take some pictures of the city in the sunlight. Gray does not lend itself well to showing off Oslo.
     It's my third day here, and I'm feeling much better situated. I've also come to a bit of a realization; though I felt pretty miserable and lonely my first few days here, the feeling was not nearly as bad as I would expect from being a world away from everything familiar. It might help that Norwegian culture is not drastically different from Minnesotan culture, but I feel a sense of worldly confidence developing already, that I will be able to survive no matter where I end up. It's still much too early to say if this feeling is warranted, but for the sake of self-fulfilling prophecy, I like to think that the feeling is justified.

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     Alltid var jeg så nær hjemmet. Ingen mer. Jo, jeg håper som jeg kan lage et nyt hjem her. Det skal være vanskelig, men jeg vet som jeg kan gjøre det.

Small Beginnings

August 7th, 2013
     Confident but confused, I step off the plane into Norway yesterday. The trip to Oslo, itself, was fairly simple. The Flytoget system is very straightforward, and I got my student discount. The rest of the day, however, was pretty exhausting. I ran myself ragged moving nearly 100 lbs of luggage around the city for four hours, and I don't think the anxious sweat smell will ever leave that outfit. Nevertheless, I am now settled into a reasonable (though not ideal) apartment in Bjerke Studenthjem and am fending for myself pretty well. A residence change might be coming in the near future, but I think I could learn to deal with where I am living now. Also, I bought over a week's worth of food for less than $50/300NKR, an excellent deal given what I've heard about the cost of living here. I'm not worried much about the food situation.
     It seems the rumors are true: Norwegians are taller than most America-folk. Luckily, compared to the average American, my shoulders are broader than the natives are tall, so I don't look like too much of a meek little foreigner. A good number of other international students are living in Bjerke, so I don't feel so alone in my loneliness. My neighbor is also very nice and has offered me a lot of advice on cheap food and transportation around the city. She's been a life-saver.
     Yesterday was a tough first day, but things have gotten easier. Tomorrow I will be shopping for bed furnishings for my stark bed and curtains to make up for the lack of privacy in my first floor apartment. I will also get a renewed-monthly travel card to deal with all the intra-city transportation. It should be a good day.

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     Jeg håper som jeg kan finde en bilige kort på Jernebarnetoget. Jeg er student, så jeg må gør noe. Jeg vet ikke hva jeg skal gjør. Også, I håper IKEA er bilig. Min penge er bra, men jeg vil gjerne ikke kjørpe mye.

Hopes for the Future

August 4th, 2013
     An unintended word of caution was sent to me earlier today by my father in the form of the following <a href="http://youtu.be/e0FHpkiioXs">video</a>.
     In the video, a group of international students attending UiO finds difficulty in branching outside of their circle of foreigner friends. While the students express their love of the nation and its culture, the video ends on a more doleful note with the main narrator expressing his regret of not immersing himself more fully into the culture.
     It was not until I finished the video that I realized how strongly I want to avoid this trap. I intend Norway to be a transition for me, some journey of self-actualization with me coming out the other side a fuller, better person. I anticipate that I will be unable to do this if I lock myself into the comfort zone to which the students in the video had fallen prey. While I certainly understand the importance of a safe haven abroad, especially with the looming threat of culture shock in the coming weeks, I don't want to lose myself in the succor of the familiar. I need to explore. I will explore.
     One of the major failures mentioned in the video is the poor language skills of the main student. In the past six months, I have done my best to learn the language, and I hope that my current (growing) knowledge will be a sufficient baseline to experiencing Norway.
     These tiny revelations have steeled my resolve to making the most of my days in Oslo preceding my first semester at UiO. One of the ways I will make due on this promise will be to familiarize myself as much as possible with the local supermarkets, particularly the grocers and butchers who work near Bjerke (jeg kan ikke spiese karbohydrater, dere vet). It's my hope that my initiative to meet and befriend some of the locals will make them more sympathetic to the gaps in my understanding of the language. In Norway, I will do my best to use Norwegian as my default over English, and I beg the patience of native speakers and foreign, more skilled speakers alike in my coming to understand this new culture.

     (Note: At the end of each blog post, I will attempt to express what I am feeling using only the Norwegian that I know. I will not to look up any words or grammar until after I am complete. Also, I will not correct what I have written in earlier posts so that I will have a record of my progress in learning the language.)

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     Jeg er lit tret alrede, men jeg vil gjerne jobbe veldig hardt å studere den norske språk. Jeg må ikke gleme som jeg kan gjør dette. Jeg snakker norsk bedre den jeg shreibe den språk, men jeg vil bli bedre på beide i futur.
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     This week, I've done okay in expressing my thoughts, but I'm starting to realize how different Norwegian is from its distant cousin, German. I noticed when writing that, when I was unsure of a word, I would search back into my understanding of German in the hopes of finding some cognate. It turns out that "schreiben" and "Futur" do not have Norwegian cognates. A few other errors litter this short piece, but I'm content with how this turned out.



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