This post is part of our Study Abroad Stories series, which aims to share the thoughts and experiences of students who have already taken the leap of faith and gone to study in a foreign country. With each of these stories, we hope to inspire, inform, and encourage anyone who has yet to study abroad. Want to share your story? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag us on Instagram using the hashtag #studyabroadstories.
Christopher is currently teaching at an International School in Istanbul, Turkey and loving it. He also continues to grow my travel blog, which he actually started when studying abroad. You can find him on his travel blog, on Instagram, and or Facebook.
- Name: Christopher Mitchell
- Country/place of origin: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- Where you studied abroad: Oslo, Norway
- When you studied abroad: Winter 2010
- College/university that you studied abroad with: University of Oslo
- Describe your study abroad experience in 3 words: truly eye opening
Well, I did a sort of study abroad program in the summer of grade 11 in Ireland, and was taken by the notion that travel isn’t just a leisure activity. I remember being totally taken by the library at Trinity College and deciding that very moment that I would take every opportunity possible to find that feeling again and again. I had known that doing a portion of your third year of university abroad was a possibility, and I was determined to participate in that.
When it came down to it, I applied to several universities in Australia, and then sent out a few applications to places I was less interested in at the time, but thought might be a nice backup plan. Funny enough, I ended up choosing Oslo outright once I was accepted, and that was because I felt I didn’t know enough about Norway and Scandinavia at large.
I tried to think about what would be more valuable to me, a trip to Norway or a trip to Australia, and I’m grateful everyday that I chose Norway. I certainly have nothing against Australia (in fact I loved it when I visited in 2015), but I feel the opportunity to gain an understanding of Norwegian culture was invaluable for me. I already understood Australian culture on some level prior to this opportunity just by virtue of being in the Commonwealth with them, but had no real conception of the Norwegian way of life.
Where was your favourite travel destination while studying abroad?
I travelled a fair bit outside of Norway while studying abroad, but I think it’s only fair that I choose a destination within Norway, if only as a nod to Norway’s exceptional beauty. For me, it would have to be the road trip I took with four friends from Oslo to Stavanger. The area around Stavanger is just stunning – that’s where the Lysefjord is, and well known tourist beacons such as Preikestolen. The hiking and the views in that region are simply otherworldly. Not to mention, I visited with three people who I still keep in contact with today, and have visited in their home countries.
To be frank, there are many to choose from, which is always a good thing. Studying abroad will literally fill you with a lifetime full of stories in such a short time period. I’d probably have to say it was the night of the Canada vs. USA gold medal hockey game, which was taking place in Vancouver. There were a bunch of us watching the game at the local campus pub, despite the fact that it was playing at a rather late hour. In the freezing cold weather, I was wearing only my Canada hockey jersey, complete with a pair of Canada boxers. When Sidney Crosby scored that “golden goal” I nearly collapsed with happiness. How’s that for a Canadian stereotype, eh?
What was the best thing you ate while studying abroad?
Again, I travelled quite a bit around Europe during my time there, but I’d like to stick to Norway considering I spent most of my time there. I really credit Norway with developing my love for a variety of fish. At the time, I couldn’t actually afford to eat out (I think I ate like three meals out the entire time I was there), so I ended up cooking a lot in my dorm kitchen. Well, everything seemingly had fish in it, so I was forced to dive into the deep end so to speak, pun very much intended. I’m not sure if it’s still around, but there even a mac and cheese dish that was widely available and politely laced with hefty portions of fish. The fish there was fresh and delicious, no matter which fish I had the pleasure of tasting.
What did you miss most about home when studying abroad?
Without a doubt, it was family and friends. I love Canada as a country, but when I’m in another nation I’m often too focused on doing that nation justice through my exploration to worry too much about what I’m not doing back in Canada. However, I’ve forged some deep relationships with family and friends back home that I do regularly miss. It’s difficult when you realise that you can’t remember the last birthday party you were at for one of the friends you consider close, and it doesn’t get any easier. That’s more a reflection of the fact that I’ve lived abroad for a while, but it was still difficult to stomach while studying abroad in Norway. Though, meeting a lot of new people from around the world certainly helped to fill the void.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while studying abroad?
I don’t actually think of my time in Norway as being one fraught with challenges. Though, I remember taking one course with a professor who was pretty tough. He was teaching “Norwegian Life and Society,” and I remember I studied a ton before this exam and was sure that I had absolutely aced the exam. Well, turns out that in the professor’s eyes my Norwegian knowledge just wasn’t up to snuff, so I didn’t end up with the mark I was hoping for. That was a bit of a challenge to be sure, but generally speaking I felt like I was able to do well in my classes.
What is your fondest memory from studying abroad?
That’s a good question, but a difficult question to pin down to be sure. I can’t say that it’d be one moment in particular, but my flat-mates and I used to gather every night around my friend’s guitar and just sing and goof around. We lived in the old Olympic Village buildings and there were seven of us in total. Our flat number was 46, and we had so many people coming in and out of our flat that it eventually became jokingly known as “Club 46.” These memories aren’t just some of my fondest memories studying abroad, they are some of my fondest memories period.
How has your study abroad experience impacted your life?
On a basic level, it let me know that I could thrive in a country other than Canada. Truthfully, once that seed was planted in my brain long enough, I could sense the possibilities in it. Since I studied abroad in Norway, I’ve lived for significant chunks of time in Turkey and South Korea, and spent extended portions of time working in Nicaragua, Ecuador, and India. It’s been quite a ride, but I think I owe a fair bit of that courage to dive into a new opportunity from the understanding that I gained from studying abroad in Norway.
**Any last words of advice for people planning to study abroad? **
Honestly, if you’re thinking about it, it’s likely because you know in your heart that it’s something you want to do. Then, it’s about understanding that fear is an obstacle that can be overcome, and getting ready to have a life-changing experience. If you go to study abroad and it’s not for you, that’s totally fine, but at least you know it. If you never go, all you’ll have is regret and a fear of the unknown.
Have you studied abroad in Norway? Or are you considering studying abroad in Norway? Please feel free to share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!