Lauren recently graduated with a History Degree from Saint Anselm College. During her junior year, she studied in Norway and became the first person at her College to ever study there.
Why did you choose this program?
I had always wanted to visit Norway since I was a little girl. I actually wrote in my diary that I was going to visit Oslo one day. When I found out that USAC had a program in Norway, I knew I had to go. As a history major Norway had so much to offer. After all, this is the land of the Vikings. I had always wanted to go on an adventure and I knew that seeing the fjords, arctic tundra and Northern lights would satisfy my desire.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
I created the program myself at the College I went to. No one knew what to expect and so I worked with USAC to organize my adventure. I had to go to New York City myself to get my visa because that was the closest embassy. It was an adventure itself! USAC made sure that people were there to greet me at the train station when I arrived in Oslo. However USAC didn't spoon feed me, I had a lot of responsibility in the planning process. I loved that because when I got to Oslo I felt so proud of all the work I had put in.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Norway is an incredibly beautiful country. However, it can be difficult when dealing with the sun. In the winter the sun can set at 2 and you are engulfed in darkness which can be a really difficult adjustment. I suggest that you plan your trips accordingly, some people might benefit from going to Spain, Italy or even Morocco to get away from the darkness.
Sometimes you don't want to go out when night lasts for what feels like twenty-four hours, but I really think that is when it is the most important to go and explore. Otherwise being in Norway can be hard. I also think you should find someone at home you want to write letters to. Looking forward to little things means a lot, even if you don't think you will get homesick.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Classes in Oslo typically meet once a week for three hours. I went to law school on Mondays, Ibsen Class on Tuesdays, and Gender in Nordic Countries on Thursdays. You end up having a lot of free time to travel and explore, which is awesome. Your grade in Norway is determined by one final exam, so you will never have to do any homework.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I was incredibly nervous because I was moving to a country where I literally did not know anyone. No one from my school was going with me, and I was the guinea pig for future students at my college. If I had a terrible experience in Norway then it could ruin the chances of a future student traveling to Norway. Oslo is a small city and I ended up becoming acquainted with so many people. There were people I ran into all the time, even if I didn't talk to them. One man would play the saxophone every Thursday in the same corner, some people I repeatedly saw on the subway. By the time I left, I felt like I had a second home.
Are there anything more you'd like us share about your experience?
I went to see the Northern Lights in February. When landing in Tromso, you fly to the most beautiful mountains in the world and are immediately surrounded by scenes right out of the movie Frozen. I fed Reindeer, watched a Reindeer race and met the Sami People (Norwegian version of Native Americans). I was outside watching the Northern lights for hours. I ended up on top of a mountain, and I felt for the first time in my life like I was on top of the world. It is really rare to see what they call the purple Northern Lights.
For whatever reason, I was lucky enough to witness them for hours. It also saw them from the hotel I was staying in, which is incredibly rare because typically the city lights block them out. Going to Tromso and being in this winter wonderland was an only in Norway experience. I want to go back and I think that everyone needs to go once in their life.