Monique Brynard at University of Oslo, Norway

Monique Brynard

MA Social Anthropology

Semester Exchange in the First Semester, 2023 at University of Oslo



Having missed out on some of “uni life” during the pandemic, I knew that I wanted to go on a semester abroad exchange. Through a process of elimination, I worked through the list of universities that I could visit. I quickly realized that I wanted to go somewhere where I had never been before, somewhere faraway and very different to all that I know. I decided on the University of Oslo in Norway.  

Upon receiving my nomination for the exchange from Stellenbosch University (SU) and then later receiving my acceptance from the University of Oslo (UiO), I began to plan my trip. I applied for accommodation, checked the semester dates, booked my flights and sorted out my visa application. I made sure to buy a long, down jacket, and some thermal base layers. In the weeks leading up to my departure, I soaked up some extra sunlight and ate plenty of red meat and biltong! I knew that it was going to be a challenge to be all by myself in a foreign (and extremely expensive) place, and I planned carefully so that I would be as prepared as possible.


Experience at the Host University:


I arrived a few days before my orientation program at UiO started, so that I could settle into my new home and find my feet. After a long day of traveling, picking up my keys from campus and getting lost multiple times, I walked into my new apartment. Soon enough, I decided to see if I could get myself some of the basics, as my apartment was pretty much empty. Off to IKEA I went, for my first encounter with the Norwegian currency.  

The next day, there was some mild sunlight, and I was feeling better. I went straight to my appointment with the police to apply for residence card. I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly the police were! I visited the roof of the Opera house to get an overview of the new city which I would come to love. Later that evening, I attended a Welcome Event hosted by UiO. After the excitement had worn off and the small talk got too much, I successfully found my way home. Bright and early the next morning, I found myself in a very long queue for a secondhand market hosted by the university, where each student was permitted to take one item for free. A pan (with a lid) it was for me! Over the course of the semester, I would be astonished at how many free things I would get. I did find it a bit ironic, how pretty much any household item, clothes, shoes and even food was given away free of charge, but everything that was for sale in Norway was ridiculously expensive. 


Night sky in Norway

It was a cool summer (almost equivalent to a Cape Town winter!), but I quickly fell in love with the shady campus, state of the art buildings, dense forest areas surrounding the city, vast lakes, fjords and islands, as well as the cute blue trams that could be hopped onto every few minutes at any point in the city. The language was beginning to soften on my ear, and I had gotten used to the initial shock on people’s faces when they heard that I had come all the way from the very tip of Africa!  

Although everyone was friendly and the university environment was highly professional, I found it exhausting to make actual friends. The Norwegians kept their distance at the beginning and of the 4000 other international exchange students at UiO, it seemed as if everyone was scrambling to meet as many new people as possible. However, after a few weeks, I did make some solid friends with whom I travelled both within Norway and abroad and with whom I will continue to stay in contact with, as we shared such a special and unique time in our lives. I tried my best to make friends with those who were very different to me, as I find it much more interesting that way.


During my time in abroad, I maximized each and every day. I struggled to get into a routine, because I was constantly exploring, meeting friends and getting to know all the corners of my new world. On a personal level, I would say that I grew exponentially. I had to navigate my way through creating a brand-new support system, seeing the sights, keeping up with university work, taking care of myself properly (finding groceries in Norwegian proved to be more difficult than expected!) as well as managing my finances.  


A Forest in Norway


Although I had initially been under the impression that I would receive funding from SU, as well as an external bursary for living expenses, that was not the case. Once I had already accepted my offer at UiO and completed most of the admin around my trip, I found out that the external bursary was no longer available for the partnership between UiO and SU. This complicated my plans, but I was fortunate enough to still be able to go, although it meant that I had to live on a tight budget. The funding from SU just about covered my flights and accommodation, so the rest I had to fund myself. Out of the whole experience, I would say that this was one of the lowlights, and for anyone planning on doing a semester abroad, I would suggest that you ensure that the funding advertised by SU is still available before commencing with travel plans.


Return to Stellenbosch:


When the day of my departure eventually arrived, I was heartbroken. I was sad to leave a city that had become my home, perhaps never to return. I was sad to say goodbye to those that I had come to love over the course of a few short months, but I am certain that at some point in our lives we will make plans to meet again. And then will speak of the reminiscences of the time that we were so incredibly luckily to share, when our paths crossed in a beautiful Scandinavian city. This city will forever have my heart, with its ferries and islands and midnight sun. And merely a few weeks later, its frosty forests, cabins and cinnamon rolls, fairy lights and dark, dark blue skies.  

  View from the public transport