When preparing for my study abroad I focused on a lot of different topics; weather, housing, the international community but one thing I focused on the most was my courses. I had decided early on that I wanted to focus on international studies. As a political science major I was interested in seeing how politics played out on an international scale. For my first semester I took three course; International Security, Media and Politics, and Norwegian. All courses were fundamentally different but intersected in one major way, they were all taught by Norwegian professors in a very international setting.
My home university, West Texas A&M is a relatively international school but as a American student I have had the luxury of being taught by American Professor therefore understanding their accents and being raised in the public school system, I also understood how the curriculum would be taught. After this first semester, all I can say is I have major respect for international students!!! Learning different accents alone was one of the hardest things I had to do. The Norwegian accent is extremely thick and very hard to follow, its enough to make a student drop a class. Accents aside, the education system in Norway is very different than that of my home university. At West Texas a semester consisted of multiple classes where homework and bi-weekly testing was mandatory as was your attendance in class. In Norway, classes are very student driven, other than a midterm paper most of my grades came from my exam at the end of the exam and the much dreaded term paper.
Not only that, but courses are broken down into two intersecting classes. A student will usually meet twice a week, one day will be a seminar which is usually a group of 15-25 students who is are taught by one teacher. This class focuses on your end of the term paper. For my international security class and for my Media and Politics I had one paper due in each with a minimum of 3,500 words. For International security I was given my topic which was “NATO and what is its function” and while you are given a topic it is your goal to go beyond the question. You should answer “What is NATO” but you should answer What NATO isn’t. I made sure to go into the dynamic of NATO, I asked if it changed and if so has it evolved to fit the ever-changing globalized world. I really enjoyed this topic because as a political science major it went into the heart of what I hope to one day do. I was able to learn more about politics and study real life instances of politics at work. In Media and Politics, I was able to choose my own topic which I developed during my seminar. I decided to work on “How Social Media works towards the Radicalization on today’s youth”, This topic was so important to me because I think anyone on social media can see how the introduction of things such as Fake News has helped to radicalize everyday people.
The second part of the course was the lecture which also took place once a week. The lectures took place in a large hall with around 200 students lasting 3 hours or longer. The lectures were gruesome, sitting in a chair for hours as a professor, with the thickest accents in the world, spat facts faster than your fingers could keep up all the while knowing that you couldn’t miss a word because YES it could be on the exam and also NO it could not be on the exam but you wouldn’t know until that day!
Exams are hard, no matter where you go regardless of if you’re a student studying at your local university or a student an ocean away, exams are a stress inducing event. I have always been a nervous test taker, even as a child the moment I knew a test was in my future my life would become one stressed induced moment after another. As the years have gone by, I have learned to control my stress but all the bad habits I had as a child came rushing back; waking up in the middle of the night to dreams of missing my exam, studying for hours until my eyes felt that they would burst and even worse STRESS EATING. I can’t even count the many times I went through a bag of chips in a night while re-reading the same passage for two hours straight. But even through all that stress there is no better feeling that walking into a room feeling as prepared as you can be and the moment you sit down that stress melts giving way to confidence. My exams taught me one major thing, to have that confidence before hand. Even though it is a different environment and different mode of teaching if you put in the effort you will always be rewarded. My semester isn’t quite over yet even though my courses are done I still have to turn in my papers but I am very happy with how my classes have gone.
All I can see is I can’t wait for the next semester.