Kersti Taha - 2017 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I have always wanted to experience another culture and meet unfamiliar faces. I thought studying abroad would be a great way to learn about another way of life, while furthering my education. I think it is important to see how other people live and how they perceive the world, so that is why I thought going abroad would be a great way to broaden my views on life.

Why did you choose USAC?

I chose to go through the USAC program because I thought it would be nice to meet other students that were doing the same thing as me. Because of this, I was able to meet life long friends and I was able to have some extra help during my pre-departure.

Van on a beach in Væroy, Norway
Van life in Væroy, Norway

What was your favorite part about Norway?

The thing I enjoyed most about living in Norway, and Oslo specifically, was how laid back everyone was. They weren't rushing to work or worried about the future. They knew how to live in the moment, and they appreciated the little things. So yes, the people of Norway were my favorite part about the city.

What made your experience abroad unique?

I was lucky enough to befriend a Norwegian family during my time abroad. They graciously welcomed me into their family, and every time I had a question, wanted to learn more about Norwegian culture, or even had to be taken to the emergency room, they were always there. Living in an area surrounded by only international students, it was easy to forget to make friends with actual Norwegians. I am extremely glad I reached out to them, because it felt like I truly experienced the Norwegian lifestyle.

Was it ever difficult to communicate with locals?

It was not difficult at all to communicate with locals. The whole time I was there, I never met anyone who didn't speak English. There is no need to fear a language barrier when going to Norway. Norwegians are also very friendly and helpful, so I never felt scared to ask them for directions.

How did the local staff support you throughout your program?

The staff was always there to answer questions if need be or provide any sort of support. It was easy to get into contact with local staff, and it felt nice to know there was always someone to talk to.

Rocky coastline in Bodo, Norway
Bodo, Norway

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in Norway?

Ahhh, good question. My answer to that is, I wish I knew about the lack of sun. Oslo is known for being gray and cloudy a good majority of the time. Sometimes during the winter months, the sun didn't come out for weeks at a time. I am a firm believer in a lot of Vitamin D. Everything ended up working out great, but If I would have known this prior to studying abroad, it might have hindered my decision to go to Norway.

What surprised you most about Oslo specifically?

I was pleasantly surprised by how well the public transportation is in Oslo. Everyone, and I mean everyone, rides public transport because it is so efficient. A train or bus will always be there every five or ten minutes, so there is never really a need to wait. Compared to other cities I have been to, I was surprised by how great Oslo's system was.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

Typical day consisted of going to class for a couple hours, sharing a meal with new friends, doing a bit of studying, and then enjoying the nature that Oslo had to offer (whether that be going for a run or having a BBQ by the lake).

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I truly enjoyed all the traveling that I got to do while I was abroad. I was able to visit nine other countries during my time overseas and it was a great way to compare and contrast European cultures.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it? 

I lived in the student housing that the university offered to international students. I shared a hall with six other people, we had a community bathroom and kitchen as well, but our own bedrooms. I loved living with people from all over the world; there were always new smells in our kitchen, and always fun stories to discuss about our home countries.

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Oslo?

PACK WARM CLOTHES! Oslo gets cold in the winter. Down jackets, gloves, hats, fleece, etc! Layers will be your best friend in Oslo.

Cross-country skiing in Oslo, Norway
Cross country skiing through the trails of Oslo

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

LUGGAGE! I over packed tremendously for this trip and quickly learned that rolling three suitcases up a snowy hill was not the perfect way to start my time abroad.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

I think it is important to note that your time abroad will not always be what you expected. It is easy to think that studying abroad means always being happy and always showing others about all your travels. But keep in mind that life doesn't pause while you are abroad, it is still going to be difficult sometimes. So if you ever feel bad because you are feeling low during your time abroad, remember that it is okay to feel that way. Life isn't always rainbows and sunshine.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

Personally, the hardest thing about being abroad was telling myself that sometimes it was okay to feel sad, and to have varying emotions. I think a lot of people that study abroad are expected to be having the time of their lives, but in reality sometimes being away can be hard. I would always beat myself up when I was feeling sad because I thought that people would judge me for it. So to sum up, I would say living up to the expectation that you are suppose to be having the time of your life while abroad was very difficult.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

Where do I even begin?! Spending six months in another country greatly impacted my life. I learned so much about the world around me, and about myself. I felt like I grew a lot as a person during my time abroad. Living in another country shows you that not everyone lives the way you do, and it opens your mind to new thoughts and ideals.

The friends I have made while abroad and the places I was able to see helped me see all the beauty that life has to offer.
Snowy mountains in Norway
Train ride view from Bergen to Oslo

What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?

Studying abroad opens your mind to different ways of life. It takes you out of your comfort zone, and shows you that not everyone lives the same way you do. Seeing different cultures and hearing different languages reminds you how important diversity is.

Would you recommend your program to others? Why?

I would highly recommend this program to others. Who wouldn't want to spend their time cross country skiing in the fjords of Norway?

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

I would choose a Spanish speaking country if I were to study abroad again. With the growing population of Spanish speakers in the U.S., I think it would be valuable to learn the language, so I think I would say either Chile or Argentina.