Into The Woods

The waning September month has been marked, for me, by adventures into the Norwegian outdoors, most notably by trips that scream “NORWEGIAN CULTURE”. One of the first things I learned about Norway is the popularity of cabins— second homes, not too fancy, out in the woods that people can escape to. My class took an overnight trip to one to explore storytelling and folklore in a classic setting: around the campfire. A mere five mile trek up the hills through well-traveled trails brought us to a two story cabin, with a well and outdoor bathroom to complete. Just nearby, a designated fire pit sat, waiting for us to use. But outside of our academic goals, this trip taught me a lot about Norwegian culture in connection to nature. For example, all people have the right to hike, explore, and camp on uncultivated Norwegian land, even private land (with few exceptions and regulations). It is through this belief and law that the world opens up to hikers, not needing to worry about trespassing or camping outside of official camping grounds. Additionally, in exploring a forest that had been lived in for centuries by Norwegian and Sami people, it was important for us to learn how the land was used and how folklore arose. We stopped at every new tree to identify it and learn what it was used— building houses, chairs, for instruments? And each rock formation or cliff side was carefully analyzed— could we see trolls (the most notable and classic Norwegian folk creature) in the rocky shapes?

Through this, even in a short time period, we developed a conversation with the woods around us. The same way we spoke fairy tales from our native countries around the fire, the forest spoke back to us.

A large wooden cabin with two students sitting on the porch.
Norwegian outdoors
A view of a sunny hiking path surrounded by green trees
Oslo Climbing Park

Next, my exploration of the Norwegian outdoors took me to Oslo Climbing Park, a vast collection of ropes courses and zip lines far up in the trees, with several of my classmates. We made it just in time for one of the last good days of the season. While it was a tad rainy, and our hands felt frostbitten as we walked ourselves across wooden planks, these next few weeks are the last time to walk these courses for the next several months. In October, the park will become a winter park, where they plan for the ropes courses to be unusable, but snow to fall freely, and park-goers can enjoy a variety of snow sports like skiing and snowboarding.

For me, this trip was about facing my fears:  for a long time, I was scared of heights and had to give up ropes courses and zip lines at a job I loved. When I stepped onto the first platform, what drove me to take the next step was the idea that I hadn’t come here, to Norway or to this climbing park, to let a childhood fear stand in my way of something I knew would be really fun and exciting. The first ropes course made the world open up to me, knowing I was making the most of my time abroad and taking chances I might not otherwise. It would be easy for me to have stepped back, told my friends I would find something else to do, but now I’ll always look back on that trip as the time I faced my fears.

The view from the top of a ropes course, with a student on the platform across the obstacle
View from the top of a ropes course.

Cady West

First Impressions Simply Abroad

Over the course of two weeks, I have been wondering what to write my first blog post about. Should I do a quick deep dive on agriculture? An excerpt on moving in with a host family? The night life that is so popular here in Austria? The Austrio-American Institute itself? We can tackle these in the weeks to come. But as I have struggled with deciding how to introduce this, I have noticed myself adapting in certain ways to the etiquette and cultural norms around me and I feel as though this would be worthwhile information to anybody thinking about studying abroad.

Before you decide to make the, truly, life-changing decision to take that leap of faith for a month, semester and/or year; take the time to look at how you carry yourself at home. Now compare that to how you carry yourself around your superiors; whether that be in an academic sense or a work environment. There are different means in which we choose to present ourselves and our behavior. This will only be amplified moving into a genuinely foreign land. Practices are different. But as a student abroad; you are inherently expected to try and blend in.

Now the question may arise; where is he going with this? Something as simple as good table manners can be the beginning to blending in with your environment. Over here in Austria, dinners are much more different than at home. It is not just a meal. It is a time to converse. A pause on the day to just talk.

9 people eating pizza
Our study abroad group in Austria enjoying pizza with some of the AAIE folks.

Sure, each household has their own expectations. But here, those differences can separate you entirely. Head/elbows on the dinner table? No go. Feet on the empty chair across from you? Big no go. The honor system does not just apply to the public transit here, it is much more deeply embedded. My overall point is that understanding what the new people around you subconsciously expect will help you so much! 

