My experience as an exchange student
As part of my bachelor, I went on an Erasmus exchange to Norway. It is pretty clear by now that I like to go abroad for new adventures. So, I was looking throughout Europe for an interesting exchange program. I also looked for Erasmus exchange programs to do outside of Europe, but the costs for this were so high that it was just not an option. Some school have a program with a specific school, that might be outside of Europe, that makes it more affordable. Unfortunately, my school was not one of them.
At first, I started looking at programs more towards Southern Europe, with my preference for the warmer climates that would have been a better match. Unfortunately for me, there were no programs that matched my interest and preferences in that part of Europa. And that is how I ended up in Norway, this tropical girl was going to experience a Scandinavian winter… And I was not too excited about that…
A remote life in Norway
I signed up for the exchange program at the Inland University of Applied Science located in Evenstad, Norway. You probably have never heard of Evenstad, which makes perfect sense. The main reason for the existence of this village is the presence of this school. Which is very small, with only approximately 200 students and 50 staff members! Evenstad is located along the river Glomma and about 3 hours driving north of Oslo. The closet bigger village/city is a 20 km drive, so getting groceries was a bit of a challenge. As most of the exchange students arrived here without a car. It was important to make friends, preferably local people who owned a car 🙂
Spending time in nature
I think it is clear that the school is located rather remote and secluded. Which I absolutely loved. There was a moose centre located at the school, so there were 3 moose walking next to the campus. So all the time I did not spend on the lectures, assignments or exams I spend either along with the moose, along the river or in the never-ending forests. I went to the forest many times a week, at least before the big amounts of snow came in. I either walked up to the top of the Tronkeberget mountain or just strolled along the many small paths that were crossing the forest. Easily spent 3 hours on a single trip. I have never been as fit as I was during my time there!
I arrived in Norway the second week of August 2018, so I managed to still get a bit of summer weather. But it did not last long. Before I knew the winter already arrived. The first snow arrived already in October and I felt like a kid again. Growing up in The Netherlands I never experienced proper snow, the snow we get melts away in a matter of hours again. And here in Evenstad it just kept coming and coming. I had the time of my life! Making snow angels, head rolls, sledging down the hill.. and countless amount of snow fights. At the end of the exchange programs, just before Christmas, the temperatures dropped till -25 degrees Celsius, and I can proudly say that I survived it. I cannot say that I enjoyed those freezing cold temperatures, but I am happy I got to experience it. It was all part of living in Norway.
Erasmus Exchange program
The exact Erasmus Exchange program I followed was the ecology and conservation program. This program focussed on conservation, biogeography, evolutionary biology and population dynamics. We also learned about wildlife research focused on ecology. Sounds fancy right? I choose this program specifically because I felt that my bachelor study was lacking in these subjects. My bachelor studied mostly on the management of both natural as plantation forest. For my later career, I thought it would be useful to learn more about the ecology of the forest and to learn more about the inhabitants.
Subjects from ecology and conservation
We learned about how animals choose their partner, how natural selection works, how new species evolve. We had lectures about the interaction between prey and predators, how parasitism works, and how different animals use different strategies to survive. As well for how we can identify biodiversity hotspots, and how we can put a value on them, what kind of threats them might have and how species go instinct. For one course we did a research to voles, over their population dynamics. The ratio of male/female, juvenile/adults, and why are there years where there are much more voles than other years? This was a very fun and interesting way to learn about ‘trophic interaction cycles’. How the amount of prey influence the number of predators, and vice versa.
This exchange program was 4 months and I was, and still am, really happy that I choose this program. I learned so much about ecology and how to combine this with the management of the area. I made great friends and have so many beautiful memories. As well for all the amazing hours, I spend wandering around in the forests and mountains around the school. And following this Erasmus exchange definitely helped me getting accepted for my master ‘Tropical Ecology and Management of Natural Resources’. To keep it short; I would 100% do this all over again!