The End of an Experience

I started writing this on my flight home, but didn’t finish. I’m finally getting around to finishing it after all Christmas busy-ness is over. 😉 This post is about my last week in Norway, which was basically my trip to Tromsø. Tromsø is located 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway. It’s home to the midnight sun in the short summer they have and home to the Polar Night when from November to January the sun in not visible.

Our flight left Oslo Tuesday night at around 7:00pm and we got into to Tromsø around 9:00pm. We took the shuttle bus that runs from the airport to the city center, but the place we booked to stay, Tromso Camping, was not really in the city center. Since there was only us and one other group on the bus, the bus driver was extremely nice and said he would drop us off at the camping site, even though the bus normally does not run anywhere near there. It was very nice and just another example of how nice Norwegians are and especially from Tromsø. Everyone I met there was so nice and helpful, if they spoke English. All the young people speak English well like in Oslo, but not so much the older people. That was definitely a difference to how Oslo. The use of English is a lot less up in Tromsø than in Oslo.

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The bus driver dropped us off at the end of the drive way to the campsite. I knew we were in the Arctic Circle, but what I did not think was the everywhere would be so icy and slippery! I cannot even begin to describe how slippery the roads and sidewalks were when we got there. They had sand/rock salt put down on some parts of road, but it almost had been frozen into the ice so it defeated the purpose of it. We made it to the cabin, which was really nice. It had a nice little kitchen area, a pullout couch, a flat screen TV, one bedroom with a full size bed, a decent bathroom and heated floors throughout the place. I was really surprise how nice the cabin was and would definitely recommend them to anyone who is planning on going to Tromsø.

After bringing our stuff inside we decided to find a grocery store to stock up on food for the week so we didn’t have to eat out – because remember it’s Norway and everything is crazy expensive. 😉 We took the city bus towards the city center. It was nice because there was a bus stop about a 15 minute or so walk from our cabin. If it wasn’t so icy, it probably could be walked in like 10 minutes or so. We got a bunch of groceries and went back to the cabin and had hotdogs for a late dinner. I actually never really liked hotdogs, but I’ve ate the most hotdogs during my time in Norway than I have in a really long time. They just taste so much better in Norway. Hahaha

Wednesday morning Ira, Steve and I had booked a day of dog sledding, so we had to be up early and at the city center by 8:45am for them to pick us up. We arrived at the dog sledding location after a a half-hour or so drive. As soon as we got there, we all got changed into more suitable arctic snow gear and then got back into the van to go to where the dogs were. Before starting to dogsled, we had to help harness all of the dogs up. That in itself, took quite a bit of time. The dogs were a lot smaller and leaner than I expected, but very strong. They pulled you in the direction they wanted to go. Since there was an odd number in our group, I ended up being paired with the instructor, Tor. I road inside the dogsled the first half of the way. It was quite relaxing sitting in there, taking in the beauty of the surroundings. At the halfway point, we stopped and the guide let everyone know it was the halfway point and that if they wanted to switch drivers or mushers, than do it now. I thought, that since I was with the instructor I wouldn’t be able to drive and was actually okay with it, but he said he wanted me to try it. It was a little nerve wracking mushing the sled of dogs with him sitting in it, when he’s competed in the Iditarod, the worlds biggest sled dog race. He joked around and said he was going to take a nap and that I was in charge. 😉 I drove for about a half hour or so! It’s a lot harder than it looks because you have to balance standing on the sled, control the speed of the dogs by using the breaks, and since I was driving the first sled I had to also every so often turn around to to make sure the other 8 sleds were still coming. After the ride, we had to unleash the dogs and put them back into the kennels and then feed them. It was definitely a once in a life time experience and I enjoyed it. Not many can say they went dog sledding in the arctic circle in Norway.

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Thursday morning we got up and made breakfast. Then we headed into town to rent cross country skis. We spent the afternoon skiing through cross country trails around the city of Tromso. At first, it was super hard to get used to how to ski up the hills, but after I figured out how to do it, it was really fun. We even were able to sit up and eat our lunch atop a hill and watch both the sunrise and set during our lunch. 😉 That was kind of the running joke throughout the trip is that we could go do something outside and watch both the sunrise and sunset within the span of 2 or so hours.

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Thursday night we rented a car in hopes to drive somewhere to see the Northern Lights. To say the least, we were very lucky and saw some amazing lights! I knew 3 or 4 people who went to Tromso earlier in the semester and did not see any. That might have been the highlight of the trip. The pictures don’t really show how amazing they are. It’s almost indescribable being so far north between mountains with these amazing greenish lights dancing in the sky.

