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Journals from Telemark University, Bø, Norway

2013-02-23 Classes, Skiing, Bunads, and Fun!


Now that we are halfway through February, I’ve finally started all of my classes and have had each of them at least twice. Class structure is different here than in the U.S. Normally, I am used to having classes anywhere from two to five times a week for varying hours, but all of my classes here meet only once a week and sometimes at completely different times or not at all. For instance, my Norwegian language class meets on Wednesday evenings, but we haven’t had class the past two weeks due to the professor being out. This makes it pretty challenging to learn Norwegian but I’ve picked up a few basic phrases. The class itself is really enjoyable. All the students are new to Norwegian, so we’re at the same level and are all struggling with it. Of course, the struggle comes with trying to learn any language. I took French my freshman year at Linfield, and it was the same struggle. But now I have problems trying to pronounce words in Norwegian because the French is still in my head.

I have a class called ‘Tourism and the Environment’ and it is set up a little differently. The professor is from Sweden and is only here for February and March, so the class is only meeting during that time, but for five hours every Monday. I think that is similar to Linfield’s Jan Term, but I can’t say for certain since I haven’t taken one. It’s interesting because here, the professors LOVE to give breaks. We have a class break every hour for fifteen minutes (even for shorter classes). It’s nice to have that time to get up and walk around, but I feel like my attention span is going to suffer when I go back to the States. I am taking a class called ‘Business, Innovation, and Cultural Diversity’. This class meets every Wednesday (sometimes at 9:15, sometimes at 10:15 depending on the week). I think it is my  favorite class at the moment, as I quite enjoy the topic and the professor is great. My final class is called ‘Telemark II: Social and Cultural Expressions’. This class is all about the culture in and around Bø (Telemark refers to the region in which Bø is located). This class is quite enjoyable. We’ve had guest lecturers come in and teach us about Norwegian Folk Music and Traditions. They demonstrated fiddling to us and taught us a Norwegian Folk Dance. That was a very fun class. We also had the opportunity to go to a shop in town that makes and sells ‘Bunads’. Bunads are the traditional Norwegian dress. Norwegians wear them for special occasions (weddings, funerals, the 17thof May, etc.). They are absolutely beautiful pieces of artwork and they are all handmade. You can tell where a Norwegian comes from by looking at their Bunad (if you are familiar with all the different ones across the regions). They’re also extremely expensive, starting around ten thousand U.S. dollars and increasing in price from there (all of us were very careful not to touch the ones on display). Overall I am enjoying all of my classes and the experiences I am getting out of them, especially with interacting in groups with students from different countries.

I have tried cross-country skiing and it is very hard for someone such as myself (though I’ve heard downhill and Telemark skiing are harder). I know I’ve improved since the first time I tried it, but I am not sure it’s my kind of activity.  Originally, I was in a class for cross-country skiing and learning about the Norwegian concept of ‘friluftsliv’, which roughly translates to ‘open air life’. I have borrowed skis from the school specifically for the class, but after two class sessions I ended up dropping the class for personal reasons. I was allowed to keep the skis for the rest of the semester and have tried to practice in my spare time. If you’ve never tried skiing before, then you’re not Norwegian! There is a stereotype that all Norwegians love to ski, which is not entirely accurate. I have met Norwegians that don’t ski or simply don’t like to ski. Anyway, if you try skiing, be prepared to fall (it’s expected if you want to actually learn). The snow so far has not been very soft, so falling is not the nicest thing in the world. It is a good experience, though, and I recommend trying to learn if you’re here.

I do tend to have quite a bit of free time since the classes are so spaced out and don’t meet more than once a week. I have a lot of time to read for class and for enjoyment. It is a nice change from the busy-ness of the American lifestyle. My days aren’t packed minute to minute and I have more leisure time. I like having time to do the fun things I don’t normally have time to do back home. I love getting together with the international students. We sometimes all go up to the common house, which is sort of a combination of the Fred Meyer Lounge in Riley and one of the private dining rooms in Dillin (though there are a sauna and laundry facilities in the basement of the house). In the common house, we have game nights sometimes. I’ve played Risk for the first time with some friends from the Netherlands; it was quite interesting since the board and cards were in Dutch. On Wednesday afternoons, the International Office here hosts Coffee Hour, which is a time for Norwegians and international students to mingle and have coffee and treats. Usually it ends up being mostly international students spending time with one another, though.

Activities outside of the school include the student nightclub Kroa, which is popular for concerts and parties. I was able to go to a free concert that they had with a Norwegian band that sang songs in English. They were quite good and I enjoyed the fact that it was free. Students also go to ‘Wine Night’ at one of the restaurants/bars in town on Mondays. It’s popular because they sell bottles of wine for half-price so many students go. I’ve only been twice, but it tends to be super crowded, which I don’t particularly like. There is also a movie theatre next to the school. It’s expensive to see a movie (around $18) so I’ve only gone once. A few friends and I saw Les Miserables, which was fantastic. Here in Norway, all the English films have subtitles in Norwegian (which is better than a lot of European countries that dub movies instead). Usually I like to just hang out with friends and make dinner. A few American girls and I decided to have a spontaneous taco night and we invited all the girls from Slovakia. They had never had tacos or burritos before, but they tried and liked them. It was a very fun night.

So far, I have enjoyed my time here in Norway and I can’t believe how fast time seems to be slipping away.

Ha det bra!

Amber Hay

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