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Erasmus+ Journal (Issue 4) 2015/16

Tina Maria Hofer, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Mobility for Studies, PHST

Author: Tina Maria Hofer
Proof reader: Leon McClean 

The idea of applying for an exchange semester was on my mind ever since I have started higher education and therefore it was quite obvious to make it happen. The application process took quite a long period of time, there was always an e-mail to expect from either the sending institution or the receiving institution but I definitely have to mention that I was provided with competent and helpful advice in order to get my things done. 

Although when looking for information on the website of the university, it didn't seem to be updated frequently, so this was a bit confusing when going through the programme.

It is also helpful to keep an eye open for groups (International Students at HiOA or ESN Oslo) on Facebook as students from the previous semesters can offer support and questions can be answered in no time. 

Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus

Oslo and Akershus University College (short HiOA) is the largest state university college in Norway and also has subsidiary campuses in outer Oslo, namely in Sandvika and Kjeller.

HiOA offers higher education programs  up to PhD and furthermore,  offers studies and conducts research in health professions, social sciences, engineering, liberal arts, education and other fields.

HiOA was established in 2011, the campus itself used to be a brewery. The campus has a nice bar to chill out down in the basement where also weekly pub quizzes and other evens are taking place, a stationary and a bookshop, plenty of workspaces and a well-visited library. Additionally to that, the campus itself hosts various bars, cafés and restaurants where you can find cheap eats and drinks. 

General information about the university college and the study programme

University: HiOA (Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences), Faculty of Education (LUI)
Multi-cultural identity in a global world (spring semester 2016)
Ms Kristin Danielsen-Wolf
Duration: Jan-May
ECTS: 30

Erasmus office (International office)

LUI Information Center (Faculty of Education and International Studies):

Pillestredet 52

Open from 08:00-15:00

E-Mail: opptak@hioa.no

Postal address: P.O. Box. 4 St. Olavs plass

N-0130 Oslo, Norway

E-Mail: post@hioa.no

Web: www.hioa.no


Cultural Identity and Cultural Awareness
Alternative Value Dimensions
Childhood and Identity Construction
Music and Identity
Childhood Constructions
Language and Culture
Dialogues between children and adults
Music and Cross-cultural understanding
Global Consciousness
Structure of Culture
Human Rights and Childhood
Music in immigrant communities
Culture and Religion
Multicultural education and inclusion
Multicultural education and bilingualism
Processes of Globalization
Mulitcultural Identity
Culture and Ethical Challenges
Social commitment in a global world
Cultural Identity and Racism
Traits & Trends in Norwegian Schools and Kindergartens
Fieldwork introductions and discussions 

For further useful information I suggest visiting: www.hioa.no

Registration process

The registration processes either in Austria and afterwards in Norway were not a big deal. The office in Oslo provided us well in advance with all the required documents we will need. Most of it was done online and therefore easy. In case something was unclear, the International Office was always happy to help.


Prices in Oslo are pretty high, it doesn't matter what you're looking for, even the daily grocery shopping can be depressing sometimes. Always keep your eyes open for "tilbud" or "salg" which mean special offers or benefit. Discounters are going to be your choice of shopping! As well as a place called Gronland (in Gamle Oslo near the main station) where lots of Turkish and Pakistani grocery shops with good deals are located. Definitely choose KIWI or REMA 1000 supermarkets.

Some examples:

Housing: ranges between 300-600 EUR
Ticket for public transport (30 days): 40 EUR
Prices of groceries really depend on what you want and like... 
Coffee: 3,50 - 6 EUR
Beer (0.5l): 9 EUR

As I did not want to spend money on public transport I have decided to walk as my student housing is in walking distance (about 15 minutes). Monthly travel cards are up to 45 euros, a single ticket for an hour is about 3.50 euros, so therefore money I definitely want to spend on other things. 

Museums offer student prices, so all in all not a bad deal if you want to check out a museum and look at some fine Norwegian art. However, on Thursdays you get the chance to visit some of the museums for free! 

Visit www.visitoslo.no for further information. Also useful is to download the app of visitoslo.

