Monday, February 4, 2013

Norway: Where Clothes are Cheaper than Beer

Happy Monday all, and happy February as well!  I’ve been in Oslo for exactly a month, time has flown by.  I’m going to start out this post by trying to explain my program setup over here, which has proved a little difficult each time I’ve been asked by other students.

I’m in Norway with HECUA, a study abroad organization, not a school.  I applied to my program after learning about it at USF, my school.  The way it worked out is that USF has sponsored programs for studying abroad which means it has partnerships with other schools, especially Jesuit ones, and organizations like HECUA.  Being in a sponsored program means I pay the same tuition as I do when on campus in San Francisco.  So, in a nutshell, I’m paying what I would in the states but get to live abroad for a semester… Who can turn that down?!?

Anyways, my classes are where it gets hard to explain.  I’m taking three classes here, two that are sit down with attendance and my ISP, and my only classmates are six other Americans.  I’m taught by one professor for my two meet up classes, who is also American but has lived in Norway for five or so years. All this in mind, I study at the University of Oslo but with HECUA courses.  Meaning I never registered, my classes were the ones I knew coming in, and so I don’t have classes with other UiO students.  If you’re confused that’s totally understandable, I get that reaction a lot.  I recommend looking up the HECUA website if you want to learn more! (

I wrote for a little bit about my program because today was a great example of what we do in our American small group.  We started out on campus for a class session about Norwegian politics, with the main topic being about the country’s most successful party: the Labor Party.  After our class discussion, we went out on what’s called a field seminar.  Today we got the chance to go to the Labor Youth Party’s headquarters and meet with Trygve, a 24 year old policy advisor for AUF (the youth party’s acronym).  Every Norwegian party, there’s nine total with seven in Stortinget aka Parliament, has a youth party which as a Politics major had me so envious.  There’s nothing comparable in America to the youth parties here.  Trygve is a part of the largest youth party; Labor is the largest party as a whole so that makes sense as well as the fact that young Norwegians really identify with the center left ideology of Labor.  According to him, there are about 13,000 members in AUF with an age range of 13 to mid-30s.  And AUF really can have influence over its mother party; having a youth voice on policy can sway those sitting in Stortinget.  Plus, those involved in the youth party can feed into the mother party.  All in all, youth in Norway have a much bigger opportunity to become politically involved with the country’s parties than any way I’ve seen in the US.  Like I’ve mentioned, as a Politics major this was a great field seminar.  We’ll also be meeting with other youth parties in the coming days/weeks like with the Young Conservatives.

Moving on to the past week!  Here’s the breakdown:

Tuesday:  Class was awesome today!  One word: Borgen.  That’s the title of the really popular Danish show about a female prime minister.  Like the quality of The West Wing.  As I said, awesome. 

After class I went back to my room and locked myself in for the night to finish a paper that was due on Wednesday.  It was difficult because I had only the night before to work on it as well because I had been in ISP proposal mode til Monday morning which dominated my weekend (refer to prior post).  Anyways, essay writing took up most of my Tuesday.

Wednesday:  Turned in my paper in the morning (huzzah!) and then headed to my internship at Queer Youth.  Today was my first full shift after a little difficulty with the front buzzer.  I met up with Ashild, Eirik, and the rest of those from the floor since Queer Youth has a connected kitchen with its mother organization LLH.  My main tasks of the day were two things.  One was helping do some mega meal planning plus grocery shopping for the national gathering this weekend for QY (all the regional offices from across Norway were coming for three days of meetings).  And the other was to start the ground work on a blog QY’s Transgender Committee wants built.  I’ve blogged before (derp) but have only done ones for my personal use.  This one is going to be much more sophisticated with its design and has seven bloggers.  I talked with Emil, who is going to be part of it, about what the group wants and am going to build what I can for them.  This is will a cool project and learning opportunity so fingers crossed it goes well!

The other thing about QY today was having lunch with both offices and explaining my program (like above) and what our course material is.  Telling Norwegians about what I’ve learned about Norwegian identity and nationalism is something I’ll remember forever.

After my shift I had dinner (tacos!) with my pal Erica and we worked on our presentation for the next day.  One of the other things we have to do in the HECUA program is lead integration seminars where a pair has to engage the rest of the class in the subjects of the week.  So Erica and I made a rockin’ Jeopardy game about Norwegian politics, oh yeah.  Candy and a mug were picked out as the prize for the winner.

