Spain & Coming to an End

I had this post written and wanted to post it yesterday, but I’ve been so busy with working on my term paper and hanging out with friends for the last time that I didn’t get around to it.  I leave in exactly 1 week from today, which is definitely a bittersweet thing. I will really miss Oslo and everyone who’s been apart of making this a wonderful experience. Having to do a term paper during the last weekend that a lot of friends will be in Oslo is not the greatest, but I’ve tried to divide my time fairly between the two. 😉 Last night I got together with the group of people, who I’d say I hung out with the most, for the last time. It’s so crazy to think that we all met in our “Fadderullan” buddy group over 4 months ago and if it wasn’t for that, we never would have met. I’m just so thankful to have been able to study abroad at such a great school in a wonderful country, surrounded by good people.

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3 Fadderullan amigos! 😉

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So glad to have gotten to know all of you!

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I don’t know why I didn’t get a picture with Nickolas, so I had to add one of him and Sara! He’s my half American Norwegian! 😛

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This post probably won’t be as detailed as some of the others about trips in the past. I want to get this typed up and posted by tomorrow before the “72 hours” start of my group term paper. I’m just so tired and should go to bed. 😉 I went skiing today! I don’t think you can leave Norway without skiing. That was pretty fun, except I was not the greatest. It’s not like skiing in North Dakota or Minnesota, which are basically a joke compared to skiing in Europe.  And I didn’t get much sleep the last night and the day before I was up at 4:00am to catch a flight. So just bear with me!

This past Wednesday I arrived home from a lovely relaxing 6 days in Spain. My friend Amber is studying in Bilbao for the semester and since I had a little over a week off with nothing planned and didn’t need to use it to study I decided to take advantage, one last time, of being in Europe and take a long weekend trip down to Spain. Amber, and her roommates, were nice enough to let me stay at their apartment during their ‘finals week.’

When I looked for flights to Bilbao, the cheapest I could find left at 6:35am from Oslo Gardermoen. When I booked it, I didn’t really think about how I would get to the airport at that time since the metro doesn’t run that early. Luckily, there is a bus that runs all night near my residence to the central station and then I was able to take the express train to the airport. I had to leave my room at 3:50am to catch the bus and time it correctly so I could make it on the express train to make enough time to get through security at the airport. I had a 2 hour layover in Brussels, Belguim. It ended up turning out to be about 4 hours since my flight was delayed 2 hours. I eventually made it into Bilbao at around 3:00pm and took a bus to the city center in Bilbao to meet Amber. We stopped at a Café & Té, which I believe is a chain cafe throughout Spain before heading to her apartment.

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Amber lives in an area outside of Bilbao called Algorta, so it takes about a half hour metro ride to get to. For dinner that night, we went over to one of her friends apartments and had dinner with a few others. It was kind of weird being with a whole group of Americans. I hadn’t been around that many since before I arrived. That’s one big difference with her exchange is that they are not intermixed with the local students – they just have classes with the rest of the Americans who are on exchange. All the girls I talked to said they didn’t really know any of the local students. I’m really glad of how BI had all the exchange students distributed throughout all the buddy groups so we were given a great opportunity to get to know some Norwegian students.

Saturday morning Amber and I went to meet up with Courtney, a fellow UND student and another girl who’s in the same exchange program, try to catch a bus to Pamplona, the city famous for the running of the bulls. We ended up missing the 10:00am bus so we had to wait until 1:00pm for the next one. So we decided to walk around a bit and eat at a cafe. We got to Pamplona around 3:00 in the afternoon and we were quite hungry and found a place to sit down and eat. I can’t remember the name for it, but we had a three course meal for €13. I had a salad and fish, I also don’t remember what kind it was, but it was very good. For dessert, I had a piece of a chocolate cake type thing. We spent the rest of the day walking around Pamplona and then headed back on the bus to Bilbao.

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Sunday we went to 2 beaches which were amazing. Amber and I had fun goofing around and taking pictures on the beach. It was actually my first time stepping foot in to the Atlantic Ocean. ♥ I wish I lived by the ocean back home. I’d be sitting on the beach all the time. 😉 We spent a couple hours at Larrabasterra and then on our walk back to the metro stopped at a restaurant called the Indian Motorcycle cafe or something. It was sooooo American in there. It was weird. hahah  We then headed over to Plentzia which is another sort of suburb outside of Bilbao to meet up with Courtney, Alexa (who’s also a student at UND), and then 2 other girls from their program to watch the sunset on the beach.