Review of my studies abroad in academic terms

In the first week of of uni we had general introduction courses and this also included getting to know each other (teachers and students) and telling the teachers something about ourselves, educational background, interests, etc. Mainly we talked about the terms "identity", "culture" and "language" in class. We also had a short glimpse in the field of "childhood constructions" which will be helpful for our fieldwork period in March. Our course also includes a class which is called "globalization" and I have to say that it is really interesting to see how you can connect this topic to an educational context. The teachers are doing really well in order to explain their ideas.

In week 7 we had to hand in a short report of approx. 2 000 words about a topic which we could chose from the content of our previous lessons. I decided to write about inclusion and how it is dealt with in Austria but also make a connection to Norway. When going through the literature it was interesting to see that Scandinavians themselves don't think their educational system is that good or developed. For example, a lot of Austrian educators are looking up to the Scandinavian system and hope that it will be like that in Austria one day but especially Norwegians are still not that happy about  the system.

Our study programme also included excursions to the Intercultural Museum in Oslo which is hosting an exhibition about the "Roma people in Norway", visited the "22nd of July Center" which hosts an exhibition about the  terrorist attacks which happend five years ago. This visit was very emotional and mental but Norwegians will never forget what happened at this terrible day. At the end of our study programme we did an excursion to the "Anti-Racism Center" where experts told us about the current situation in Norway.

Generally speaking I have to say that the organization of the courses and excursions are great. The teachers try to set up their classes so everyone can easily follow as levels of English differ quite a lot in our course group. 

Review of my fieldwork experiences


1.1 Nesoddtangen Skole: Kongleveien, 1450 Nesodden 
1.2 Trasop Skole: Hellerudveien 83, 0672 Oslo 
2.1 Midtstuen Skole: Einar Skjæraasens Vei 21, 0782 Oslo
2.2 Vevelstadåsen Skole: Vevelstadåsen 30, 1405 Langhus/Ski

The Norwegian school system

Our study programme also includes 4 weeks of fieldwork in schools in and around Oslo. In my first period of fieldwork I'm going to visit two schools, namely "Nesoddtangen Barneskole" which is located on a peninsula (yes, my daily way to school was very exciting as I had to catch the ferry) and "Trasop skole" which is located in the very east of Oslo.

In general I have to say that my expectations are very high as the Scandinavian school system tend to be one of the best in the world.

The Norwegian school system is a bit different to the Austrian school system. Children stay in primary school ("Barneskole") for seven years and after that they visit the Lower Secondary School ("Ungdomsskole") from grades eight to ten.

In the first year of primary school students spend most of their time playing educational games and learning social structures, the alphabet, basic addition and subtraction, and basic English skills. In Grades 2-7, they are introduced to Maths, English, Science and Religion, Aesthetics and Music, which is completed with the subjects of Geography, History and Social Studies in the fifth grade. 

No official grades are given at this level. However, the teacher often writes a comment, analysis, and sometimes an unofficial grade on tests. Tests are to be taken home and shown to parents. 

When the students enter lower secondary school, at the age of 12 or 13, they begin getting grades for their work. From eighth grade on, students can choose one elective subject of their interest. Typical offered subjects are languages, e.g. German, French and Spanish as well as additional English and Norwegian studies. B

After they have completed this two stages of compulsory education, they can either move on with Upper Secondary School ("Videregaende Skole") or continue with a vocational training school. After completing Upper Secondary School the pupils are able to continue their education in a university or a college.


Nesoddtangen barneskole is a quite big school (around 600 pupils and 40 educators) situated on the peninsula of Nesodden which is easily reachable with a ferry from Oslo. The neighbourhood of the school is very rural and it seems like it is a totally different world comparing it to the busy Oslo city life. The school itself is one of the poorest schools in Norway concerning classroom facilites, e.g. computer rooms and a kitchen, but is still of good standard if comparing it to Austria. 