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Friday we took the cable car in Tromso up to Stor­stei­nen (Big Rock) on mount Fløya, which is 421 meters above sea level. Steve’s friend, who is from Tromso, came with us. The view from up here is amazing, you look right out to the city, the water, and these snow covered mountains! I thought that view was spectacular, but Ole, Steve’s friend, said there’s a cabin at the top and it’s just a short half hour or so hike up. We agreed to it and it definitely was a bit of work. I can give you advice from experience, never go on a hike in skinning jeans and Ugg boots. It just doesn’t work. 😉 We made it to the “cabin” it was a little wooden building with a table inside and lots of snow. It wasn’t actually too cold out so we had a snack on the picnic table outside looking out to an even more amazing view.

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After the hike down and back down the cable car, we stopped to get hot chocolate and then it was time to go to the airport to fly back to Oslo. Unfortunately, the flight was 2 hours delayed which sucked because I had hoped I would have had time to start packing that night when I got back, but didn’t get back to my room until after midnight.

Saturday morning, I struggled to get motivation to pack but I finally did. I got most of it done during the day. The friends I went with to Tromso were having a little get together/last party so I went over there for a while… yeah didn’t get home until 3:30am and I had to get on the bus and head to the airport by 6:20am and I still hadn’t cleaned my room which is required before you had your keys back. At the time, it probably was not the best idea because I got about 45 minutes of sleep that night, but in the end I think it all worked out. I literally passed out right away when I got onto my second flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis. I was so asleep that after an hour of sleep, I woke up to the stewardess letting the passengers know why we hadn’t left yet and still were parked at the gate… hahahaha yeah I was tired. I slept and watched a couple of movies on the flight back and made it to Minneapolis around 6:00pm Sunday night. I made it through customs no problems, just a half hour wait in line. Then my aunt and uncle picked me up and we went out to dinner for my uncles birthday.  Monday morning we got up and drove to Grand Forks and now as I’m typing this have been home for exactly 1 week. It’s still a weird feeling being home, I had such an amazing 4 and half months in Oslo and I’ve had so many amazing experiences that I will remember forever. I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to live in Oslo and study at BI. It’s hard to think of any negative things about my whole study abroad experience. It was almost perfect!  I really feel in love with Oslo and Norway in general. I’ve met so many people and gained many friends from all over the world  these past 5 months and I hope that I can continue to keep in touch with everyone. I sure do miss Oslo, but I know I’ll be back one day because Norway will forever be a part of me now! ♥

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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!

‘Fall’ing into Winter

Again like my last post, this week hasn’t been too exciting. I literally have exactly 2 months ( and 1 day) left in Oslo, which makes me quite sad. ;/ Though I do look forward to being home for Christmas 😉 This past week I’ve basically been to class and did a bunch of school related stuff. I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about switching my major…

That sounds crazy, but really it isn’t since I’m not that far into my degree anyway. Obviously, I am sticking within business [I can’t see myself in any other profession], but I definitely am starting to think economics is not my thing. I mean, maybe it’s because I just go unlucky and have the worst teacher here for microeconomics or it’s just not what I really thought I liked. I really enjoy my Organization and Change class here at BI and find myself enjoying the lectures and the topics. To be honest, I’ve always thought HR (Human Resource Management) was ummm…. well kind of a dumb thing to study, but in reality it’s not and every company needs HR people. So who knows what I’ll end up doing, but we’ll see. 😉

Friday night was my friend Ira’s birthday party. That was quite the fun night, to say the least! 😉

The weather here is definitely starting to change and feel more winter-like, which I happen to love. Everyone is complaining about how cold it is (40ish°Fahrenheit), when I really don’t think it’s that cold. But I’m a North Dakotan and I know what cold really feels like and this is not cold. 😉 For all the non North Dakotans reading this, the average winter temperature in Grand Forks is somewhere between 2° Celsius  to -20° Celsius.  It actually was snowing earlier this morning, but melted before it hit the ground.

Speaking of winter, I’ve decided to go to Tromsø with my friend Ira and her roommates in December right before I come home. Tromsø is one of the farthest north cities in Norway and is considered part of the Arctic Circle!  Read about it here 🙂  http://www.visitnorway.com/en/Where-to-go/North/Tromso/Key-facts/ We’re going December 17th-20th and my flight home leaves early on the 22nd of December. My plan is to have most of my stuff packed before I go, so I can enjoy my last full day in Oslo.

We had a really lovely fall with bright colored leaves on the trees, but now a lot of the leaves have definitely started to fall. The pictures below were taken at Frogner Park a little over a week ago.

In other news, I am going to  Parison Thursday! & OhhhMyyyGoddd I cannot wait ! 😀 Paris is that one city in the world for me that, for as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to go to. I took French 4 years in high school and a year in university, but I’m awful at speaking it (in other words, I can’t speak it too well) hahah but I can read and write a lot better. I’m feeling like I should brush up on my French before I go, but hoping some of the basics will come back to me once I’m there. 😀

I’ll leave you with some pictures that I took  the past couple weeks  and I promise the next post will be just wonderful and full of pictures and my time in Paris.

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My aunt sent me all the pictures they took when they were here visiting me. So I thought I would add one that they took, since I don’t think I posted any with them when I wrote about them visiting. 🙂

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