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Bridging cultures across five thousand miles

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Oslo Innovation Week's Official Opening was hosted in Oslo City Hall where the Nobel Peace Prize is presented every December.
Oslo Innovation Week's Official Opening was hosted in Oslo City Hall where the Nobel Peace Prize is presented every December.
Photo By Geoff Sloan

OSLO, Norway – Now that Texas State Bobcats know I’m studying abroad, and if you don’t then check out The University Star online for all the updates, let’s find out more about what life is really like in the land of the midnight sun.

My time in Norway isn’t only being spent in class. I’m making an international network of friends, living with a host-family I’ve known for years, working as a social media intern at Oslo Business Region and traveling to places I never imagined I could explore.

Classes at the University of Oslo are my main focus while I’m here. I’m taking history, political science, geography and economics courses with classrooms full of more international students than Norwegians. These classes are taught in English and because of the focus on social sciences, leading the room to be open for diverse, international discussions.

Having a civil discussion in my history class over World War II with students from the U.S., Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and a professor from Germany is a truly rare experience many thought impossible only a few decades ago. Many of these students come from countries I’ve never met a citizen of. Now we have the opportunity to learn and discuss together in the same room, not just about WWII, but also about international development, language learning, the future of NATO, historical economic systems and more.

Class discussions aren’t the only special conversations I’m having here. Learning about where and how my friends grew up helps paint a fascinating picture of how different our environments were growing up – but that didn’t stop us from getting to know one another.

Crossing the Belgium–Netherlands border every day for school, growing up in the aftermath of The Troubles of Northern Ireland and living as a vagabond across Europe are just a few of the dissimilar worlds my new friends were raised in. We’ll find out how these different environments impacted their worldview later this semester during this blog series.

Later this year, we’ll also discover how I chose to live in a country 5 thousand miles away. With this host-family, they’re really more like family. Both my family and the one in Oslo have sent kids back and forth to live, study and work in the opposite country for almost 3 decades. Stay tuned here for the full story of this remarkably unique and special relationship between both families.

While I’m here, I’m also staying busy with work. As a social media intern, I’m currently promoting Oslo Business Region’s major event, Oslo Innovation Week, which happens to take place the same week as Texas State’s Common Experience event, Innovation Week. Very similar to South by Southwest in Austin, Oslo Innovation Week is bringing together entrepreneurs, hi-tech innovators, startup investors and even former President Barack Obama for a week of idea sharing, networking, and promotion of diverse commerce in Norway.

Keeping busy is important but exploring my new home is important as well. With trips outside Oslo to different corners of Europe, I’ll keep you up-to-date with trips I have planned. Just to give Bobcats back home a taste, one trip may include viewing the Aurora Borealis from the third largest city north of the Arctic Circle.

This blog series can be found exclusively at The University Star. For updates, questions and suggestions, find me on Twitter, @GeoffroSloan or through my email, rgs75@txstate.edu.

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