The class I was visiting was a sixth grade consisting of 24 pupils at the age from 11-12 years. The pupils seemed very well behaved and respectful towards their form teacher and us, the students coming from the university college. I liked the relaxed and comfortable atmosphere in the classroom, the pupils worked VERY independently and helped each other a lot. I was very surprised to observe this as they are still very young but they seem to take responsibilty and at some point act like adults. The teacher gives them a lot of freedom and trusts them, although she mentioned that it took her quite a bit of a time to reach this level of discipline in class which makes everything so much easier. The level of English is also worth mentioning. It would make classes so much more easier if children start speaking English that early, of course, as there are hardly any translations in Norwegian on TV Norwegians are forced to watch the English version and read along the Norwegian subtitles. 

When it comes to matters of inclusion, I cannot say a lot, as all the children were Norwegian native speakers even though a couple of them was adopted. Only one student was suffering dyslexia but he was able to follow the classes and could do special exercises on his computer.

Furthermore, they do a lot of activities outside. It doesn't matter if it is raining, snowing, storming or sunny, the pupils have to go outside. No one is allowed to stay in the building. Additionally to that I was surprised to see a huge room for the staff of the school with sofas, a kitchen and a small library. I think this amenities are very important and necessary to create a positive atmosphere in a school.

This first week of fieldwork left a very positive impression but I'm curious how the other three schools are going to be.


The second week of fieldwork I spent in the east of Oslo, namely in Trasop. This time we could follow and observe a 7th grade, the learners were about 12-13 years old. The form teacher welcomed us very friendly and lead us to a very spacious area where the employees of the school could relax during their breaks. We were offered coffee and tea and had a nice little chat about the school and his class. The school was a bit more multicultural than Nesoddtangen skole but they were all quite at the same level and there was no need for a lot of differentiation. As in Nesoddtangen skole, the learners worked very independently and helped each other, they were very disciplinated and took their classes seriously. During their breaks they would watch educational movies which I was not used to but when asking the teacher he said it is very common to do that in Norway and he was surprised that we do not offer that. The learners eat during watching the video clips and after that they are obligated to go outside. In general, schools offer a lot of breaks, especially for the younger ones. I thought this was very positive, as younger learners have problems with concentrating too long. In the next two days the school was having a project. Every teacher organized a little activity for the learners and the learners had to pick for of them from a long list, for example learning them how to play chess, cooking, knitting, various kinds of sports, fun activities in Maths, carving, Yoga, puppet theatre and so on and so forth. The learners enjoyed it a lot, as it just happens once a year. It was also nice to see how the teachers engaged. 


The third week of fieldwork I spent in Midtstuen skole, in a quite rich and rural area up at Holmenkollen. As the principal told us it is a very rich school and offers a lot of equipment for the learners, e.g. music instruments and sports equipment. As it is a "Ungdomsskole", this school only hosts grades 8, 9 & 10. Again I was surprised about the huge area for the teachers, an own kitchen and free coffee and tea all day long. Most of the teachers are very young and probably come directly from university. Additionally to that, they were dressed VERY casually, e.g. ripped jeans and shorts. We were able to observe grades 8 and 9. The learners were really interested in the foreign visitors (us) and asked us a lot of questions. We were also able to see a dance class and a music class. The learners were split in four groups and had to perform two songs, either a song by Imagine Dragons or Pink Floyd. Each band had a piano player, a singer, a bass player, a guitar player and a drummer. They did a really great job and enjoyed it a lot, even though they are going to be graded on their overall performance at the end of the semester. 


Vevelstadasen barneskole is located outside of Oslo, in the very South. More children with non-Norwegian background were visiting this school. The school also offered a reception class, a so-called Innføringsklassen. Again, the school offered a huge common room for the teachers with a kitchen and small offices for the teachers. The class I was able to follow was a so-called Innføringsklassen.

The class consisted of 11 learners from four different countries, namely Kurdistan, Poland, Syria and Somalia. Some of the learners were related each other. The class was supported by the teacher, Mrs. N. and her assistant, Mrs. S. from the Philippines. Mrs. S. is not a teacher but has great knowledge of languages. The age level ranged from 8-12 years. The atmosphere in class was very familial and cosy. Even coming from four different countries, the learners had respect for each other because they have one goal in common: to learn Norwegian and understand the Norwegian culture as quick as possible.