Thursday:  FINALLY got my resident permit squared away at the police station, hope I never have to go there again.  Had to go twice, once for my early morning appointment and again after class since the computer system went down.  Done now, waiting for the permit to come in the mail.  Then I’ll be a legal resident of Norway, woot woot!  As for the integration seminar, it was a hit.  Nailed it, and everyone had fun.  Jeff, our professor, really liked the idea of our seminar because apparently back in the day he was on Teen Jeopardy, no big deal… Yeah right.  That’s a serious big deal; I wish I could be on Jeopardy any time of my life!  Maybe someday…

After my second trip to the police station of the day I went out to hit up the last of the January sales.  Oslo has a ton of shopping, and I swear the number of H&Ms is second only to convenient stores.  I found two shirts from low and behold H&M of course.  I know we have the chain in America, but cute clothes are cute.  And two shirts for 149 NOK (about $27) isn’t bad at all in Norway.  My shopping was less expensive than grocery shopping.  A six pack of good beer can easily get close to 120 NOK, more than one shirt, ugh.  I learned the hard lesson a while ago that a Smirnoff ice four pack was about 130 NOK.  Alcohol is pretty ridiculous here; stay tuned for what I paid on Sunday.

Lastly, I finished the night at the student pub Amatøren for Quiz Night which is really popular here.  And I think the winners get a free round of beers, so that makes a lot of since why people love going to Quiz Night.  Just kidding, it’s also fun to merely play as well.

Friday:  Second shift bar tending at Uglebo!  Another fun shift and another early morning return to my apartment (5:30am this time) that included a stop to the 24 hour McDonald’s.  Great night and fun people.

Saturday:  Slept in til about noon and then went to Uglebo again in the evening but this time it was for a work party. As volunteer student bartenders, we’re called interns which I find kind of funny, so it was an intern party to be specific.  And while we get intern pieces normally on every menu item (the selection is plenty of beers, wine, and alcoholic cider), this party had hard liquor.  That may sound standard for America, but here in Norway that is a really something to celebrate.  The cocktails were amazing cheap for Oslo, 40 NOK for any mixed drink offered that night.  Forty kroner is about seven bucks which about matches US prices so I was in total bliss.  I definitely took advantage of this chance to drink since it was a rare one.  Beer is the norm in Norway, so mixed drinks for 40 NOK was near miraculous.  Anyways, major perk of bar tending, super glad to be appreciated with a great party!  Everyone was really nice, affordable booze was flowing, and I had a wonderful time.

Sunday:  I was planning to have a really lazy Sunday, with laundry and an early night in.  Laundry yes, early night no.  My roommates and buddy group wanted to go to a club downtown called BLÅ (sounds like blah, means blue) that was free, age 20 and up, and has a live band every Sunday night.  I had heard about it already and how great it is so I thought, sure while in Norway why not?

I met up with some people from my buddy group, one of my roomies, and a few others for a pre party and then headed to BLÅ, meeting up with another roomie and his friends.  And I’m really glad I went out because BLÅ was really fun!  The band was snazzy, with lots of energy and a sax.  The music kind of reminded me a little of Ska.  The place was packed with people and everyone was having a good time.  The prices of drinks were high even for Oslo standards, 68 NOK for a pint of beer and I even paid 92 NOK for a rum and coke.  I’ll let you do the exchange rate since I cringe at the thought of it.  But oh well, BLÅ was worth it!  And I paid for plenty of other drinks the night before at the Uglebo party at very decent prices so I’m going with the logic that the two nights even out.  Come to think of it, I went to bars four nights in a row, ha.  But back to BLÅ: I danced, I meet new people and hung out with fun ones I already had meet before, drank, laughed and it was a great time.  Glad I went out and that wrapped up my weekend.

Wow, this was a long post!  All the photos below are from my wandering during shopping on Thursday.  I didn’t take any other pictures because, well, I was too busy having fun/working to document it, ha.  Enjoy the ones of sunny downtown Oslo!

Also, to conclude, it’s important for all you readers to know I’m heading off to the UK in a few days for my midterm break.  This means one of two things will happen with the blog: I’ll either post next Monday as usual or have a double feature piece in two weeks!  Til I write again, cheers!

One of the many H&Ms

A pretty day downtown

Old style building meets consumerism

One of the main strips, and the palace down the lane

Stortinget, the hub of the Norwegian state

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