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Study Abroad Report

Name: Karyn Johnson

Program Attended: BI Norwegian School of Management

Year/Term Attended: Spring 2006

Current email: (feel free to contact me by email)

Academic experiences at the partner school

  1. General academic structure:

For the Masters courses the classes meet once per week for 3 hours and use the Blackboard system extensively. Organizational Psychology classes are all graded using the form: 20% class participation and 80% term paper. Other Masters courses can vary. While they say your courses will run for the semester, it really varies from course to course and you won’t know the schedule until the class has started. I had one that lasted 11 weeks and one that lasted 14. Some classes (more at the bachelor level) went all the way from January until mid June. The course in which I had a final exam also had a term paper and class participation, so the test was only worth 25% of my grade and lasted for 3 hours. Finals can last anywhere from 2-6 hours.

  1. Classes taken/ how they compare to courses here:

I took four courses instead of five because at the beginning of the semester the workload seems rather daunting. I am told that this is not the case for Bachelor students, and their courses are quite easy with little work to do. I highly recommend the organizational psych courses for any HRIR students since they are really applicable and incredibly interesting. I took Persuasion and Influence & Counselling in the org. psych domain and thought the professors were much more interested in teaching the subject than the professors at Carlson. The same was with my Global Entrepreneurship class. This class required a lot of work as we had homework assignments on Harvard Business School cases, a literature review, and we had to create a business plan for a company that had international possibilities. But I learned A LOT in this course, especially since I haven’t really taken a lot of basic business courses. The only class I took that I do not recommend is Managing Differences because you had to do a lot of reading and didn’t learn how to manage differences. The teacher (Laura Traaviks) will suck you in because she is really dynamic, but don’t be fooled- the course is not a good one.

  1. Advising:

I didn’t use the advisors, but I know there are some just for International students.

  1. Surprises/comparison with academic environment in the U.S:

I was surprised by how much reading was required, and by how often they wanted you to participate in class. Every teacher acts as if their course is your only priority and assigns at will. After awhile you will realize what is truly required and what can be ignored.
Logistics at the partner school:

  1. Orientation/Arrival:

If you get one thing out of reading this evaluation it should be this: attend orientation. They will show you how pretty much everything works at BI, where everything is, how to use the computers and printers, how to effectively use the library’s resources, you will meet all the other exchange students and start to form your friendships, and you’ll learn a bit about the culture in Norway. You are assigned a Norwegian buddy that will pick you up from central station, take you to your housing, and make sure you are doing ok for the first couple of days. This was really nice since it is hard to arrive in a new town and not have any idea where to go.

  1. Housing:

The exchange students are mostly split between 2 housing options: BSN is the newer, nicer, more expensive housing that is right by the school. At BSN you live in a 2 bedroom flat with another exchange student and pay about 4200 NOK per month, plus electricity and laundry. The nice thing about BSN is that everyone seems to know each other and the exchange student that live there are pretty much all friends and party together a lot. The other option is Kringsja which is the older and much cheaper (about 2400 NOK all inclusive) student housing. Most students live here, so there are parties in the flats all the time, but you are really far from the city center. Luckily it has its own T-Bahn stop, so the world is just a 20 minute ride away, but it would be nice to be closer. The housing at Kringsja is really varied since there are a lot of different buildings, but mostly you will live with 6 other people and share a bathroom with one. It isn’t especially cozy, but it is ok after you hit one of the two IKEAS up for some stuff. Both options have grocery stores nearby.

  1. Meals:

The meals on campus are reasonably priced by Oslo standards, but not especially tasty. If you are a vegetarian- good luck! I was a vegan when I arrived, and that went out the window after 1 day. It is really hard to find good food here, much less vegetarian food.

  1. Transportation:

The T-Bahn is most likely how you will get around- it is their metro system. It is really expensive (430 NOK) for a monthly student card which right now is about $70. For a single trip it is 20 NOK. There are also buses and trams that are pretty convenient. The really bad thing about transportation (besides the cost) is that the T-Bahn trains only run every 15 minutes and there is no public transportation from 12:30 am – 2:30 am. Then the night buses run once an hour. You might be thinking- “that’s ok, I’ll just take a taxi home from the pub.” No you won’t- it is $50. Sometimes you can find a maxi-taxi that takes 10 people and then everyone will pay about 40 NOK each, or some really connected students have found underground drivers that are unsanctioned and charge a lot less.

  1. Student activity groups:

There is a really great student group called INSA (international student association) which is run by Norwegian students that just want to help out the exchange students and make life fun for everyone. They plan parties, nights out, sporting events, send a weekly newsletter, and more. You can’t miss them, and you wouldn’t want to!

