The Cheesy Truth to Being Abroad!

“Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go.”

With my time in Norway coming to a swift end  I’m realizing that everything anyone ever told me about studying abroad is completely true. I want to dedicate this post to trying to portray feelings that are almost impossible to get down on paper.

When I first got to Norway I was terrified. The idea of plopping down in the middle of a country, let alone continent that I have never been before was nerve racking. However, the energy from other students at my university here was incredible. We all had this connection to each other even though we had never even met yet. Meeting people was easy but finding the right people was a little harder. You know what I’m talking about, the people that are suppose to make you cry saying goodbye, and laugh at every joke, or understand what it’s like to figure out who you are. Its those who your family and friends talk about before you leave pushing thoughts in your head that you’re going to find a group of people that you’ll never forget and always plan to see. When you live in this situation its almost hard to see that you’re becoming so close to people, yet when you look back it just seems like a slap in the face how obvious it was.

Arriving to Norway I felt like I had my life really sorted out. I knew what my major was, what my dream job was, who I was as a person, and even where I wanted to plant my roots. However, you meet people that love to learn and love to travel and you sit down and explain what your major is and how it will help you get your job and then one simple question makes you rethink everything. “why?” Then my life becomes spirals. However, I’m not doing a very good job at describing this moment because its not a downward spiral, or some sad realization how my life is meaningless, it gave me a time and place that allowed me to actually analyze what I’m doing with my life. It’s amazing what a little time out from reality will do to you. I have decided that I am going to pursue a double major and I’m extremely happy with that decision. Studying abroad allows you to be every aspect of yourself that you love without the worries of everyday stress and responsibility. I have never been in a group of girls where I can be my complete raw self and have them respond with love and “ya, that’s just Kelsey!” It makes you question why your life back home isn’t this sweet and amazing and lets you look into reality with a telescope and figure out what you can do to make this happiness stretch over seas.

The truth about studying abroad, even if it is a little cheesy, is that it takes who you are on a roller coaster ride and lets you ride through every low and high. The only way to put it into words is that studying abroad lets you explore a world that you may not have seen and lets you meet people from all over the world. People that will forever be in your heart and only a plane ticket away. It lets you express yourself in a non stress environment in order to develop a way in life that makes you a better person. I know that from now on my paychecks are going to plane tickets. The Kelsey that started this blog is now improved.

These inspirational quotes have helped me put words to the feelings that are invoked during studying abroad and I hope they help others too 🙂

 

“Traveling– It leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller”

 

*These inspirational quotes were found online.

Norwegian Study Permit Key Steps

*Disclosure: The information regarding obtaining a study permit for studying in Norway can vary from university to university in Norway. It will vary from where the applicant was born and the applicant should look up further guidelines for the permit. I am no way an expert on the matter and this is likely to change from country to country.

I am writing this blog entry today to put together a chart on the best way to go about obtaining a study permit for studying in Norway for more then a three month period. I will be going over key advice and bullet points of important information you may not find on the official websites. My experience with obtaining a study permit for studying at the University of Bergen was a messy one. It took me many months to put together correct information, and many wrong turns. Studying abroad is such hard work due to the amount of things you need to complete by certain deadlines.

Step One: 

  • Create a checklist of necessary steps in order of the deadline they need to be completed by. This will come in handy not only for the study permit but all of the requirements for studying abroad. 

Step Two:

  • Know the difference between a study permit and a visa (I didn’t!)
  • More information on the difference is located on the UDI website.

If you are from the USA you do not need a visa to visit and go to school in Norway

 

Step Three:

  • Know your embassy. There are four Norwegian Embassy’s and Consulates located in the US. Each one is assigned a group of states. If you are living in Washington state you are assigned the The Consulate General in San Francisco. 

Address:
575 Market Street, Suite 3950
San Francisco, CA 94105 USA
Phone: (415) 882-2000.
Fax: (415) 882-2001.
E-mail: cgsfo@mfa.no

General Office Hours:
Monday – Friday: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The passport office is open from 1 p.m. – 3.30 p.m. all weekdays.
We are closed between 12 noon and 1 p.m.

Side Note:

Online it states that you must be present in person in order to obtain your study permit. As of today, this is false. When I went through this process I had done all of the research and looked on all of the official websites only to fly down to California and find out that I did not need to physically hand in my paperwork. It was one of the most wonderful trips with a couple of my aunts, but one that was completely unnecessary and caught me completely off guard. Everyone I had spoken to had gone to San Francisco to hand in paper work, and when I got there the woman working was shocked! The important information that I got from her was this:

  1. After you apply email the consulate and let them know that you will be sending your information to them as well as ask any important questions you may have. Always double check to make sure the flight to California is required. 
  2. Make sure you have all of your important documents (I will be putting up a list)
  3. Do not buy your plane ticket to Norway until you have gotten some sort of response.

Step four:

    • Apply!

