Photo: Ferenc Horvath / Unsplash

A little bit of fun, a little bit of mess — and a lot of problems

Editorial — September 2023


Buddy week and kick-off week, new people and new classes — fewer internationals, housing crisis, looming deadlines. The first month of the semester has passed, and one word comes to mind — contradictions.

The mess

Have you ever been a buddy for two separate groups of people — at the same time? Highly not recommended.

Miscommunication between various faculties and departments at UiO is what makes it so charming, but this year was a glorious mess indeed. Flocks of 50+ internationals fresh out of their hometowns — and 2-3 buddies to show them around? Easy peasy! Nope. In all fairness, there were four of us huddling them — a shout-out to you, E., H., and A. — and yet we did strain our voices trying to explain why Eilert Stunds hus has the best cafeteria on campus (I mean…), where NOT to buy books (sorry, Akademika, but you are too darn pricey), and how to reserve study rooms online (oh that lovely system). 

And then I got sick. My dear co-buddies dealt with the babies (we say it lovingly, our budlings!) completely on their own, while I was sipping hot ginger tea with lemon under a fluffy white blanket. And then the kick-off week for new MA-level students began — and somehow I was one of the buddies there, too — a shout-out to you, E., T., and I. (ironically, there were four of us again, bracing to entertain a crowd of 80 something).

Well, “somehow” is a strong word, really. The International Office of HF (The Faculty of Humanities, of which yours truly is) and a handful of departments that introduced the MA buddy week seem to have simply forgotten how to communicate clearly with each other, so a bunch of volunteers from different departments dropped out of the main buddy week the last minute, staying loyal to the first-years on their respective MA programs. Hence humongous groups and very few red shirts.

Having fun is fun, duh, but one keeps wondering if all of us, professors included, are actually ready for the intensity and stress of the coming months.

The fun — and the problems

But yay, MAs finally have a buddy week! I remember how lonely and confusing it was for my introverted self last year, when I had just started “Screen Cultures.” Planning all these activities to the new cohorts — a mixer at Fysikkbakken, a board games night, a movie night, a get-to-know-you game, a trivia — was, quite frankly, exhausting, but also enormously gratifying. I sleep better now, knowing that this new batch of future media scholars are going to do so much better socially than I ever did.

On a semi-side note, my program has significantly fewer internationals this time around. I wonder if a price tag of 180 000 NOK per academic year is the reason why. Hmmm… Nah, probably not. Higher education is less accessible now, but come on, only students with money who are truly motivated to stay in Norway after getting a degree are going to apply now. And finding a job as a non-European (the most common way to extend one’s residence permit) in this country is, of course, a piece of cake.

Student housing crisis (3000 people in SiO’s queue!) is another source of ache for internationals. Yes, exchanges and most of the first-years from outside of Norway almost always get a room. “Almost” is key here — a friend of mine, international, who did her exchange in a town outside of Oslo, had been traveling between a hostel (500 NOK per night) and their friend’s couch for over a week until she was finally offered an apartment — and outside SiO! Another acquaintance is scheduled to move into Kringsjå next week, so for now, once the classes are over, they take a bus/train/plane, whichever is most affordable, back home. They live in another Scandinavian country, not Drammen or Bergen, by the way.

Having said all that, meeting new people (our team at Inter Universitas is growing, too!) and starting new classes has been exciting. The profs seem to enjoy themselves as well — joking around, experimenting with creative teaching methods, exchanging summer stories. The issue everyone has with the fall semester, though, is that it is incredibly swift, which means that exams (yes, that frightening word students tend to ignore until the very last moment) are right around the corner. Having fun is fun, duh, but one keeps wondering if all of us, professors included, are actually ready for the intensity and stress of the coming months. Don’t know about y’all, but I’m already feeling like a lil’ squeezed lemon.

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