So far from my time in Bergen, one of my two pre-departure expectations has been fulfilled. This place is seriously expensive. But (and while I’ve been assured that this is definitely temporary) we’ve been graced with incredible weather most days.
The last two weeks have been hectic to say the least, and I’m pretty adamant that I must be eligible for some free loot from IKEA now, given how many trips I’ve taken there. The twice-hourly gratisbuss has been an absolute Godsend, and I may have taken it on one occasion for no more than a bedside lamp and a Tupperware container stuffed full of Swedish meatballs.
Living in student halls for the first time has definitely been a learning experience, but being able to live with the majority of the other internationals is brilliant. Everyone – especially the Aussies – is so keen to travel while they’re in Europe, so my first month’s budget has taken a bit of a hit between booking flights to Oslo, Stockholm and even a one-day ski trip to Folgefonna glacier at the end of August. As long as you’re careful with your money and keep an eye on what you’re spending it’s perfectly feasible to work cheap flights into your budget, and so worth it.
Since I don’t have a general theme for this post, I thought it would just be easiest to make up a list of what I’ve learned so far, and my top tips for anyone going to Norway:
- Norway has two drinking ages. At 18, you can purchase alcohol <22%, and for anything stronger you have to be 20. Because of this, a lot of the clubs and bars here have an age restriction of 20 – typical that when I go abroad at 19 I choose one of the few places with a higher drinking age than the UK eh?
- While on the topic of alcohol, you’d do well to stock up in duty free on your way here. Supermarkets are only allowed to sell beer and cider, and anything else has to be sold by Vinmonopolet, a government-owned store which is the only retailer licensed to sell anything >4.75%. Because there is no competition in the alcohol industry, Vinmonopolet can basically charge what they want, meaning that spirits in particular are pretty extortionate (we’re talking almost £30 for a litre of vodka).
- Most shops are shut on Sunday. I’m still adapting to this, and given that I worked in retail throughout first and second year I couldn’t help but go green with envy when I walked past the ghost town usually called H&M yesterday.
- Be a fan of fish. And if you aren’t, become one.
- Prepare for all weather. As I mentioned earlier, I was hardly expecting to be greeted by 26° heat and blazing sunshine in a place often referred to as “Europe’s rainiest city”, so have faith in Norway and believe that yes, the sun does actually come out here sometimes! It’s also a good idea to bring good walking boots, as I’m sure that even the laziest person could be persuaded to make their way up one of Bergen’s seven peaks, and I promise that the view from the top of Ulriken makes it worth it.
- Be prepared for obscure timetables. I was granted admission to my top choice courses for this semester, but my classes don’t properly get under way until October. The classes are taught in 3/4 week blocks here, so I’ve ended up with four classes in August and a three week long class-free block in September, with just five classes squeezed in at the start and end.
- Table ice hockey is the best game to have ever been invented. Why I’ve never seen this back home is beyond me – and yes, I am already part of a team for the Fantoft Tablehockey Championships 2015.
- Finally, a more general point aimed at anyone going to study abroad: it’s inevitable that at some point you’ll end up feeling a bit homesick (and anyone who says they didn’t is probably lying). But the feeling will only last a day or two while you’re settling in, and my best advice for tackling it is just to force yourself to go out and meet your fellow students, whether that be your flat mates down the hall or your course mates at introduction week. It can be daunting moving abroad, especially if you’ve never done it before, but remember that everyone else is in exactly the same position as you are, and while you will sometimes need to step outside your comfort zone, that’s what studying abroad is all about!
As always, if there’s anything I haven’t covered here that you would like to know, or if you just have any general questions about studying abroad, feel free to drop me an email at 2069152J@student.gla.ac.uk, or message me on Facebook.