Rosie Shepherd tells us about her life-changing experience during the study abroad year of her undergraduate Music course:
At the beginning of August last year I embarked on a new adventure – packing up everything important to me and moving to Bergen, Norway to study for 10 months. To say those months have flown by would be an understatement, but the amount of knowledge, life experience and fantastic memories I have gained in that time have made it more than worth it.
A lot of people asked me why I decided to choose Norway as my year abroad destination, but the irony lies in the fact that I didn’t really have much of a choice. As a musician I wanted to go somewhere that could offer good performance facilities, and as a (sadly!) unilingual English speaker, I needed somewhere that taught in English. So after narrowing my options down, the two universities available to me were in Taiwan and Norway! Neither of these places were ones that I would have automatically associated with a year “abroad” (I rather had sunny skies and long white beaches in mind) but I weighed up my options and decided to apply for Bergen.
I really didn’t know a lot about the country before I went; in fact I am ashamed to say that I simply thought of Norway as ‘somewhere up there’ – in other words somewhere north of England and somewhere that I might never visit in my whole life. However, it is safe to say that Norway exceeded my expectations in every way! The nature never failed to take my breath away, even after living there for a year, and I just fell in love with the culture, traditions, and way of life of a Norwegian.
There is so much I could write about, so I will just highlight a few of my favourite memories from my time in Bergen!
THE SNOW The snowfall that we had in Bergen in January was absolutely unforgettable. Coming from Southern England means that if there ever was snow during winter, it lasted for a matter of days and as a result of it – everything came to a standstill. Meaning no school (woo!) but also no transport or shops open (boo!). So when the snow came down thickly in Bergen and decided to stick around for weeks at a time, I was sooo happy and relieved when life for the locals basically went on as normal! There were no delays to public transport, no cancellations of university lessons or lectures, and no temporary opening hours in shops and restaurants – NORWAY RULES! (Or maybe England just sucks…) The arrival of the snow also meant the beginning of my passion for sledging down mountains (often surrounded by pro Norwegian skiers showing me up as the tourist that I am…)
THE HIKING It almost goes without saying that one of the most prominent memories I will have from my time in Norway is the discovery of my passion for hiking. What with it being the main national hobby it would have been rather difficult to avoid, but fortunately I absolutely fell in love with it, and am going to carry some of my hiking memories with me for life.
THE MOUNTAINS I think it is safe to say that the nature surrounding my hometown in the UK cannot even begin to be compared to the astonishingly beautiful nature of Norway. Constantly being within sight of at least one mountain is something I have definitely taken for granted this year, and am going to miss ridiculous amounts next year in Southampton (a city unsurprisingly not famous for its beautiful scenery…)
THE SUN The daylight hours in Bergen have baffled and enchanted me all year – the very short amount of sunlight in winter compared to the incredibly long days in summer. This unusual pattern I will miss a lot, and specifically I am just going to miss the extraordinary sunsets over the mountains.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I was given to be able to do a year abroad. After living in another country for the first time in my life, I feel like I have learnt so much, not only about Norway but also about myself. I have formed amazing friendships and created unforgettable memories which I will cherish forever, and I urge anyone who has the opportunity to study abroad, to DO IT!