“Norway has a perfect city-nature balance with exciting and popular downtown areas only a subway ride away from some of the most incredible landscapes I have ever seen. Oslo also has lots of beautiful parks. Everyday was like an exciting adventure, there was always something to do,” says Samantha Frace.
Samantha Frace from New Jersey (USA) was an exchange student in communications at the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences for six months in 2014.
Why choose Norway in the first place?
“I was 10 years old and I read a magazine article about Norway, with pictures of the fjords. I was so fascinated: wow, that place is so pretty! So I started doing more research and meeting Norwegians online. I learnt that the landscape in general is very pretty. And that the lifestyle is more relaxed than in the US. Everything I hear about Norway is always positive, never any bad things.”
What was your first impression of Norway?
“I had never been abroad before, so I was excited and nervous. I didn’t know anybody or where to find anything. I found a store and bough apples, and that was what I lived of my first week in Norway. I was too scared to try and figure out what anything was in the store,” she laughs.
“I soon found that Norwegians are pretty helpful if you ask for help. I felt a lot better after the first day at school, there were classes and lots of events for us international students. Even throughout the semester there were lots events for us, like going on a cabin trip in the woods. And we had study buddies, Norwegian students to help and befriend us.”
Your impressions of Norway changed quickly?
“Yes. I think the people are more relaxed there than here in the US. And I like the welfare system, that the system will take care of you. You are able to relax more and spend time with your family and do the things you enjoy instead of just working.”
“During spring and summer, the sun is out almost until midnight in Oslo, which is so nice. Wintertime is darker though. But I prefer that, I can handle dark winters for really long and bright summers. I didn’t really want to go home again. It was so sad leaving Oslo.”
What did your typical day look like?
“We had classes every weekday except Tuesday. I enjoyed the Norwegian professors, they were really thorough. In Norway, you yourself have to wish to do well, whereas in the US the teacher will push you, help you – which is not a bad thing, but they kind of ‘baby’ you to do well. I was surprised that the professors did not check whether we had done homework, there were no assignments or quizzes, just the final exams. I studied Norwegian, cross cultural communication, negotiation, and leadership.”
Did you get visit other places than Oslo?
“Oh, I went so many places! I went to Bergen and Stavanger. In the end of June, when all the international students left, I decided: I have never been to Europe before, so now I am going to visit a lot these countries. I went to Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Spain and Switzerland, visiting my friends from Oslo, staying at their places. It was really nice. I didn’t realize how accessible other European countries are, how easily you can get from one to another. You want to go to Denmark or Germany, you just get on that boat.”
Did Norway change you in some way?
“Yes, I think I did change as a person. It is a big deal just to drop everything and say: “Ok, I am going to another country for 6 months. See you later.” I am a lot less afraid now to take risks, to try new things. I think I am more ambitious now, I know what I want. Before I used to just follow a pattern.”
Your favourite experience?
“I was in Oslo for the 17th of May 2014, Norway’s 200th anniversary. That was something I have never ever seen. We saw the parade down at the king’s castle. I felt like: I don’t have to explain my love of Norway to anybody, because everybody here agrees with me,” she laughs.
The strangest thing that you experienced?
“I guess I expected it to be a 180 degree change. But Norway is actually pretty similar to the US. Everybody warned be that Norway is so expensive, and yes, it is. So you have to plan ahead. Maybe because I had this idea that everything in Norway is great, everything actually was great. It was even better that I expected.”
How to sum up your experiences with Norway?
“Oh, man! Studying abroad changes your life in ways you never imagine or expect. Everyday is a dream come true of a dream you probably didn’t realize you even had. I really miss Norway.”
What are your future plans?
“I really want to go back to Norway and live there, eventually. But first of all I want to go there for a master’s degree. Then I would want to learn Norwegian and meet more Norwegians and also figure out how to get a job.