A look from the inside: Erasmus in Oslo

Updated: Mar 20, 2021

We interviewed Chiara Colombi, a second-year EPS student currently in Norway with the Erasmus Programme at the University of Oslo.

Thank you for speaking with us today Chiara. Why did you choose the University of Oslo as your destination?

This is a difficult question. When I applied EPS students could choose among 4 destinations, and after checking the exams that each university offered I realised that the University of Oslo was the one that interested me the most. I could choose among all courses in the Faculty of Social Sciences, many of which are really interesting and a bit out of the box –like courses on LGBTQ+ awareness and environmental governance, for example. Moreover, since it is surrounded by nature there are many unique and interesting activities for students to try out: you can take the metro and go cross-country skiing or even alpine skiing without any problems. The transport system is very efficient (and expensive) as well.

Those are certainly quite unique activities and courses. Is the city life as versatile?

Unfortunately, due to the current situation I have not experienced the city life as much as I would have liked. It is forbidden to sell alcohol in pubs and restaurants, so all pubs are currently closed. One week after I finished my quarantine everything was shut down for 10 days, so I still haven’t gone to restaurants – which are super expensive anyway, around €20 for a pizza! There are however many bars, which are generally a great place to socialize over a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. The one I recommend most is called “Espresso”.

Beyond the limitations imposed by the pandemic, did any cultural differences strike you upon arrival?

The cultural shock was huge in many ways, Norwegians are completely different from Italians. What shocked me the most was concept of trust between citizens and the government: the government makes recommendations instead of impositions, and people respect them with ease. A clear example was the 10-day lockdown because the government did not oblige people to stay at home, it just strongly recommended it. Yet despite the lack of actual prohibitions or enforcement there wasn’t a soul in the streets. I think something like this would be almost impossible in Italy.

Turning to the social aspect, it can actually be quite difficult to develop a friendship as Norwegians can seem quite cold and difficult to open up when compared to Italians. In general they are also very quiet: even if you’re walking down a street at peak hour, you can hear the silence in the crowd. This was quite new for me as well.

Was the university life different as well?

There is a degree of trust in students that I didn’t find in Italy: for instance, online open-book

exams are not rare. Moreover, from what I have experienced so far, professors care deeply about student opinions and there is always space for discussion. In many courses the final grade takes into consideration an individual term paper and the final exam, which I find quite enriching as an opportunity to go deeper into the subject at hand.

The university campus provides many services too: libraries, cafes and even a pub inside the campus. However, everything was closed for one month so I cannot go into much details about the actual experience of using them. There is a university association called SiO that provides different student services such as gyms, ski rentals, and student housing. This year, the number of Erasmus students looking for accommodation was significantly higher than what was available via SiO, yet the university stepped in and helped us to find a room – it even paid for the hotel where we did our quarantine.

Could you tell us a bit about the courses you are following?

I am enrolled in 3 courses this semester, one in Economics and two in Political Science. Something I found quite strange is that the two courses in Political Science last only 5 weeks. I am currently attending AppliedMicroeconometrics, which is a great opportunity to expand on the topics dealt with in Research Methods at Unimi. It is a very interesting (and very difficult) course which I am sure will be worth the effort.

International Environmental Governance is a more theoretical course which covers a very real and evermore urgent problem: we are studying the causes of climate change and how states react to it, with a focus on agreements and protocols. The fact that it is an actual subject as opposed to just a topic within a broader course makes it even more fascinating because it allows us to really explore this delicate subject.

The third course I’m taking is The Welfare state: policies, politics and feedback, yet I can still not tell you a lot about it as it will begin in April. I chose it because it covers core topics in political science that I have always been interested in.

How would you describe the overall experience?

I was lucky to do an Erasmus two years ago, and in light of the current circumstances my current experience differs greatly: as elsewhere, social life is very limited because pubs and discos are closed, online lectures do not allow you to live the campus experience as you might like and meeting your classmates in person can be a challenge.

Notwithstanding these limitations you do have a unique opportunity to challenge yourself and to find new ways of living the experience to the fullest, so overall I feel it is utterly enriching in terms of human qualities: being in a country where you do not know anyone makes your determination kick in, giving you a chance to prove yourself and to be more open-minded in the process. Furthermore, Erasmus counts a lot when looking for a job, as recruiters know that your language skills are good after having lived in a country where you spoke only English or another language for a relatively long period of time.

For more information about Erasmus+ Applications click here.

We sincerely thank Chiara Colombi for the time dedicated to this interview.

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