Hello! Before I write about my semester abroad, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Jérôme von Gunten and I am from Switzerland. I am studying the BSc in Systems Engineering at the ZHAW in Winterthur and have spent one semester at the University of Agder in the south of Norway.
I chose this university because I enjoy being outdoors in nature and Norway has a wonderful landscape to offer. In addition, the subject areas of the courses were mostly the same as at the ZHAW, so I did not have to start the last semester unprepared.
In Norway the course plan has been postponed to ours, so after a short summer holiday my trip started at the beginning of August. My trip started on August 9, 2018 with a flight via Oslo to Kristiansand. Shortly after arriving at the airport I met some of the other guest students from Germany and Austria. Together we went by bus to Grimstad to the university. After we had reached the university, we were immediately greeted by the “Buddies” who gave us the first information and showed us our new rooms. The apartments consisted of two rooms, a common kitchen and bathroom. I shared the apartment with a master student from Austria , which made settling in easier. At a first dinner together we had the opportunity to get to know the other exchange students and to inform ourselves in small talks.
The next day all information events took place on the topics exams, IT facilities, library and learning environments, as well as everything about the accommodation. After a tour of the university and the city, there was a welcome party in the evening for all exchange students from the University of Agder at Kristiansand.
On Monday the official semester began in Norway, which started with the Start Festival. In addition to a lot of live music, there were games and club stands, where sports clubs from volleyball to lacrosse presented themselves. In the so-called “Fadder” program, you are divided into a group at the beginning, which is dependent on the course of study. The group helps each other to start their studies by mixing different semesters. The group consisted mainly of Norwegian students and was great opportunity to make different friends, learn the language and have any questions about Norway answered. You do not have to hide the fact that this way you can enjoy different celebrations. Various organisations regularly organise events, concerts and parties. For example a pub race through the city, a colour festival with a subsequent jump into the sea or a one-day cruise to Denmark (mostly to get to a buffet and the duty-free area, to be honest).
When the work was done or at least well procrastinated at the beginning of the semester, there was the opportunity to do various outdoor activities and travel due to a lot of free time and the pleasant temperatures. Besides campfires in the nearby forest or fishing in the sea, kayaks, tents, sleeping bags and much more could be hired easily. I took this opportunity and rented equipment for a road trip with tents. The trip led across the country, past various scenes, which outdid each other. Excursions to different walks like Preikestolen or Trolltunga show the beauty of the Norwegian nature from its best side. At the beginning of November a group of exchange students and I went to Svalbard (Spitzbergen) to experience northern lights in frosty temperatures and how it feels when the sun no longer rises above the horizon. Be it hiking on a glacier or dog sledding, the arctic nature has a lot to offer!
At the end of November the semester came to a close and the exams werer just around the corner. In contrast to the examination period at the ZHAW, there is no clear learning phase at the UiA. In my case, the various exams took place from the end of November until shortly before Christmas. Between most exams or presentations, however, there are several days which can be used to process the respective subject matter. The exams themselves lasted between 3 and 5 hours. This sounds painful, but with most exams you have enough time and can work on a problem in peace or stare at the task to find out what it is all about.
When all exams were passed, the apartment was cleaned and everything packed, it was time to say goodbye again. Looking back, I had a wonderful time in Norway and made many great friends. I got an insight into the life in Norway, got the chance to learn more about the culture and language and experienced many moments outside in the nature. I can warmly recommend a semester abroad at the University of Agder to anyone who wants to improve their language, cultural and professional skills and have a great time with many impressions.