Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The International Space Station

If you're someone who has been eagerly awaiting my next blogpost (ahem, Mom and Dad) sorry I haven't posted in a while!  It's been a busy week, and I haven't had any long train rides for journaling lately.  So, anyway, here's the latest scoop (and no, it actually has nothing to do with the International Space Station, except a common acronym, the ISS):

The International Summer School is super cool.  Essentially, I'm taking two very interesting classes (between two and four hours in class a day), reading a lot for them (between two and four hours), eating meals with my wonderful new friends from the Nobel Peace Prize Scholar group, the Balkan Friends rotary group, and new friends from all over the world, eating great food, and exploring the nooks and crannies of Oslo in between.  On top of that, the ISS has planned lots of extra programming for the students throughout each week, including Norwegian films, cultural events, music jam sessions, parties, and more.  What could be better?!

My basic schedule is something like this: my roommate Connor (a really good guy my age from St. Olaf College in MN) and I wake up around 7:15, get ready for the day, and head next-door to the dining hall for breakfast around 7:45.  Although I change up my pickings each morning, I'm always sure to get a big crunchy cracker with the famous Norwegian brown cheese and raspberry jelly.  During breakfast, I often sit with people I've never met or don't know well, and often learn something new about a foreign country (you know what they say: breakfast is the most important meal of the day.)  At 8:15 I head to my first class: Scandinavian Government and Politics.  It's been very interesting-- as you might deduce from the course name, we're learning broadly about the political systems and parties in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark (with small doses of Finland and Iceland); and we're also learning a lot about social democracy and the Welfare State, as well as recent issues with immigration in Norway (did you know that Norway has the first- or second-highest rate of immigration in all of Europe?)  The course is taught by Jeff, a lanky twenty-something-year-old American man who is also teaching my Peace Scholars seminar course.  He is brilliantly smart-- after studying at Brown and Harvard, he was awarded a Fulbright to study Polish immigrants in Oslo; and on top of that, he speaks about five languages.  It's been fun to learn from someone who is both so smart and so fresh out of school that he can teach well without having forgotten what it's like to be a student.

When class ends at 10:00, I study in the dormitory common room or elsewhere my my friend Nura Younes (a Peace Scholar from St. Olaf) and often my friend Colin (a Peace Scholar from PLU).  We eat lunch at noon.  During the afternoons, I often study or hang out with friends, at the dormitory grounds or at a coffeeshop.  This weekend, many of us got 30-day transportation passes, while permit us to limitless rides on the Metro, trams, and buses in Oslo.  Needless to say, we're eager to explore and find more coffeeshops around the city!  I usually go to dinner at 5:30, hang out and/or attend campus programming and/or study if I still have homework, and go to bed around 11:30.

Aside from the regular schedule have been some special events.  Last Monday, for example, was the grand opening ceremony for summer school session.  All the students dressed up and went downtown to the main campus of the University of Oslo (we study at the Blindern campus about a mile from the city center), where we gathered in the Festive Hall for jazz music, speeches from the Rector of the University and others, and so forth.  The building, decorated with gigantic murals by Edvard Munch on all four walls, is where the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded until about ten or twenty years ago.  After this ceremony, everyone walked to the City Hall for a fancy reception, complete with complimentary delicious snacks, drinks, and more fine jazz music.  The City Hall is where the Peace Prize is currently awarded each year.  At the event, I toured the building, which is covered in nostalgic murals of the working class overcoming oppression, and the Norwegian nation gaining independence, and so forth.  Another highlight of the Summer School so far (and a perk of being a Peace Scholar) was a trip to the Nobel Library, where the Nobel Committee chooses the recipients of the Prize.  The other Scholars and I stood around the shiny round wooden table where the long meetings are held, drawing inspiration from the Laureates' pictures which lined the walls.   

It's been a jolly good time so far!  I'm learning a lot, feeling inspired, building lasting friendships, and satisfying my constant urge to explore.  Although, I will admit, I've been getting nostalgic about the Fourth of July.  Not homesick, but I miss my loved ones.