Each term, one participant from each HECUA program abroad takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. Marissa Mikrot is HECUA’s student blogger for The New Norway program this fall. Marissa is a student at The College of St. Scholastica majoring in Global, Cultural and Language Studies. Read on for her first post!
I arrived in Oslo on the 9th of August, along with five of my new classmates. When I rolled my bags up to the familiar faces of my classmates, I let out a huge sigh of relief and let comfort flow through my body. For that moment, I did not have to run around airports with strangers to find my gate. I was in my new home, Norway.
Norway marks the 10th country I have visited, and what better way to celebrate such an achievement for a small-town girl than to officially spend an entire semester in a new country. This is an incredibly exciting journey for me, and for all of us, because it marks a journey toward where I see myself creating a future. The New Norway program is more than just a study abroad experience, because this program offers the opportunity to work in a field in which I see myself working after I graduate from college. Norway has become like a window to my future and a place where I see myself developing and perfecting the skills and qualifications that I hope to use for the rest of my life. I believe my true calling is foreign language education and helping with the integration of migrants, which is one of the reasons I applied for the New Norway program.
At the College of St. Scholastica (CSS), I chose the closest major I could to linguistics: Global, Cultural and Language studies. This major explores a variety of topics related to culture, identity, globalization, and public policy and prepares students for work in the fields of law, human rights and services, political groups, and international healthcare organizations in government and non-government organizations. I added a political science minor my second year of college to build my confidence if I decide to pursue a more political path. To create a more language focused degree, I also added French and Russian minors.
One of the most important aspects I was looking for in a study abroad program was if an internship was offered. This is because it is a requirement for my major. HECUA offers many internship sites. One of these placements is the Oslo Center for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, which I saw as a perfect fit for my interests because I would be teaching English, socializing with the youth during the evening program, and out on excursions within Oslo, and helping them find their place within the community. But for the first couple of weeks, I need to find my own place in this community first.
On our first full day in Norway, my classmates and I decided to explore the area that we live in, Ullevaal Stadion. It was a ten minute walk from our buildings to the football stadium that houses many stores, restaurants, and a grocery store. Our first official trip outside of Ullevaal Stadion was to Jernbanetorget – the city center. City centers are my favorite part of the city; the crowds, the businesses, the tall buildings, buses, trams, and trolleys, and the overwhelming sense of being so small. The overwhelming feeling of feeling so small did not help us find the bus to Ikea, though.
Our next adventure through the city was guided by people who know the area well: Alex and Hanna, our professors and group leaders. Alex is an American who moved to Norway eight years ago and is the program director of The New Norway program. Hanna was born and raised in southern Norway. On Monday, they took us through the city via public transportation to give us an idea of where things are located and to get us comfortable using the T-Bane (the subway system). At the end of the day, Hanna brought us to the main campus of the university to watch the official welcome ceremony of the college. Fun fact, this part of the university is located right down the road from the palace where the king and queen of Norway live. In class the next day, we went over the history of Norway were told about the king’s and queen’s roles. King Harald V, or simply just Harald, is commander of the army. The king and queen like to keep a low profile and are not often recognized in public. Unfortunately, we did not see them at the ceremony. The ceremony was in Norwegian, but there were English subtitles typed on a screen in front. A band and choir performed a song to begin the ceremony. Then, guest speakers spoke to the students and faculty present about the pride, goals, and expectations of the University of Oslo.
After the ceremony, most of us split off into groups and explored the area that was packed with students, many of whom I now see all over campus. It is a very hip part of the city because of its many secondhand stores and vintage shops. There are also many restaurants, ice cream and gelato shops, general clothing stores, and many places to buy souvenirs. We stayed in this area until the ceremony was over and everyone began making their way out.
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were our first days in the classroom. After going over our syllabus, Hanna took us on a hike to a sculpture garden where we had lunch and got to know each other better.
The first week went by in a flash and I am excited by how well we all get along together. I look forward to the memories I will make with these people and the classes we have scheduled in the woods, swimming in the fjord, and climbing mountains.