Experience story: Northern adventure at Volda University in Norway - EEZ un Norvēģijas finanšu instrumenti
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Research and Education

Experience story: Northern adventure at Volda University in Norway

“When I investigated the Erasmus+ exchange programme in the first months of the fall semester, I was advised to apply for European Economic Area (EEA) “Scholarships” – paid studies in Norway or Iceland. I studied in the study programme “Intercultural relations Latvia-Northern countries” of the Latvian Academy of Culture, so I decided that it was worth trying this opportunity. Shortly after learning that I had been accepted to Volda University in Norway, I went on a study adventure in the spring semester,” starts LAC student Elizabete Grīnberga.

I had no idea what awaited me. Everything was new. It seems that I did not realize for a long time that I was actually going somewhere. In the autumn months, there was one remote meeting with Iulia, who is responsible for the admission of international students at Volda University. It helped to understand the preparatory work to be done, applying for accommodation, buying transport tickets.

There are so many possibilities that you can’t do everything

In the end, I arrived in Volda with a little delay and spent a considerable amount of time there, gaining new experiences of learning and living conditions. So how did I do?

Initially, it was a bit difficult to understand what was happening, because due to the pandemic, I missed the start, including “buddy week”, when students already make friends and are taken around the university premises and main places in the city. In addition, a big success factor is the accommodation you choose before your arrival. In my case, a large number of international students lived in other buildings, so at the beginning it was necessary to understand where to meet students to get to know each other. Here I should mention “Pangaia” – a university organization consisting of two people whose duties include receiving international students, providing accommodation and creating various activities for both local and visiting students during the semester. The two managers – Karsten and Melissa – gave us the opportunity to enjoy our time and company in Volda. They organized weekly movie nights in the university premises, providing snacks. We also went on a joint hike through huge snow, but when it was warmer, they organized BBQs, etc. events. Both of them waited for the students every day in the “Pangaia” room, which was arranged for drinking tea, playing the ukulele, talking, knitting and other cozy activities.

There were other student organizations (with a small membership fee) that helped to integrate and get to know Norway: Natura, which offered a variety of hikes, nature workshops, fishing, surfing, boating and other nature experiences; a sports organization that gave access not only to the small gym, but also to volleyball, soccer, basketball, floorball, etc. sports activities that could be attended according to desire; the opportunity to participate in the production of student TV, radio and newspaper. These and other offers made it possible for everyone to find what they like, try something new and enjoy the new technologies and equipment in the university’s media building and sports complexes. Of course, you can’t do everything and I didn’t participate in everything, but I tried my hand at quite a few places. There are also those hikes, cultural and food, film, and party evenings organized by the students themselves in their companies. But especially at the beginning, until you have settled in and found friends, I think organized events are very necessary, when anyone can come and participate.

Less teaching load and emphasis on student welfare

In addition to a wide range of extracurricular activities, of course there were also courses and lectures. This was also a really interesting experience. The teaching load, it must be admitted, was significantly lower than in Latvia. There were only 2-3 courses per semester and lectures were not held every day. Maybe less knowledge is gained during the semester in Norway, but much is discussed and understood, and student well-being and free time are of great importance. I was very satisfied with the courses I chose (I could have failed here too) and I enjoyed the learning process and time. I liked that there were no homework/tests, etc. during the semester, which creates stress. There was only one final thesis and separate tasks and presentations during the studies. This seemed very positive to me, because I could concentrate on my studies without undue stress, delve into what I don’t understand, instead of preparing homework for every lecture.

Nature and free equipment rental

Overall, the weather in Norway was beautiful. Nature was wonderful, especially in the city where I was. Surrounded by hills, mountains and fjords. At first, as a Latvian, inexperienced in mountain hiking, I was afraid to go somewhere on my own, but in the last few weeks we have been actively walking on our own and catching moments with picnics and outings in the beautiful nature. Norway has a safe environment – there are signs and well-trodden trails for hikers, people are not afraid of each other and trust each other.

BUA was also an excellent opportunity – it is a place where you can rent various types of equipment for walking in nature for free for a couple of days or two weeks – boots, flying saucers, thermoses, rain gear, skis, etc. I didn’t need to buy mountain boots, a bike, or a proper rain jacket for the rainy Norwegian weather.

I am very glad that I took this opportunity to go to Norway through the EEA grants programme “Scholarships”. Along with all the financial advantages, there was also the fact that you didn’t have to think long about where to go – there weren’t many options. During the semester, I not only got to know new people from so many different countries, but also various aspects of Norwegian culture and society. I evaluated myself on what I like and what I don’t like, and also got to know myself more. When a person is thrown into completely new circumstances, a lot of new things are discovered. Thanks to everyone and everything that filled me this half year with experience, knowledge, emotions and a pile of pictures that take up a huge space in the phone’s memory. This was a very valuable step of courage in my study life.

The “Scholarships” activity is financed by EEA grants with the support of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Scholarships activity contributes to higher education and research, reducing economic and social differences in the European Economic Area, strengthening bilateral relations and promoting exchanges between donor countries and Latvia.

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