I started my study abroad experience in a sleeping little town in Northern Norway. I chose this place rather by accident and it has turned out better than I could have possibly imagined. Norway is a country that is forgotten among North American’s but the beauty and tranquility is nothing short of inspiring.

My speciality is engineering specifically mechanical engineering at the U of S. It is a very structured and disciplined program that pushes students to perform to their very best. The program I chose in Norway was drastically different in every way. My classes consisted of Natural Resource management, Regional Economics, and my personal favourite Winter Outdoor Life Activities. These classes have a relaxed atmosphere and the students are very involved in the discussions and class activities.

These courses also involved many excursions to places that I would have otherwise not seen. During our Natural Resource management course we visited a modern stockfish facility on a remote island north of 70⁰. This is an industry that has been around for more than 2000 years and remains virtually unchanged since the time of the Vikings. Through our school we have also gone on many other excursions that allowed us to see winter tourism for ourselves. We had the opportunity to visit North Cape, the Ice hotel, and chill out in a Lavo, which is a traditional Sami house.

They have a belief in Norway which is exemplifies the culture, atmosphere and their connection with nature. This belief can be summed up in one word, “Friluftsliv”, which means “life in the open air”. This meaning has special significance for outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding, camping, hiking, fishing ect. In Norway everyone has the right to access nature, and camp and make a fire where ever they please, even on someone’s private property. The concept of Friluftsliv has many academic applications, requiring everyone to have knowledge and experience for surviving in the wild. Our Winter Outdoor Life class was set up for international students so that we could experience the Norwegian concept of Friluftsliv for ourselves.

Winter Outdoor life was an academic experience unlike anything I have ever experienced before. This course taught me everything from cross country skiing in the mountains, to surviving a cold winter’s night outdoors in conditions approaching minus 30. During our excursions we learned how to make fires in any conditions; this was essential for keeping warm and for cooking freshly caught fish from the fjord. My favourite and most interactive experience was the opportunity to be a musher and drive a team of six dogs through mountainous terrain. The dogs respond to your every move and are more motivated by your every action. If you’re excited and want to go fast the dogs are excited and want to go fast, just remember never to take your hands of the sled.

Alta is a city with around 17000 people and is a seemingly quiet and boring town, but this is simply not true. This place is home to onslaught of famous and emerging bands around the world. This city is home to four recording studious and has world renowned bands playing at the local disco weekly. There is always something to do, one day you could be snowmobiling through awe inspiring fjords and the next day you could be partying with Aksel Svindal, the Norwegian gold medallist in the downhill slalom.

This opportunity has allowed me to grow culturally as well academically due to the great degree of diversity between cultures of international students. I have learned lots about Russian, German, French, Italian, and of course Norwegian culture. This experience has allowed me to see many differing issues in a new light especially with the dawn of the European debt crises and the bailout of Grease by Germany, and France. It feels like I’ve learned more about more on this exchange then I have in the past few years plugging through engineering text books.

The Study abroad program was a life changing experience that challenged my beliefs, morals, and culture. I have gained valuable life experience and practical knowledge that will benefit me for the rest of my life.