Host Country Culture

  1. What were some surprises or insights you had into the culture of your host country/school? Everyone dresses-up to go to school. It is like a fashion show. One really surprising thing about Norway is how impolite the people are. Almost everyone is nice if you can get them talking, but this is a culture that believes everyone is equal and no one should hold themselves in higher esteem than anyone else. This means lots of pushing, people will run into you without saying “excuse me,” lines are jumped, and if someone wants to sit in the seat next to you on the T-Bahn they will just start to sit and you need to get out of the way or move your stuff before they sit on you or it. Another surprise was how huge cross-country skiing is here. I had heard that it was big, but I wasn’t expecting everyone and their mother to do it. If you live at Kringsja you should really rent skis for the season from SiO and go skiing at Sognsvann (it is about a 5 min. walk) with all the other Norwegians and exchange students.

  2. What are your recommendations for ways that other exchange students can learn about and become immersed in the culture?

Go to orientation and talk to Norwegians. They always want to know what you think of them and of Norway, so once you get them talking you can learn a lot.

  1. Did you have the chance to learn a second language? Why or why not?

I took the beginning Norwegian class that they offer for 500 NOK so that I could understand a bit of what is going on around me. Yes, everyone speaks English, but everything is written in Norwegian. Most people liked the course, but I really struggled with it and the things you learn weren’t that applicable to everyday life.
Social life:

  1. How would you rate your integration with other students from the host university?

The Norwegian students don’t really go out on a limb to talk to you… at all. It would take a lot of effort to get to know them, and I only had 2 Norwegian friends.

  1. How would you rate your integration with other international students?

There is excellent integration amongst the international students. Since there are so many activities and since orientation is planned so you get to know everyone, you will know a ton of other exchange students. Sometimes the different groups stick together (the French students were really into hanging out with other French students and only speaking French) but you will find your niche pretty easily.

  1. What were some of the best ways you found to make friends and meet people at the host university?

Just by living in one of the two main housing options you will see people around and get invited to parties. Go to the student house for at least the first couple of weeks and you’ll also see a lot of people. And everyone here uses MSN messenger, so make sure you get people’s contact info to stay in the loop.

  1. What kinds of after-hours and weekend activities would you recommend for other students?

It is just so expensive here that people don’t go out much. To make up for it there are a lot of parties in people’s flats, or you “Vorspeil” (pre-party) before going out. There are lots of bars and clubs here, so try out as many as you can. Also, you can visit which gives you a list of where there is currently cheaper beer being served, and where the most expensive beer is so that you can avoid those places. As for weekends, get out and see Norway! Buses can be pretty cheap, and if you book ahead the trains and planes are too. I’d go to Tromso, Bergen, and Trondheim for sure. There are also a lot of great museums and islands to visit. Or you can join hockey teams or go skiing- both downhill and cross-country.

  1. If you traveled with your family, how was their integration into the host community? Did you find any particularly helpful resources for them?

I didn’t travel with my family.

  1. Budgeting: how much would you recommend students take with them? How much would you say would be the monthly living expenses in the city you lived in including rent/food/misc. expenses?

Everyone says Norway is expensive, but that doesn’t even begin to describe how ridiculous the prices are here. Oslo is now the most expensive city in the world and it will cripple your finances. That said; bring as much money as you possibly can. You can try to live cheaper by staying in Kringsja for about 2200-2600 NOK, shopping in Gronland for your food (which is where all the best fruits and veggies are anyway), and drinking before you go out (make sure to always bring back liquor from the duty free shop when you travel or anyone comes to visit you). But if you are really strapped for cash I wouldn’t come to Norway. My typical monthly expenses were: housing: $400, T-Bahn pass: $70, Groceries: about $200 (and I don’t eat meat which is REALLY expensive here), Phone minutes: $20, money onto my copy card: $10, Misc.: $500. And, if you are into traveling it is a bit more from Norway since we aren’t exactly in a central location.

  1. Do you have suggestions on the types of students who would be well suited to this program? Someone who is rolling in cash. Seriously though, someone that wants to get to know other exchange students and likes snow. If you are sporty you’ll love it here. I think it is a great program for HRIR students because the courses are so applicable.

  2. Did you need a visa to enter the country? If so, how did you apply for one and how long did it take to receive?

No. If you need a visa while you are here to go to Russia or anywhere else, you can go to the consulate for that country and get it pretty easily. You will need a residence permit, but the school will send in your application for you.

  1. What recommendations would you give to other CSOM students going on this program (to bring, to wear, etc.)?

Bring all your cold weather gear, bring as much stuff as you can since it will cost at least 3 times as much here, bring a snowboard or skis if you are into downhill sports, bring a large backpack for traveling, and a laptop.

  1. General recommendations for study abroad:

Try not to think too much about the cost and you’ll have fun.

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