I am studying a dual Bachelor of Laws/Economics degree. In Semester 2 2012, mid way through my 5th year, I went on exchange to the Faculty of Law at the University of Oslo.

In the months before you leave Brisbane, you should tag along to a few QUESTIE events and get chatting with some Norwegians (after a couple of drinks, they are pretty easy to spot – being the only ones to collectively sing in rather guttural voices). Also, seek out other UQ students going to Oslo and Scandinavia, more generally.

In your first week at the university, you will be divided into “buddy groups”. Although this week will largely consist of heavy ‘socialising’ and ridiculous ice-breaking team activities, it is probably the most important week of your exchange, as many of your friendships will be fostered through its debauchery – so DO NOT miss it!

Befriending Norwegians can prove rather difficult, as they are notoriously shy. This may come as a surprise, given that Norwegians are incredibly fluent in English and have remarkably similar social customs. Although you will inevitably spend most of your time with other international students, I would strongly recommend that you get involved in student societies and introduce yourself to the local students when out at ‘Frokostkjelleren’ (aka /Chell-aan/), the law student pub.

Whilst on exchange, I studied 3 laws electives (10 ECTS each): International Trade Law, Public International Law and Maritime Law – Liability and Insurance. These courses were taught in English and were predominantly taken by exchange students.

According to the Economist, Oslo is the world’s fourth most expensive city – but to keep some perspective, note that Sydney and Melbourne are also ranked in the top 5. With a diet consisting mainly of smoked salmon and groceries from Grønland (an inner-east suburb), student living in Oslo is quite affordable.

You should be prepared for Norway’s incredibly seasonal weather. Arriving in mid August, I fortunately caught the end of Oslo’s summer. By the time I left in December, the weather was quite dreary and the mercury rarely rose above -10°C. Although Norwegians (bizarrely) seem to cope through an over-reliance on tanning beds and a month-long celebration of Christmas, I would recommend that you get a university gym membership and seriously consider the benefits of cod liver oil tablets.

With unsurpassable public infrastructure, Oslo is a very liveable city; it has reaped the benefits of a resources boom (in offshore oil) in ways that Australians could only ever imagine. Nevertheless, some of my most memorable experiences in Norway were actually spent outside its capital. You should visit Trolltunga, the Lofoten Islands and the Arctic city of Tromsø (to, hopefully, catch the Northern Lights).

Tips:

  • Accommodation: Once contacted by the university’s housing office, make sure you list Sogn and Krinsjå student villages as your preferences.
  • Language courses: it is a good idea to sign up to a beginners’ Norwegian course at the university. Although you will be far from fluent, the locals will definitely appreciate your efforts.
  • Sports: All year round, Norwegians are incredibly athletic. At the very least, you should: get a gym membership, try your hand at cross-country skiing and go to the Oslo Vinterpark (for snowboarding and downhill skiing).
  • Nightlife: The law pub (Frokostkjelleren) is reasonably priced and centrally located. You should also venture to some of the bars in Grønland and Grünerløkka (a rather bohemian neighbourhood). Blå is always popular.
  • Travel: For a long weekend, hire a car with friends and go on a road trip to the fjords. You will need a sturdy pair of hiking boots and waterproof clothing.

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