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Oh I haven’t mentioned this yet, but the weather was absolutely perfect! I guess the whole month of November was extremely rainy and gross and the day I got there was the first sunny day they’d had in a while. Everyday I was there the weather was perfect. Bilbao is in the north of Spain, so it was not like tank top and shorts weather, but I was in jeans and a tank top for a little bit at the beach. All in all, the weather was a lot warmer than Oslo, so it was a nice change.

Monday morning we again met up with the same girls at Casco Viejo or the old town. I really loved how European and culturally different Bilbao felt. With Oslo, it doesn’t feel too culturally different than home. I mean yes of course there are a lot of differences but probably more similarities to back home. With Bilbao hardly anyone speaks English and the culture is just a lot different. If you weren’t with people who all know Spanish, you’d have a bit of a harder time getting around. We stopped for a snack at a restaurant and all got churros con chocolate. It’s just churros with a cup of chocolate that reminds me of a mix of hot chocolate and chocolate pudding. I could have ate so many of those they were so delicious! We shopped and walked around a few other areas of Bilbao. I was able to buy a couple Christmas presents which was nice. Then we headed back to Amber’s for the night and just hung out. Amber had some school stuff to work on so I cooked us really good chicken taco sort of things for dinner since I had nothing else to do and I enjoy cooking. Hahah

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Tuesday was my last day and I wanted to go back into town to do a bit more shopping. Which I thank Amber for putting up with me and going back and forth from store to store not able to decide what to buy for certain people. 😉 Then we went to the last beach for an hour or so since we didn’t make it there on Sunday. Then we went back to her apartment so I could get my backpack packed and my stuff organized. It is so hard to pack for 6 days with just a backpack to put all my stuff in, plus the items that I bought. Thankfully, I was able to carry on a shopping bag in addition to my backpack and purse. Later that night, met up with Amber’s friend Phuong, who we hung out with us when we went shopping for a bit on Monday, to go get kalimotxos or calimochos. I guess it it originated in the Basque country and is quite popular in Bilbao. It just is red wine and coke mixed poured over ice. It sounds super weird, but is actually really good. Might be my favorite drink of choice that I’ve tried abroad. 😉

When we went out a bunch of the other exchange students from Amer’s program ended up being at the same bar as us. So before we left Amber had to say goodbye for good to some of them which made me sad! It definitely put how close to the end of this whole experience is in perspective. It made me realize that I literally will be going back to Oslo and having to say goodbye in a few short days as well! :/ I still have 10 whole days before I’m back in the US, but like I mentioned above I have my term paper to do this weekend and I’m going up north next Tuesday through Friday and then leave early Sunday morning. I don’t have many days left in Oslo and a lot of people are leaving this weekend.

I’ll probably have one more blog post while abroad after I get back from Tromso which is just crazy to think about! It seems like I just arrived yesterday!

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[random] “Stories” :)

This blog post is all over the place with random stories, so I apologize for that. . 😉

Lately I’ve had a lack of motivation to write my blog. Maybe it’s because I’ve been using all my writing ability on my Business and Professional Ethics term paper? 😉 Anyways, maybe I’ll update you on school. Classes are going okay. I still can’t say I’m use to 3 – 4 hour long classes meeting only once a week. I just can’t get used to it. I would much rather go to class for only an hour or hour and half multiple times a week. I actually really enjoy 3 out of the 4 classes that I am taking here. We had a really cool presentation in my Social Entrepreneurship class about social innovation today. I really enjoyed that.  I can’t say I enjoy my microeconomics course. I cannot understand anything the professor says due to his really thick accent and quiet voice in a big room; I even sit in the front. He doesn’t explain anything he teaches and he just shows us notes that look like they’ve been written years ago in sloppy handwriting. The way the courses here are set up is that there are no assignments during the semester – so the grade for the course is just the final exam so I have no indication of what my grade would be right now. I’m definitely thinking I’m probably going to have to re take this course when I get back to UND.

Okay now on to things that are a bit more happy and exciting. Though I do feel like my portrayal of studying abroad in all my previous blogs has been portrayed as almost “perfect” all fun and no bad experiences so far. (**knock on wood**) 😉  But it has, so far, basically been that way, which is amazing and I am so thankful for how well everything has worked out and for being in such a good place.