 

Step five:

  • Know how much everything costs and make sure you have a budget planned. The price for applying for a study permit is 2,500 NOK. (roughly 415 USD)

Step Six:

  • Go to your local police station upon arriving in Norway and obtain a resident card for non EU/EEA/EFTA
  • In order to obtain your residence card you will need to make an appointment which requires you to go into the station for most places.

Items to bring with you: important documents (acceptance letter, proof of finance, etc )passport, and current address in Norway!

*You are required to do this no later then 2 weeks after arrival. However, if they give you an appointment after this time do not freak! You’re aloud to be in another country for three months without a permit.

 

Here is a screenshot from the UDI website of the documents that need to be submitted when applying for a study permit:


 

If you have any questions or feel as though I need to elaborate on anything feel free to comment. 🙂

 

Time to Reflect~

With a little over a month gone by I feel that it is appropriate to do some reflections. The best way to describe what it is like to live in a foreign country for a month would be to say that the first week feels like your entire life, and every day after that is made up of less hours in the day.

My first day in Bergen felt chaotic, relaxing, insane, dangerous.. just a pile of emotions. I remember looking out of my window and staring at the water and mountains and city lights and thinking to myself that this will be what I see everyday. In other words, it will be home. As I stare out of my window it seems impossible that the girl I was a month ago has transformed into the girl I am today, and that when I look out my window for the last time in four months I’ll be thinking the same thing.

This month has brought me so many beautiful moments and just as many obstacles. One of the most important lessons I have learned while being here is that the effort you put into something is what you will receive. Everyone should go out of their way and find a way to get what you want.

The beauty in Bergen cannot be beat. Above we have the view from Mt. Floyen during the sunset. The picture does this no justice. I can say that when I get back to the US I’ll have some neat looking calfs from all the hiking adventures that are offered here! Below is a picture at the top of Mt. Floyen! You won’t have to look far for some troll and witch action here!

One of the most invigorating feelings is knowing that I can navigate a completely foreign place. Walking around with a map in my hand at all times for the first week feels like a lifetime ago. Walking into the grocery store and seeing such a high price for every single item, ranging from 22 NOK to 100 NOK, I was nervous to buy anything! Learning how to understand another currency on top of understanding the language has changed quite a lot since I’ve been here. I can now understand the prices of things, where to go to find the cheapest price for a certain item, and what is reasonable on Norway’s terms for something. I am also surprised at how much Norwegian I can take in and reply to (in English)!

With such a short time living in Bergen I feel as though the things that I have come to value the most are things you cannot buy. Being here has made me think about everyday struggles in a way I always overlooked before. Making connections with other people has been one of the hardest tasks while studying abroad. I have come to have a new appreciation and kindness to people. This month has brought me to a place that allows me to open up easier then I ever have before. Not only have I been able to identify the better ways in which I can interact with people more, but the way to better present yourself to the world. I have learned to grow into the person that I really am as a twenty year old woman, rather then a lost teenager entering college not knowing what I want to do in the world.

 Quote of the day: 

“We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.” -Unknown

Overall, from the moment I stepped off the plane and could not find my way around the airport I knew that things were going to change very fast here in Norway. They have, but mostly I have. With the experience I have had so far I am able to push myself in ways I never knew were possible. For the first time in my life my only responsibility is to enjoy and conquer Europe, study hard, eat well, and take the time to stay outside of my room as much as possible! The financial, mental, and physically struggle that I have faced here seems insignificant to the greater purpose. I guess money can buy happiness 😉 because it sure can buy plane tickets!!!

Hiking Trolltunga!

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Hiking Trolltunga is the single most challenging thing that I have ever physically done. That being said, wow! What an amazing journey. To start the trip 13 other friends and I traveled to Håradalen Cottages in Røldal, Norway. This is about 3 hours from Bergen.

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Håradalen Cottages

We rented out the entire cottage. Waking up at 5 am the next day we left for Odda where the hike is located.  To start the hike you have two options. Option one is that you climb up 3,000 steps and the other is to climb up the same distance as the stairs but using rocks and a less direct route. We chose the rock starting point and started at 7:30 am. Climbing the rock stairs were by far the toughest part of our journey (so we thought). The view was spectacular!

Reaching the top of the stairs!

Reaching the top of the stairs!

There was a lot of up hill and wind. It seemed like once you thought you reached the top, there was some how another mountain to climb. I don’t think my body has ever been under so much pressure. In the background of the picture to the right shows a mountain with snow on the top. After another kilometer after the picture was taken we reached the top where the snow was! An interesting thing I noticed while hiking was that other fellow hikers would always give a friendly smile and a big “hei!”, something that would never happen on the streets of Norway. I am curious about the difference in culture between the city and country side of Norway. I have had many different Norwegians tell me that starting a conversation on the street or stopping to say hello is thought of to be creepy, while in the US it seems natural.

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Our journey was full of beautiful scenery! Looking out we could see fjords that were insanely blue despite the cloudy weather. The hike is about 11km each way. The highest part of the hike is Endanuten being 1214 meters above sea level. After traveling through 11 km you reach Trolltunga! I wanted to cry when I saw it. Looking exactly how I imagined it, covered in tourists from all over the world, I could finally say I made it!

