Plan an intentional semester around your motivations to study in Norway

When you ride in a kayak, one of the first lessons you’re taught is to paddle straight. A rule of thumb is to look forward, pick a stationary point, and paddle towards it. This method will prevent you from being distracted by the unstable and shaking tip, or bow, of the kayak. Having a point to follow keeps you balanced, stabilized, and moving in the direction you want to be in – a straight line.

It can be challenging while in Norway to stay on your own course, not being distracted by the different goals of those around you. Living in any one of Norway’s breathtaking cities, from Oslo to Tromsø, will be one of the best times of your life. You’ll be surrounded by people from all over the world, vast fjords, and mountains that seem to soar endlessly into the sky. Each of these aspects, and more, are significant and meaningful for your experience, however, they are not the only reason you are here. Like each of these world travelers you’ll meet, you have a unique reason for being here and its important you remember what that is.

Imagine you are in a kayak paddling around a pool, training for the rushing rivers you will paddle through during June. In this analogy, the environment of the pool is Norway and the bow of the kayak is everything you will experience here, from the various student clubs and coursework to the socializing with international students and the night life. It is your job to identify your stationary point you will work towards to avoid being distracted and pulled off of your course while in Norway. Remember, picking your own point to focus on does not halt everything going on in the pool – the water will still surge around  and other kayakers will be still be floating around you.

Before I arrived, I finetuned my motivations for being here. I wanted to make career related connections with policy workers, get volunteer experience to help me prepare for a research project I’m interested in, figure out if I wanted a masters degree in comparative  and international education policy.

Answer the following questions to help to organize your time here:

  1. What experience do you want to have?  
    1. traveling, career development, build and expand network, learn about European and Scandinavian culture
  2. Be more specific, and decide what do you want to do while here?
    1. Go to Lofoten/Ireland, information meetings with organizations related to my field, make friends and do things with international students and/or Norwegian students
  3. What do you want to do here that you can’t do anywhere else?
    1. hike through fjords, fjord boat ride, seeing the Northern Lights, special conferences related to your area of interest, learn about cultures by hanging out with people daily (it’s not the same to build a relationship via Facebook)
  4. Skills you want to develop?
    1. be more outspoken, developing research skills, time management, being self-motivated, maintaining relationships, cooking a Spanish Paella or German beer
  5. Which organizations or activities will help you achieve that experience?
    1. join a sports club, volunteer with the RedCross or at a student bar, attending office hours, organize a weekly dinner with international friends where you each cook a different meal

I answered each for myself and they have helped me to stay on track with what I want to achieve by the end of my time in Norway. You semester or year abroad will go by fast if you don’t organize what you want to do beforehand. Don’t let this time pass you by without doing something about it!! Plan and do it! 

A kayak is sensitive to the movement of your body and the waters around you. If you lean too far forward or your knee presses too hard to the top of one side of the boat, you’ll find yourself veering off. It may be challenging to go straight following your own path, but if you pick a point to follow, you’ll find that you’re kayak moves just where you want it to be – straight ahead, accomplishing your intentionally set goals.

Ps. its useful to make a bucket list of all the things you want to do and places you want to visit while in Norway. I will write another post about that later.


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