A few cool things I’ve done this past week was on Thursday I went to the Opera and saw a ballet with Sara. I had never been to a ballet before so I had no idea what to expect. It was actually very cool! And inside the Opera house is just about as cool looking as the outside. We got a very good deal on the tickets, 100kr for good seats, minus the fact they were “bar stool” seats. Luckily enough it wasn’t sold out and there was no one sitting in the row below us, so we moved down to sit in the comfortable regular seats half way through.

The ballet consisted of three main parts with 2 intermissions. The acts or dances were all very cool and it’s actually amazing to think about how a ballet is essentially a story being portrayed by just dance and music. After the first dance was over, the audience gave a very lengthy round of applause. In fact, I’ve never experienced a situation where people clapped for that long. I am not kidding when I say they clapped for almost 5 minutes after each act. I almost couldn’t take it seriously, because it was just so much clapping!! hahah 😀 The dancers would come back on stage and the audience would clap, then they’d close the curtain (audience still continues to clap), then raise the curtain again and the dancers would bow. This repeated 3 or 4 times after each dance. It ‘s definitely either a big cultural difference or that’s what people always do at ballets? I do not know. 😉

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I don’t think I mentioned this in my previous blog, my friend Sara and I booked a little weekend trip to Bergen for late November. We both said we have to go somewhere else in Norway besides Oslo to see the true beauty of this country. Everyone suggests Bergen as the place to go for a weekend. So I’m looking forward to that trip.

OHHH!! I also booked a flight to Spain in December to visit my friend Amber who is studying abroad there this semester and also one of the girls I’m meeting in Paris. I have a week “off” before my last final and it’s one that I can’t really study for, since it’s a group written exam. So I decided I needed to go somewhere since everyone else here will be busy with either exams or going home already. I’m excited for that trip as well!

Speaking of exams, it’s crazy to think  that I’ve been here for 2 months already and my time here is almost half over… :/ It literally feels like I just arrived last week.  It has gone by so incredibly fast and I truly love it here! I am so glad I chose to come to Oslo. Though I do look forward to going back home and seeing everyone, I’m going to not want to leave Oslo.

Last Friday night, I had dinner with a lovely Norwegian family. They are really distant relatives of one of my moms best friends and I was able to meet Stein and his daughter Helene, who’s my brothers age, earlier this summer when they were in Grand Forks. One of the first days I arrived in Oslo, Stein showed me around Oslo and had said one night we’ll have to have you over for dinner. We finally were able to fit both of our schedules and they picked me up on Friday. Funny side story: I texted Helene and asked her what color car they were in. She replied, “The craziest car you can see! Green one.” So I just expected some maybe weird shade of green car. I go outside and walk to where they said they were picking me up and it’s a green HUMMER! hahah I’ve never ridden in a Hummer before, so that was super cool. Before we went to their house for dinner, he had to stop at work to lock things up for the weekend. I can’t really explain what his job is, but I think he’s a contractor and builds houses on islands in the Oslo fjords or something similar. We took this little boat to one of the islands he was working at. That was neat as well. 😉

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After a bit of a rainy time on the island we went back to main land and headed to their house. Their house was beautiful! I wish I would have taken some more pictures, but didn’t want to awkwardly take pictures of their house. 😉 We had tacos for dinner, which I guess is the “thing” to eat of Friday nights. 😉 They were very good since I can’t remember the last time I had tacos – definitely before I got to Oslo. We had a nice meal and it reminded me of home, which is a nice feeling. 🙂

After dinner and dessert, Helene, Henrik, her brother who’s actually just a few days younger than me, and I hung out the rest of the night. 😀 & They tried to teach me to count to 10 in Norwegian, but I have the hardest time pronouncing anything in Norwegian. I didn’t get past learning “two”. hahah It was a really nice having kind of a “family” night and I definitely thanked them for having me over. They’re all super nice people!

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On Tuesday afternoon I was walking to the train and this older lady stopped me and asked me ‘what time it is’, in Norwegian of course. I politely told her I didn’t speak Norwegian, which I really wish I could speak because it’s such a cool sounding language. Anyways, she couldn’t believe I wasn’t Norwegian. She said, “that’s the reason I asked you because I thought you were Norwegian.” The rest of the way to the metro, it’s about a 10 minute walk, she just kept going on about how I look so Norwegian. I love when that happens and always take it as a compliment! 🙂

I don’t really have anything else to update on that I can think of, so I think I will end this blog here. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

-Hannah 😀

P.S I’m going to PARIS in exactly 2 weeks from today and I’m super excited for that!!