Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Opening Celebration and City Exploration

Today we met at the school for the opening ceremonies for the Oslo University College International Summer School. There are about 50 students in 4 classes, representing 32 countries! Being with people from all over the world will certainly be an important international component of my experience here.

At the opening ceremony, we were first welcomed with coffee, cookies, and warm greetings as we had a change to mingle with the staff and our classmates. Soon I had met many of my classmates from the course entitled "Philosophy in School," meant to help train educators to incorporate philosophy into the curriculum. Although I was still a bit tired and jet lagged from yesterday's journey, I was so happy to be there.

The ceremony was a nice surprise. A professor played a traditional Norwegian folk song for us on his flute. I accidentally left my camera in the dorm room, so that was quite a disappointment. I think I can find somebody who has it, though. Next, a professor (who specializes in storytelling) entertained us with traditional Norwegian folk stories. She presented them in such an entertaining way and had us laughing. A professor from the Globalization course welcomed us and told us what to expect over the next few weeks, including new friendships, intellectual discoveries, and even longing for home. I got very excited because although it was only 3 weeks, Oslo was going to be our home. We were not staying in a hostel or hotel -- but in dorm rooms. We'd be living and studying together for the next three weeks, as well as participating in a very active social program which was actually included in our fee. Cool!

At the conclusion of the ceremony, we met our philosophy teachers Bo and Beate. They said we'd begin class at 1, so we had some free time. I went around to see if I could find affordable lunch (very difficult in Oslo) then returned for class.

For the rest of the week, class would be 4 hours with a 45 minute break for lunch -- a necessary thinking break so we could reflect on the events of the morning and allow our minds to rest a bit before proceeding with the afternoon session. At first, our classmates were a bit upset because we thought we would be out at 12pm each day like the other classes. Instead, the teachers chose to start later and we'd be 1 extra hour longer. This would certainly change the plans I had created in my proposal since I'd have much less free time to travel during the day and explore. Yet starting later could be nice as well.

In the classroom, we put our names on a folded piece of paper to facilitate getting to know each other quickly. Our teachers said not to introduce ourselves to each other -- we must get to know each other through philosophy. He then came around and took a picture of each of us to upload to the school's online system, Fronter. This is like Blackboard in the U.S. Unfortunately, there was a minor error with the school, and we were not yet enrolled in the Fronter system -- but hopefully this would be fixed soon.

Our teachers lectured a bit, presented some information, and then we were out for the day. I knew that I had to get to know this city, especially since I just arrived -- so I went out for a very long walk, exploring my neighborhood. I went down a hill and saw a field filled with many people. (I later found out they were watching one of the World Cup Games). Next I passed through a very diverse and thriving immigrant neighborhood. Following this street led me to the center of Oslo where I finally saw the harbor, the central station, and a beautiful white building with a sloped roof leading into the water. This was the new opera house, and it was absolutely impressive. There was even a stage in the water several feet from the Opera House for outdoor concerts. I wondered if I'd be able to go to one.

As I looked around, I noticed how everyone was enjoying the brief yet wonderful summer weather. Families and friends had picnics on the roof, couples were holding hands as they walked along the water, and ships glided to and from Sweden and Denmark. I was so happy to be here and knew there was so much to explore and learn about, both inside and outside the classroom. Eventually, I walked back home, trying to follow the harbor. I saw much new development, and this area of the city was clearly changing -- become more modern and vibrant instead of just industrial wharfs. I strolled past an impressive fortress and another harbor with even more splendid views of distant mountains and many little islands dotting the Oslo Fjord. Finally, I found may way towards the school and from there, I knew how to get to my apartment, just consulting my map a few times. The city of 550,000 is compact and walkable, yet filled with many different and interesting neighborhoods. There didn't seem to be just one area where things happened -- there were many great neighborhoods, and I looked forward to exploring them and meeting the people within them.

Afterwards, I made it back to my dorm to gaze at the lovely view from my window. I am very lucky to be here.

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