I feel like it’s a bit taboo to criticize your own year abroad. It is essential that you’re having SO MUCH FUN!!! and MEETING SO MANY NEW PEOPLE!!!!! Or else the study abroad police will come, murder you in some viscerally violent way, and post a picture of you on their website as a warning to all, under a tab ‘alternative experiences’.
I’ve been in Oslo for 12 weeks now, the equivalent of a term at Leeds. I still have 6 weeks to go till Christmas, along with 3 exams to complete, and a drastic drop in temperature to deal with. The days are ominously getting darker, the nights are now below freezing, and yesterday someone stole my hat. Not only was this hat a necessary component for staying warm, it was also really cool.
You see, I wouldn’t exactly describe my feelings as ‘home sickness’, I just feel slightly drained. I’m just tired of a) living in student accommodation, b) paying for everything myself when I still haven’t got my Erasmus, and c) oh good…it just started snowing. It’s frustrating bumping into people I don’t know (like) when I’m cooking dinner. I’m tired of having to passively aggressively tell someone that ‘no, I didn’t steal your honey, I have my own honey, please cease with your interrogation’. I want a Popina’s.
It’s not all self-pity and snow here in Norway though, I do really love the courses I’m taking. ‘Homotextuality: Gay and Lesbian literature’ being a particular highlight – last week someone gesticulated fisting! Such fun! However, even the enjoyable academic side is slightly tainted by the length of the term. Instead of keeping them short and perfunctory, the seminars are dragged out, 2 hours a week, for 18 weeks. Occasionally we just have a ‘how to write an essay seminar’ or a ‘summary’ seminar, and I just can’t for the life of me understand why everyone doesn’t just condense the term into a cheeky 12 weeks, and stop all this messing around.
It’s obviously difficult to live in a totally different country with a different language for the first time, but when you’re expected to go there in the middle of your summer and then hang for 18 weeks on a student budget, things can get pretty dull. I definitely have at least 2.5 friends, yet as soon as Christmas comes, they all run off back to their home countries, never to return, leaving me with a broken heart and surplus kitchen ware. I really despise living in a generic student house, my room being recycled student after student, emphasising how wholly generic my experience here is. I am just one of many, passing in and out between the garish purple walls. I want this experience to special, but there is really only a limit to how much enjoyment I can gain out of being poor and alone.
There are small moments of joy. It’s nearly Christmas. Sometimes walking back from my run around a lake, the path takes me to a high point looking over the whole of Oslo, and often I stop and think ‘yeah, that’s quite an aesthetically pleasing view’, but then I have to move on because it’s 3 degrees and I’m really cold. Someone get me another hat.