Dmitri Sofranko

The Start Of A New Semester

As my first week of classes comes to a close. I already know this semester will be unlike any semester I have had before. For one, I only have a single class at OsloMet, called “Fairytales and Creativity”, and we meet for several hours every day. Second, every day we have different teachers and different classrooms, depending on what topics we are covering that day. Spending so much time focused on one subject— telling stories— allows us to explore an endless amount of mediums for storytelling (music, acting, radio, stop-motion animation, to name a few examples) as well as different subjects regarding storytelling (heroes, monsters, the dynamics between storyteller and audience).

If we are focused on storytelling and group activities, we might occupy a drama classroom. For lectures, a wide auditorium. For the day we spent six hours learning about telling stories utilizing music, we occupied one of the music rooms (rooms that are open to all students, even after hours). My favorite part of the school day, however, is the thirty-to-forty minute lunch break we get, in which my classmates and I swarm the dining hall for coffee and then dutifully turn our our faces to the sun while we sit outdoors, eating packed lunches like we’re children again, and comparing our different lives in different countries.

Two students holding drums in a music classroomA line of students holding drums in a music classroom

But, in addition to school, my classmates and I have found a variety of other things to do in Oslo for the hours we are not acting out fairy tales. Hiking, including urban hiking like city tours, are a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and international students who do not know anyone in the city are always looking for something social to do. This means exploring every bakery within walking distance (of which there are many), or taking a boat out to one of the many nearby islands for a relaxing day on the water.

One thing I’ve learned is that Norwegians spend as much time as possible outside— taking a quick walk or going to the grocery store means passing an endless series of parks, full of joggers, athletes and kids running around. It’s refreshing to see, mostly because I know these areas will quiet down once the weather turns cold. For now, though, I love taking in a city that is so beautiful and so alive.

The sunset view from a rocky beach on Hovedøya, an island right off Oslo
The sunset view from a rocky beach on Hovedøya, an island right off Oslo


The Journey Begins

Hello! My name is Tanner and I just arrived at the University of Nottingham!

The journey here started a couple years ago when I decided to attend Linfield College for my higher education. Whilst applying, I learned about their study abroad programs and immediately knew I would study abroad. I eventually applied for the England program and was accepted!

After filling out paperwork and waiting for the day to come, on Wednesday September 1st I arrived at Portland International Airport (PDX) with my family and best friend. After saying goodbye and going through security, it hit me, I am going to England for 5 months! Fun fact, while waiting at my gate I met someone who knew a professor at Linfield!

Tanner Coulter sitting at PDX airport with the caption "Made it!!!"
A Snapchat of myself waiting at my gate waiting for my flight to board.

Eventually the time came to board the airplane. I got to my seat, excited as ever to fly. This was my first time flying alone and my second time flying internationally.

Over the course of approximately 3hrs, we went from PDX to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)! By the time we unloaded the plane, I had roughly a hour and a half to find my next gate, get food, and use the restroom. Luckily the person who sat next to me on the plane, helped me figure out the speed rail system to get to my next gate. Got everything done and I made it on time with 30 minutes to spare. When boarding this plane, I was still starstruck that I was going to be studying in England for this next term; I stayed that way till I landed at Heathrow Airport (LHR).

Landing at LHR gave me an adrenaline rush as I was excited to be in England! Going from the arrival gate to the arrival hall took sometime but was a smooth process. Afterwards, I got a iced cappuccino and waited for my taxi to arrive. Once arrived, we got my bags loaded and  were off to The University of Nottingham.

While writing this, I am currently wrapped up in my blanket eating breakfast in my temporary accommodations (housing)  at 6am. I am excited to say my few year journey to get here has ended and my 5 month journey of being here has started! I can’t wait to share everything I have done, learned, and experienced.

Tanner's family the night before his first flight
My family and I celebrating my last night in the United States. Not pictured is the cheesecake and Crumbl Cookies we had😁