I am writing from a desk on the fifth floor of the Mørkvedlia Student dorms in Bodo, Norway. On a clear day, one can catch a glimpse of the Rockies from the Weller Library, a gorgeous site no doubt, but the view from here is a different caliber. Without leaving their beds, students are treated to views of more than twenty dramatic ice capped peaks, vast avalanche runs, and the jagged Norwegian shore line of Saltfjorden, a fjord, 40-kilometre long starting around the Fleinvær islands and ending at the village of Løding.
Minutes of walking will yield all of the amenities one needs: grocery stores, restaurants, hikes, and even the Nord University Campus are all viewable from the steps of the main residence buildings. Even now, in the darkness of January there are plenty of opportunities to take skates, skis, or snowshoes and enjoy the distinctly northern terrain surrounding the city. Outdoor treks are so popular that the university offers inexpensive rentals of most hiking and sports equipment. For myself, the most notable item in the university’s rental roster is its own eight-person lode located in picturesque setting, close to the sea.
Over the next few months, I look forward to sharing stories from this exchange and answering questions about the logistics, preparations, and habits that can help make a person successful when pursuing their studies and trying to see a little more of the world.
Today, I briefly want to focus on the journey and excitement of setting out from northern British Columbia to a town in Norway above the arctic circle. Although we, a small cohort of UNBC master’s students, were aware of the opportunity and expected to come to Nord in 2018, the application process did not formally start until mid-September 2017, nearly 9 months later than the yearlong induction to an exchange program that regularly takes place. The rapid progression of applying, being flown to the Danish consulate in Vancouver for immigration interviews, receiving visas, renewing and sending passports and of course, choosing classes at an institution 6,594 kilometers away created, frankly, a great stressor during a normal semester filled with papers, exams and high expectations for graduate student life.
It is not an understatement to say that on more than one occasion I was preparing myself to pull out from the program, I still have a draft email sitting in outlook, due to what I interpreted as a lack of clarity. Clarity in the program, around semester and travel dates, course options and so on. To be fair this is a fledgling program, before the two of us who are currently in Norway, only one other UNBC student has undertaken this program – the bumps are still being worked out – even Nord University is new, being incorporated as a state school in 2016. With a great leap of faith, we boarded the first of many planes in early January with little more than an idea of the courses we might like to take and a letter from the Norwegian immigration services to report to a local police station within seven days of arriving in the country. For some, too many questions remained and our original group of six applicants thinned itself to two.
We departed Prince George separately, admittedly I took a peculiar route departing for nearly three weeks to Kenya to soak up some sun, speculate on property and eat some traditional food before plunging into the darkness of the arctic. Flying from Nairobi, Kenya to Frankfurt, Germany to Copenhagen, Denmark to Trondheim, Norway and eventually Bodo, Norway on a series of successively smaller aircrafts, I finally arrived late on a Saturday evening, thankfully to the greeting of a fellow exchange student from the Netherlands tasked with rescuing myself and the last late arrival from abroad. Within a few hours I was immersed in the vibrant glow of the northern lights beaming down from heaven and reflecting on the pane of ice that seems to extend from the coast to the mountains.
Look into exchanges through UNBC and make sure to follow me here or on social media for picture and stories from Bodo and beyond!