Fun fact: Trolltunga means troll tongue!  

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The famous rock is about 700 m over Ringedalsvatnet. (Don’t worry mom, no fatalities have ever been recorded here!) Sitting on the edge could only be explained in words that do not exist. It was the most breath taking moment of my life. I would recommend this to anyone traveling in Norway! Not only is it gorgeous but also a once in a life time experience. Your body goes through the pain (especially on the journey back) but to know that you have completed something so crazy is worth not being able to walk for a couple days 😉

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A few hiking tips:

  1. Bring lots of snacks with you and eat periodically while you hike!
  2. Know your own pace and stick with it! It is a very long hike and you want to be able to survive right?
  3. Bring along a friend! Someone to take pictures with, someone to capture your greatest moments, and someone to catch you when you fall. Traveling in pairs is always a little more safe!
  4. Bring a camera! I wish I had invested in a Gopro.
  5. Waterproof hiking shoes are a must! I hope you like mud!
  6. Anything to help with insane wind! (hand warmers, wind jacket and a beanie!)
  7. Only bring a couple water bottles because you can always refill them at the top! There are natural water fountains made for this.
  8. This hike would be best done in August.

Traveling Tips – Norway Edition!

Due to the recent realization that I may have underestimated how expensive and different Norway is, I have decided to start a few tips for traveling to Norway!

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The view from my room. Bergen, Norway 

Number one: Bring a lot of money and transfer it into NOK before you get here.

So you’ve heard Norway is expensive right? Well, now you know. I knew Norway was going to be expensive but I had NO idea it would be this expensive. One bus ride is about $4.00, and the McDonald’s does not have a dollar menu. Think of everything you buy, and then at least double the price.

The reason behind transferring your money before you arrive is mainly because the US banks will give you a much better deal than any airport, or random vendor here in Norway. However, It is not just that but there is no Chase bank, Bank of America, or BECU. The ATM fees will bury you alive.

Number two: Black jeans and converse, Wear it.

If you are a woman, or man, you will see almost every single Norwegian wearing this outfit. The shirt rotates, but the bottom is always the same. In the states women tend to wear various pairs of shoes, however, Norwegians here stick to the basics.

Number three: Bring TP, some dry food, shampoo / conditioner.

My four biggest regrets. Like I said earlier, everything in Norway is expensive including the basics. If you can get away with sparring some room in your luggage for these items, I would recommend. That is four things you do not have to worry about – the less to worry about the better. More room for fun! Also, they aren’t necessary to take back with you, so the room that they take in your luggage is the room you can use for your new Norwegian sweaters!

Number four: Try and forget about Mexican food… 

Maybe this is just a tip for me… due to my absolute love for Mexican food, but you just wont find it in Norway. Although, Friday’s are taco Fridays! Literally everyone in Norway makes tacos on Friday… you just do..

Number five: Hike, Hike, Hike!!

With Bergen being surrounded by seven Fjords, there is absolutely no excuse not to hike! So bring those shoes, workout pants and your rain coat! (yes it rains almost everyday) So far, I have hiked only two of the Fjords, however, every weekend it is a new adventure! Its the cheapest and most fulfilling thing that Bergen can offer you, so take it!

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More to come! 🙂

Chasing my Dreams!

 August 10, 2014, Blog by Kelsey Bolinger, Society Ethics and Human Behavior (SEB), The University of Bergen Exchange Program 

Kelsey

So, what does it mean to be starting your twenties in another country? So far, it has meant chasing your dreams and confronting your fears head on. Bergen, Norway will be my new home for the next five months, through thick or thin, were stuck with each other. It is really funny when you travel alone you feel really adventurous and exciting when really it’s those things but mostly scary. I am so grateful to have had a friend meet me here in Norway and I can’t thank her enough for helping jump start my trip! Having a few days to adjust to the time difference, the adventures have officially begun. Where do I even begin?

kelsey 2Bergen is surrounded by seven Fjords. One of which is called Mount Floyen. With the help of some new friends I made at an orientation a few days before we made our way to the top of the mountain that overlooks Bergen. What a beautiful sight! The weather is a lot like Seattle, which helps with the home-sickness. The view is incomparable to the Seattle skyline though. This sight was absolutely breathtaking. I have met people from many different countries like Germany, Holland, Switzerland, France, and the list goes on. It feels really good to be surrounded by people who know so much that I do not. I have the opportunity to learn so many things here! I am beginning to understand what everyone has been telling me about the experiences in another country shape you for your future. There is so much to take in when you study abroad. This week will be filled with “welcome week” activities! It is all about meeting new people, understanding which courses you want to take, and attending orientations. I will write more on how welcome week went! These past three days have mostly been spent wrapping my mind about the experience! Not only these past three days of arriving in Norway, but also the months that brought me to this moment made me realize that the biggest mistake a twenty year old could make is thinking that your life has to be figured out, when really, life is just beginning. Over the next five months I will be taking courses, meeting new people and starting my life with one of the best opportunities known to man.

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