Much like if you speak to any Australian about your intentions to move to Canberra, if you explain to any Norwegian that you have travelled half-way across the world to study and live in Oslo, they are likely to ask you ‘why?’.
In comparison to its other Scandinavian counterparts, Oslo isn’t the hippest city of the north. Additionally, as the most expensive Scandinavian city, Oslo may not appear the most attractive place to live as a student. However, I have come to learn that Oslo is an incredibly diverse city, with an up-and-coming vibe and a lot to offer. All the cool places to hang out and grab a beer or coffee are tucked away in different pockets of Oslo, making it a fabulous city to uncover as an exchange student. Oslo is by all means a city of contrasts. At one edge of the city you have the stunning port area with nearby islands easily accessible by ferry, and on the other edge (in the outer suburbs where I live), a breathtaking lake and mountainous region perfect for hikes and running in the summertime. Each suburb here also appears to have its own vibe and culture. Downtown Oslo is cheaper, grungier and ethnically diverse. It is here where you will find a large migrant community, cheap supermarkets and Middle Eastern shops. Another popular suburb for locals and visitors is Grunnerlokka, a hip and trendy area with great nightlife, cafes and shopping.
If the dynamic city of Oslo isn’t alluring enough to incite you to contemplate exchange here, then maybe the University of Oslo is. So far I have been particularly impressed with the programs run by the university for exchange students to assist with their transition into life and university here. Additionally, all my classes have been engaging and insightful, both in the law and humanities faculty.
The University of Oslo hosts what is known as ‘buddy week’, or ‘o-week’ as I preferred to call it before the first week of classes. Students spend this week getting to know others from their faculty and are placed in ‘buddy’ groups. Each group consists of around 20 international students and a few buddies who help them transition into life in Oslo. The week is packed with events both during the day and at night, such as a pub crawl, a toga bar night, Oslo sightseeing tours and even a party boat cruise through the Oslo fjord. The entire week is extremely well put together and caters for a diverse range of socialising interests. For me this week was a fabulous way to meet new people from across the globe who all have similar interests and aspirations to me. The friends I made during my first week have been intrinsic to my easy transition here, and I still catch up and go out with most of the friends that I met during this introductory week.
The only thing you will hear exchange students moan about here are the prices. Norway is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and has one of the highest standards of living. Whilst Norwegians enjoy the benefits of this welfare state, for many international students the cost of living here appears exorbitant. As such, exchange students learn to be thrifty. One grocery store in downtown Oslo has ridiculously low prices (not exactly sure what kind of illegal loopholes they must go through to get prices so cheap), but with a punnet or raspberries at $1 AUD and a huge avocado for $1.50 AUD, you really can’t complain. Alcohol in supermarkets is similarly priced to Australia, however, going out for a beer will set you back at the bare minimum $8-10. As a result of the high cost of drinking out, student gatherings and pre parties in apartments are extremely popular and a great way to socialise with your fellow exchange friends.
It is early days in my exchange experience in Oslo, however, I can’t seem to rave about it enough. Going to Oslo was a spontaneous last minute choice for me, and everything so far points to the fact that it may have been the best random choice I’ve ever made.