One semester exchange, of my master in Architecture, in the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.
I was in Portugal on my first year of Masters in Architecture when I decided to apply for one semester in NTNU.
I had never traveled to Norway but still, I had the feeling it was the right country for me. I wanted to experience a real winter with snow and explore a different culture.
I also chose Norway because I wanted to learn about timber construction. In Portugal, we build mostly with concrete and I was curious about wood houses, and Scandinavian design.
So on the 5th of January 2014, I went to Norway, completely alone, without knowing anyone!
A snowy city full of history and surrounded by nature.
Trondheim is a city in Trøndelag and is the third most populous municipality in Norway. It is situated where the River Nidelva meets the fjord and it was the capital of Norway during the Viking Age. The city is dominated by universities, research centres and technology-oriented institutions.
How did I get there?
I took the plane from Lisbon, landed in Gardemoen airport in Oslo and then changed to another plane to Trondheim. You can also take a train or a bus which takes around 7 hours but is way cheaper (I did it a couple of times).
I arrived during winter so when my plane tried to land in Trondheim's Airport it had some difficulties... there were strong winds and ice on the runway. It tried a couple of times and then finally managed to land sideways. Yes, sideways!!! I had the window seat and could see the runway straight in front of me. I'm not the biggest fan of flying so I was literally thinking I was going to die. Later on, I discovered that this is actually quite common, don't ask me why...
What is there to visit?
I would say Trondheim is a student town full of history.
The most touristic area has to be the Old town and its Red bridge. It is also the most romantic and traditional part of the city, with cute little shops and cafes.
Close by you have the Nidaros Cathedral and the Archbishop's Palace. The cathedral is stunning and is the most important Gothic monument in Norway.
There is Solsiden, the area surrounding the old drydock that was renovated and became a popular shopping area for young people.
There are also several museums, a really fun interior swimming pool and spa, a fortress and a vast forest surrounding the city, with lakes.
Is it expensive?
As a student from Portugal, my budget wasn't the biggest and as you may have already heard, Norway is not the cheapest country.
Transports are very expensive! I walked everywhere so I wouldn't need to buy the monthly pass. There were many students that bought a second-hand bicycle (but with snow, it can be a bit tricky).
Food was also expensive. I sticked with soups, fish sticks, pasta and all the other cheaper things. I think it was ok as long as you would not make complicated dishes and bought meat or fresh fish. Basically just go vegan.
The most expensive things where definitely restaurants and alcohol.
How was the weather?
As I said, I arrived at the peak of winter. Everything was very snowy and dark. The sun would rise around 10 am. and stay very low above the horizon until it set around 14 pm. Oh, and cold! Very cold!
At the end of March, things start to get better. Days start to get longer and relatively warm.
In summer the sun would rise at 3 am. and set around midnight. Basically there wasn't any darkness and you would wake up in the middle of the night thinking it was already morning.
Moholt was the best choise I made!
After I landed I took a bus straight to my student village which was Moholt. There are a couple more student accommodation options around the city, and some even rent their own apartment and share it with friends. I think I read somewhere that Moholt was the cheapest close to my university and that it had a great student life, so I applied.
How did I get it?
When I was accepted in NTNU for exchange I could choose three student accommodation villages, in order by preference. Then I had to wait to see if I had been given a place in one of them. I had heard that many people don't get one, so I was a bit nervous. At the end I got a room in my first option, Moholt.
How was my room/apartment?
Moholt was divided into two types of buildings: the old buildings and the new buildings. I guess now it has the even newer building towers but those weren't there in my time.
In both parts of Moholt everyone shared the apartment with 2 or 4 people, girls and boys mixed. You have your own room but share the kitchen/eating area and the bathroom with your flatmates.
There is also a student community house, a huge laundry and a supermarket.
Humangous campus and cool courses to choose from!
NTNU is the largest university in Norway and has the main national responsibility for education and research in engineering and technology.
How did I apply to NTNU?
I applied through my university in Lisbon as part of the Erasmus+ program.
As a european student, to apply I had to send my credits, my grades, a recommendation letter and a motivation letter. I didn't need to send any portfolio.
After maybe 1 month I got an answer from NTNU saying I had been accepted and the next step was to choose my courses and apply for student accommodation.
How did I choose the courses?
I had to choose 3 courses. One main project course (I chose Timber construction), another which was related with the project course ( Timber structure) and a third smaller course (I choose Portfolio). If you wanted you could also choose extra courses which only took 2 or 3 weeks (I took photography).
Several main project courses are actually not in Norway. For example, my boyfriend Daniel had a course about China and had to travel there for 2 months. I chose one that I knew would be in Norway and had a small trip to a Norwegian town a few hours from Trondheim.
How where the classes and exams?
Classes are taught in English. In architecture our Exams where presentations and we had a grade only at the end of the semester which was from A to F.
The classroom was always the same for each course. For project it was a big open room where you could choose your desk and keep it for the whole semester.
We had a schedule that would change a bit. Sometimes it was from 9h to 15h, other times it was just the mornings and I remember on Fridays we didn't have any classes but it was expected from us to still go to school and work on our projects. Basically the schedule was very free but normally we would end up staying until 19:00.
How was the university campus?
I had classes at the Gløshaugen campus and it was humongous! I don't think I entered in all the buildings and most of the times I would get lost. I do loved the old building that reminded me of Harry Potter but I never had classes there.
There where several cafeterias where you could buy food. I normally took food from home and heated it up there on the microwaves.
There is also a small supermarket, several social rooms, quiet rooms to study, a huge library, a black room for photography, several auditoriums, etc.
My favorite part were the workshops, more specifically the wood workshop. You could use every machine and materials for free. First, you need to take a one week course to learn how to work with the machines in a safe way. Since I choose Timber construction I was there most of the time building things with wood.
You make your own little family
Moving to a faraway country all by my self, without knowing anyone was a bit scary.
When I first arrived I was very excited to meet my flatmates but no one was there. It was only a few days later that I started to meet people and was included in a group of friends from all around the world (none of them were Norwegians).
As soon as the classes started I also started to make friends very quickly. I think what helped the most was that we all lived in Moholt and would walk together home and hang out in each others apartments all the time.
I also met Daniel (now my boyfriend).
Are there any student activities?
Another thing that helped a lot making friends was being involved in all the events that the student organization would arrange. For example, in my first week, I went on a hike in the snowy forest. Another time we went on a trip to Røros.
There is also a student welcoming week, where they organize games and trips so the new students can meet each other. Unfortunately, I arrived too late for that.
Most of the times we were in parties at Moholt and those were the best ones!
It could be a small party in someones apartment or a huge party in the whole building.
There were also parties in the most famous student organization house: the Studentersamfundet, also known as "the red round house".
To finish I just wanted to say that I had the opportunity to study both in NTNU in Trondheim and in AHO in Oslo and I liked NTNU the best. I felt like the city was more traditional Norwegian and had a bigger student life vibe! I made more friends and felt more included. Classes at NTNU were more technical, which I preferred, whilst at AHO were more artistic.
Studying in Norway was one of the best decisions I made in my life and if I could go back, I would do it all over again!