||Bachelor of Applied Science (Human Movement and Health Studies)
||University of Adger
Why did you choose your host university?
I got an email from my course coordinator Scott Polley about some information around the exchange program in Norway. I read that they have a sensational outlook to the outdoors and as this is exactly what I am studying, it seemed like a great idea to try and experience a different culture that still has a similar focus to what I already know. I looked up their website and saw that if I was accepted, I would be cross-country skiing, sleeping in snowholes, hiking, canoeing, sailing, learning basic survival techniques and improving my outdoor skills in general. The courses were also taught in English so I wouldn’t have to feel pressured around studying another language whilst I was studying for the general homework as well. The opportunity to meet new people from around the world is something offered by all exchange programs but it was their outlook on the outdoors that ultimately sent me to Norway.
What was the university like?
The university was really beautiful despite not really spending a lot of time there. We soon realised the international students studying outdoor education or ‘friluftsliv’, would be in a totally different area entirely. We spent all of our lessons in the university gym a few hundred metres away from the university itself. This building has a climbing gym, pool, sauna, hot tub, a few indoor courts, a large number of fitness rooms and a few quality classrooms for education with good facilities.
It’s hard for me to comment on how the rest of the university would function but for us it was fairly well structured. We had two subjects with one for the theory component and one for the practical education. One gave us great insight into the Norwegian outdoor culture and the other subject gave us an opportunity to understand the theoritical knowledge behind it. We also got to hang out with the Norwegian outdoor education class a fair bit and this interaction was awesome.
What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?
I will never be the same because of this exchange. As predicted from an educational perspective, I will now be a much more proficient outdoor educator because of the skills I have now learnt on my trip. I gained a great level of independence that I thought would take much longer to acquire and develop. I gained a unique outlook to different cultures and a talent of speaking to people with appropriate tones, speeds and words to best communicate with those of different abilities, without appearing rude or condescending. I’ve developed my tolerance, patience, understanding and problem skills much more and I FEEL as if I will be able to respond appropriately to many of the conflicts and difficulties I may now face in the rest of my life.
I feel a lot more courageous than when I left and I now feel the need to see more of the world and more of what the world has to offer. Most importantly for me, through interacting with the amazing people on this experience, I have learnt that pride is over-rated and you can’t always win. Even if you can, sometimes it isn’t worth it and it’s better to meet in the middle with people. I have identified many flaws in myself and have worked on improving them already. As I stated, I will never be the same and I owe it to the opportunity I seized.
What accommodation options were available to you? How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?
The university offered 'SiA' housing to students. I would definitely take this option. I flew over with two other Aussie mates and we lived comfortably in a 3-bedroom flat with a shared kitchen and bathroom just for us. We had friends who spent more money and got better quality but we still came home afterwards and just smiled that they spent more and we were just as happy as they were. There was plenty of different options you could choose for a variety of prices and locations around Kristiansand but we found one that was midway between the city and uni (about 10 minute walk either way) and were stoked!
Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries?
I feel like I did a lot of travelling for the time I had. From a meeting prior to leaving Australia, one of the past exchange students gave us some advice to say “yes” to any opportunity you are given. I thought about this every day and took the advice on to the full. I got to see some cities on the West coast of Norway, Oslo on the East, the most Southern point of the mainland at Lindesnes and the most Northern point at Nordkapp when we went chasing the midnight sun for 8 days. In my first months there I also went to Tromsø and set foot over the Arctic Circle for the first time when we went to see the Northern Lights. This is the best weekend of my life. In the middle of the semester, I took up an opportunity to travel to Italy and saw Venice, Florence, Pisa, Pompeii and Rome in a week. Sounds impossible but it’s definitely doable.
I had initially planned to come home on the 8th of June and my hardest decision was if I was going to change my flights to get in some more travel, when should I change them too? This is when I saw the midnight sun, some more of Oslo and then finished up my European trip with 2 weeks in Sweden. I wish I did a bit more but I now I feel I will never be totally satisfied. I have caught the travel bug that I swore I would not catch.
Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.
Too well. We had a unique situation in Norway because across Scandinavia, they speak their own languages in the shops and to themselves so you constantly get a feeling you are somewhere international, but as soon as you start speaking English to them, they will immediately begin speaking English back to you. The trickiest part for me was looking at the price of something in the shops and having to do a quick calculation in your head of how much it actually costs, but you soon get used to this. Meeting new people was one of the best parts and we’ve cemented ourselves as mates for life. Not only that, but everyone we have spoken to. all offer us free accommodation if we ever visit their area in the future, much like we would do for them if they come here. You build a family and that is half the trouble in leaving but it was absolutely worth it and it’s not goodbye. Just be friendly, they love Aussies!
Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?
As mentioned in question 3, I have changed in many ways and identified flaws that need improving. Due to communicating with different people who possess a variety of different skill levels in English, I have learned the best ways to modify my speech appropriately to suit who I am communicating with. My tolerance, patience and positive outlook are all qualities that will help me in the future. Although I feel as if I had a good of cooperation and level of skill in participating in group work prior to leaving, this has also been enhanced dramatically along with contrast, my independence. Knowing when to work on your own and knowing how to act in a group will also be extremely beneficial for my future career. I wish to be a teacher when I finish and besides all of the advantages of the listed skills and enhanced personal qualities, I believe that the cultural diversity I have engaged with will count as a life experience many people applying for the same position as me will not have. This will hopefully be the edge or the deciding factor as I took a risk and personally chose to see more and search for new information about the world around me.
What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?
I was hesitant as well! I used to be focused on saving money as I thought it would be the best thing for my future. Now having done the exchange program, I can confidently say it is the best thing that I could have ever done for my future and I do not regret the money I spent because (despite how cliché this sounds), the experience was priceless. Do it. As I'm writing this, I am currently looking for another exchange program for the upcoming year.
Have fun and say “yes” to any opportunity you get because you’ll come home and regret not taking the chance. Don’t ever settle for “what if’s?”. I travelled to unbelievable places, I met some incredible people, I spent a lot more money than I planned to but I also did some amazing things that others may never experience, simply because I always took the benefit of my doubt and went for it. Sounds too cute and inspirational for me but try it for yourself and pass on the advice if it worked for you in the future.