 The main goal for all was to learn Norwegian and about the Norwegian culture in general. The school offered own books for the learners. Mrs. N. talked a lot with the students and tried to get everyone talking and involved. She used a lot of mimes, gestures and body language to help them to learn and understand certain things. Furthermore, Mrs. N. gave a lot of positive feedback and praised them to keep them motivated.

 The teacher and the assistant split the class into two groups, whereas the assistant works with the better ones and the Mrs. N. with those who need more support. Their timetable mainly consists of Norwegian, Geography, Maths, P.E and Arts. I saw the teacher using a “Somali-Norsk“ dictionary in order to avoid misunderstandings in class. The learners appreciated this form of help very much. Mrs. N. would also look for suitable pages on the internet in Arabic in order to help them if they would not understand words or expressions. She also asked students in class to help and translate for their colleagues.The learners of this reception class are following a certain curriculum, but the teacher has quite a bit of freedom and can choose what is suitable or not.

Not all the learners live nearby, so the government offers free transport for them to come to the school. Usually the children visit the class for 10 months and after that they get into the normal classes. If they haven’t reached a certain level of Norwegian they have to stay longer.

Social and cultural review of my stay abroad

The buddy programme which was organized by the university was super useful to get to know my fellow students/buddies for the semester. The university did well in organizing all these activities for us exchange students and it really seems like they know what they're doing.

Generally speaking, the employees at the campus are very friendly and helpful and always have a smile on their faces. Furthermore, I have to mention their perfect English skills as this is not common in every country and makes things a lot more easy.

We were a quite an international bunch of people - students from China, Finland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Germany and the United States formed my study group.

We met up everyday in order to do something together, for example "campus challenges", "neighbourhood challenges", opera, visiting museums, hiking, ice skating or just meeting up for dinner or a drink in a pub (and if I say one drink, it really is just one drink as I mentioned above, alcholic drink are very expensive).

Besides getting to know a totally different educational system, I was also interested in the Norwegian outdoors and of course, the culture respectively cultural differences. In addition to that I have signed up for a Norwegian language course. 

In order to get a little insight in cultural differnces the university urged us to sign up for an event called "How to be a Norwegian student" where we got to know the "Real Norwegian world" (not only in an educational way) a bit better or at least understand why they act sometimes quite "weird". I did not get to know a lot of people outside university life. Norwegians are very introverted so most of the time I was spending time with my classmates.


I was staying in a student house in one of the hip districts called Grünerlökka and therefore located very central. My housing is quite pricey, even though you can get better deals in the outskirts of Oslo, but you will need a bike or have to use public transport to get around. The housing is organized by a student organization and you have to do your application on housing online as well as the payment and deposit process. Don't worry too much about it, the university puts you in touch with them and the following steps are easy. If possible, go for a room in the student villages of St. Hanshaugen, Ulleval, Grünerlökka or Sogn.

For further information and a little insight visit: www.sio.no

Temperature and climate

In January it's freezing cold (well, up to -14 degrees) and every now and then it's snowing but luckily the sun comes out during the day and there's a chance to warm up a bit even though warm clothes (at least three layers) are definitely required! I know, this may sound a bit awkward in a city but you will definitely need it! As the climate rises in April and May I would also suggest to pack summer clothes but always beware of a weather change. A sweater, raincoat or even an umbrella is definitely recommended! Do not trust the weather here! :-)

Did you gain any learning experiences you would not have gained without staying abroad?

To sum it up, an exchange semester not only gives you rich experiences, better language skills, an insight into a new culture, educationals system and a country and its people, no, you meet wonderful people which are alike and gain friends for life.

I would suggest to be a little bit brave, sign up for this adventure and make the best out of it.

And remember: Always be a littler bit kinder than you have to :-)

Do you think staying abroad provided benefits for your future job (as a teacher)?

I definitely think that the experience of seeing another educational institution and its ways of working broadens one's mind and is a big plus in one's curriculum vitae. Furthermore, the experience of visiting schools in a foreign country is very precious and maybe also an inspiration which can be used when teaching in the future.

Did this stay abroad affect or change your personality?

Going abroad always affects or even changes one's personality. You have to step out of your comfort zone, leave your bubble and sometimes do things you would have never imagined to do. It is a good way of growing, of becoming who you really are.

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