Grapeshot Travel Story – Jason goes to Norway

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Opting for short term overseas study, Jason – a third year Psychology student at Macquarie, began the Bergen Psychology Exchange Program earlier this year with little notice. Being accepted came as an enormous surprise and thus, this travel story has a particular air of franticness. A particular focus on the savings that can be made via regular hijackings of the Ikea condiments table demonstrates that even on the slimmest of student budgets, an alternate cultural understanding of your psychology degree is within your means.

What was your favourite city and why?

The capital of Norway is Oslo and to be honest besides a handful of museums there is not a lot to be seen here. I’m yet to meet any travellers who thoroughly enjoyed themselves during their stay, basically Oslo is Norway’s version of Canberra (minus Questacon), no one quite knows how or why it got capital status. Skipping the capital, I recommend you make your way up north to Tromsø.An island surrounded by the North Atlantic Ocean with snow-covered Alps bordering the horizon on every angle, it is hard not to feel as if you’re within a postcard.

From chasing grey whales across the ocean, experiencing traditional Sami culture and flying across frozen lakes on snowmobiles Tromsø offers once in a lifetime experiences. Seeing the Northern Lights, something high on my bucket list, was overwhelming…

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Five items that were absolute must have on your trip?

  • Universal adapter – because power is life.
  • Microfibre towel – because you don’t want to rent one at each hostel.
  • A good camera – because if it’s not on social media, did you really go?
  • Deck of cards – surprisingly helpful ice-breaker and must-have for drinking games.
  • Appropriate applications – translation applications, currency convertors and offline maps can be lifesaving.

Did you find any sights or activities down the road less travelled?

Ditch TripAdvisor for a day and just walk around. One of my first days in the city of Bergen, myself and a few other students decided to have an aimless walk around the coastline. This sunset walk produced some of the most scenic landscapes I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness.

Hiking is also a very popular activity in Norway but venturing off the main tracks turned out to be far more beautiful than the more tourist focused alternatives.

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 #TBT to the weirdest thing to happen to you on the trip? (preferably with an overall lesson 150 words)

IKEA, IKEA, IKEA, the Scandinavians in general live by IKEA and for good reason. Two words: condiments station.
Each time we visited the IKEA store whether for furnishing or food we always left with pockets, if not tote-bags full of complimentary condiments. I quickly learnt that I could survive over a month in Norway without purchasing many of the basic pantry items. Following our visits we would quite literally MAKE IT RAIN with a selection of sauces, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, butter and various flavours of tea due to the generous IKEA Gods.
Utilise your resources people.

Top tip: If you are really struggling layering napkins between your silver-wear also prevents a noisy get-away…

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Mandatory student austerity question: What was the budget like? (Thorough response required 250-300 words)

Travelling to Scandinavia? Come equipped with a thick wallet, or three. Food in Norway is ridiculously expensive, and the “cheap option” simply does not exist.

A café meal is at the lowest 35 to 40 AUD: not forgiven in portion size. Plenty of savings were made with grocery shopping.
Reindeer sledding as well as hiking and camping on the icy terrains cannot be done like this elsewhere in the world. The prices range between 250 and 450 AUD, this may seem expensive, however I was not left regretful.
Public transport is relatively similar to Australian prices, and many museums have free or discounted entry for students.
Now onto the important part: ALCOHOL. You ought to start pouring the strongest spirit that duty free had to offer.

The laws on alcohol and the taxes attached are a rude shock for your typical Australian student…

Having been relatively bound to the confines of my room due to the demands of my exchange to Norway, I estimate my spending to be around 4500 AUD with subsidised accommodation.
Of course that does not include the travel to Norway and with a strict budgeting approach I’m certain this figure could be lowered.

#Foodbucketlist: Best eats?

 Whilst your inner child may leave your body, while in Norway you can try reindeer prepared in a traditional Sami stew and once you have finished crying you may actually enjoy it.

Salmon and salmon sauce with mash potato is a staple. Eat all the salmon, mainly because salmon is actually really cheap, but also because it tastes amazing and the “salmon sauce” will have you doubting your loyalty to hollandaise.

What advice would you give to other people who are traveling?

Be freakishly social and introduce yourself to everyone you can. Don’t make too many plans in advance because you will want to change them later and listen to other travellers and the experiences they have had,  don’t be afraid to do something you wouldn’t normally do.

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 My travel mantra is…

“Don’t pay for anything you can do back home.”

For more information on short term exchange programs, click HERE.