Last year, I had to decide on what to do for my minor. I could choose to stay in Twente and do my minor here, but I decided to take a step out of my comfort zone and GO ABROAD. And that was quite an experience!
I found a nice house in Grimstad, a small town at the south coast of Norway, studying at the university of Agder. Here, I followed some technical courses and a course in Norwegian, which helped me understand some of the Norwegians I encountered volunteering at Bluebox, a student bar and concert hall at the campus. By volunteering at Bluebox, I got to know a lot of Norwegian students while attending concerts for free and eating every Norwegian’s favorite food, PIZZA.
To get to know the people you are working with, Bluebox organized several fun activities. We went to visit a Norwegian craft beer brewery: Nøgne ø, to taste all the different craft beers we served at Bluebox. Next to that, I spent a weekend on a cruise which went to Kiel(Germany) and back. The cruise was very fancy and had its own spa with bubble baths, and a night club which was a lot of fun.
In Norway, there is an organization called BUA which allows you to rent sports equipment for free. In summer, we went kayaking in the sea and we went up to an island to hike there. Some others went sailing and fishing in the sea.
To get to know the other international students, the exchange student network (ESN) organized some introduction days next to the traditional ‘Fadder uke’ which is an introduction week with all kinds of activities like the Kick-In in Twente. After that lots of parties were hosted by the international students themselves. Every week ESN and the university organized either a movie night or a free waffle hour at which you could talk to your ESN friends.
In Norway, a lot of families have their own cabin (‘hytta’) somewhere in nature, to spend their holidays. Some ESN buddies invited the exchange students for a cabin trip in the weekends. I went to one cabin in the summer, in the forest with a beautiful lake we could swim in. In winter we went to another cabin with a lake, but the lake was entirely frozen so we could walk on it, or… make a hole in the ice to take a very chill dive into the water. (Luckily, they had a sauna to warm us up!) The cabin trips were a lot of fun and we played a lot of games together.
To finish off the semester, me and my friends planned a trip to the most Northern part of Norway, hoping to be able to see the Northern lights (and a lot of snow). We started off in Kirkenes, a place only 47 km away from the Russian border. Here we found icicles longer than 2,5 meters (which was very impressive). We took a tour boat called Hurtigruten which took us from city to city along the coast of Norway. Along the trip we also went to a real icebar in Svolvær, where we could drink from a real frozen cup! In Tromsø, the third largest urban area north of the Arctic Circle, we went to a student bar to drink beer brewed by the most Northern brewery, Mack. The boat also had a warm bubble bath outside, which we enjoyed even while it was -5 degrees outside. Because we were there in December, the days were only 3 hours long and the sun never came up. As we started heading south, the days were getting longer (and after 4 days we could finally see the sun again!) But the darkness had an advantage, as we had much more chance of seeing the Northern lights, and we did!