Jonia Gordon is a College of St. Scholastica student, majoring in Global, Cultural, and Language Studies. This semester she’s also a resident of Oslo, as a participant in HECUA’s semester abroad program in Scandinavia: The New Norway. Jonia was kind enough to share the story of her journey to Oslo, a few initial impressions of the city, and a reflection regarding the Norwegian fascination with picnics here on the Stories from the Field blog. Read on!
Traveling to Oslo, Norway was my first experience of being completely alone on an adventure. My parents and sister brought me to the airport until I had my tickets and then I was on my own. I remember that suddenly a panic had overcome me after I had gone through security and I quadruple checked my carry-on for all my important items (e.g., passport, ID, toothbrush, etc.) The first flight I had from Minneapolis, MN to Newark, NJ was fairly average and calmed me down a bit; I hadn’t thought of leaving the country outside of abstract terms before.
Jonia with a friend in Oslo.
Suddenly, my five hour layover caused a consistent build of panic to take control of me. As I was in line to board the plane, I kept thinking: “I can just not board, call my mom, and pretend this never happened.” But suddenly, I was on board to a direct flight to Oslo and there was no going back. After several hours of minimal movement and sleep, I arrived to the airport. I was met with one of my first fears: going through customs. But my fears were for naught; it was a quick and easy process. Afterwards, I grabbed my baggage and went to meet with the HECUA staff.
The rest of my first day in Oslo was spent traversing around, getting housing in order, and having my first trip to IKEA—all while being delirious from lack of sleep over a 24 hour period. Honestly, I’m surprised (and thrilled) to remember as much as I do on my first day. The next few days were spent getting to know our group of HECUA peoples; primarily, remembering which name belongs to which face. We—a majority of us—were not aware of how to smartly travel throughout Oslo and so exploration could lead to asking people on the streets or within stores how to get from point A to point B.
Even though traveling caused a bit of dazed confusion, the largest challenge for myself was buying food. For the first day, I did not eat anything at all and only drank water (as I didn’t feel well after the plane ride) and the following two days, I simply lived off apples, oranges, and water. Once I felt more adjusted and exchanged my U.S. dollars to NOK, I expanded my grocery to more substantial foods. I decided to buy foods that were mostly fresh produce with a few suggested “Norwegian” foods, namely: lompa, brown cheese, and Grandiosa Pizza.
The most interesting aspect involving foods was that my first two weeks in Oslo I went on a total of 6 picnics. That’s equal to about 3 years’ worth of picnics back home. It seems that the weather in Norway was being unceremoniously sunny and thus, everyone was out and about, basking in while it lasted. This was primarily done by staying outdoors as long as possible. I definitely enjoyed the atmosphere of picnics here as people would play yard games, talk, and simply sit together in companionable silence. The foods most often on the menu were hotdogs with lompa and potato salad. After a while, I started to get a bit sick of having the same meal repeatedly but I found it to be a delicious (and cheap!) way to enjoy a meal with friends.
I believe the greatest thing about coming to Oslo is that I have been able to come out of my shell—as I’m a fairly introverted person—and make friends through group activities and outings. A large part of this revolves around exploring the city, spending meal times together, and getting lost. Sometimes, the greatest adventures begin when you get lost and lead to even greater discoveries than the path you had planned. I’ve learned to let the pieces fall as they will and simply continue forward. As one of my flatmates told me “All roads will lead to Rome.” I consider this to ring true in all destinations. This mind-set has allowed me to stay calm and collected in the more stressful situations and I think has helped me to grow a bit more as a person.
Exploring the city.
This is simply a large snapshot of what I have been doing since arriving in Oslo. There is so many happenings that I could likely fill a whole journal by the time I leave in November but will seem insignificant to those who don’t share my same experience. Therefore, I have provided this vague image to get what I think to be the most important occurrences in my first two weeks here.