I adore Oslo. It’s one of my favorite European cities and one that I’ve never gotten tired of.
- DO NOT TAKE A TAXI. Taxis in Oslo charge a minimum 200 NOK (24.80 USD) fare. You should absolutely take advantage of the public transportation system, especially since it works pretty well. The apps to use are RuterBillett (to buy tickets) and RuterReise/Google Maps (to plan out a trip and navigate the system). Note: you don’t actually have to validate your transportation tickets (and you can freely walk through the barriers in the subway system), but they do randomly check to make sure that you have tickets. The fines are very steep if you’re caught without a ticket (~150 USD) so just keep that in mind if you decide not to buy one.
- In order to get to the city from the airport you’ll either take the flytoget (airport train) or the flybussen (airport bus). The train is much faster, but depending on where you’re staying the bus might drop you off closer to your accommodations.
- The city’s main street is Karl Johans Gate and quite a few major sites are near it as is a ton of shopping.
- The Oslo Opera House is quite possibly my favorite site in Oslo. It’s a stunning piece of architecture and you’re free to walk in it, on it, and around it. The view from the roof also isn’t half bad. I would highly recommend either doing a tour of the opera house or going to see a performance there. The opera is required to sell 100 tickets at 100 NOK (~16 USD) for every performance so it’s pretty easy to get affordable tickets and good seats.
- Absolutely go to Vigeland Park (which is in Frogner Park). The park is a ways away from the city center so I would recommend taking the tram or subway, but the sculptures are great and it’s nice to just walk around.
- Definitely pay a stop to Bygdøy peninsula. Depending on the time of year, you can reach it by either bus or by ferry. If the ferry is running I would recommend taking it, even if it’s just to get a view of the city from the water. Here’s what you can see there:
- Viking Ship Museum – It has three different viking ship relics + a few other Viking things. It’s kinda cool to go and see but there isn’t actually much to do at the museum
- Folkemusem – Great if you want an overview of Norwegian history and culture. It also has 24 acres of land with 160 different kinds of historic buildings. If you’re dying to see a stave church and won’t make it out of the city then definitely stop by.
- Fram Museum – Unfortunately I haven’t spent enough time here. What I did see what great, especially if you’re interested in Arctic exploration and/or ships (plus all of the other major ship museums are literally next door).
- The Nobel Peace Center – Does a pretty good job of talking about the Nobel Peace Prize and the latest winners. I would recommend going if you want to learn more about the prize.
- Nasjonalmuseet (The National Museum) – A pretty good museum and the location of Munch’s famous The Scream. It’s small though so it’s pretty manageable to do in about an hour or two.
- City Hall – If you can manage to go to the room where they give out the Nobel Peace Prize you should since it’s stunning. I’m pretty sure that they organize tours.
- Ekeberg Park – Go if you want a good view of the city (but if it’s a cloudy or foggy day maybe give it a pass). It’s an interesting place since it also has a ton of famous artwork scattered throughout the park (Rodin, Salvador Dali, etc.). Walking down from the park to the city will also give you the same backdrop that is painted in The Scream.
- Holmenkollen – Go if you want to see the famous ski jump, walk around the forest, and get a good view of the city. I’ve heard that the museum is also pretty good and has a ski jump simulator.
- Vigeland Museum/Mausoleum – There are actually two Vigeland sculptors, and this is a “museum” done by the less famous brother. It’s a bit outside of the city center, but if you have the time to check it out it’s pretty neat.
- If you want to see some nice graffiti/street art go check out the area around Mathallen (food hall).
- If you are there in winter, you absolutely have to check out Korktrekkeren, a large sledding area that will take you about 15 minutes to go down. It’s fantastic. For the best sledding go early on a weekday.
I have to say that Sarah officially wins the most badass Fulbrighter award. While I really enjoyed my visit to Svalbard, I couldn’t imagine living there for more than a few months, much less the two years that Sarah intends on living there for. That being said, Longyearbyen is located in a truly beautiful area and I’m happy that I made time for the trip. Here are my tips and tricks:
- Bring your passport with you to Svalbard, even if you are taking a domestic flight from Norway.
- Svalbard is not a budget location and I wouldn’t consider it a place that people should visit in a flight of fancy. Svalbard is a very dangerous place, even though those dangers are atypical.* Be aware that Lonyearbyen is little more than a one street town and that leaving town requires going with someone who is quite knowledgeable about the area and the risks. This pretty much means that you can only leave town if you book a tour (which tends to be expensive) or if you happen to know someone who can show you around.
- If you are going in winter definitely keep an eye on the sort of daylight that you will be encountering. I was lucky that my trip coincided with twilight, meaning that I didn’t need a headlamp when I went hiking.
- Keep an eye on the weather and pack accordingly. Keep in mind that Svalbard can be VERY windy so bring a few things that are windproof.
- Public transportation doesn’t exist in Longyearbyen so your only options are walking or a taxi.
- I would highly recommend exploring the area around Longyearbyen since it’s beautiful. I would also recommend the Svalbard Gallery, Svalbard Museum, and polar bear sign.
- Many places will have an area for you to store your coat and boots during the winter. If you have space in your bag, I would recommend bringing a pair of slippers that you can wear whenever you are indoors.
- If you go in winter and go outdoors I would recommend bringing hiking boots and some sort of waterproof pants/ski pants that are designed to help keep the snow out of your shoes
*In terms of typical crime Svalbard is very safe. Most people leave their cars unlocked and keep car keys and snowmobile keys in the ignition. Apparently the crime of the decade occurred when someone had their photography equipment stolen out of their unlocked car, but that was highly unusual and something that the community found really shocking (it was also assumed that the perpetrator was a tourist as opposed to a resident). I found I had no problem leaving my very expensive camera at a table when I went to the front of a coffee shop to order something, and lost items are easily returned to their owners on the island.
I don’t think I’ll be going back to Bergen before the end of my Fulbright so I thought I’d go ahead and summarize what I’ve learned about Bergen thus far:
- An umbrella is crucial. Also, be prepared to encounter multiple types of weather.
- Most things in Bergen and in the wider Bergen area shut down after August/September or have reduced hours. So, if you’re planning a trip to either Bergen or the surrounding area make sure that everything you want to see is actually open.
- If you plan on doing any driving check the road conditions. If you cross over Bergen’s mountains you’ll encounter a significant temperature drop and, depending on the time of year, snow and icy conditions.
- As for things to do in Bergen, I highly enjoyed Pepperkakebyen (which runs from the end of November to the end of December), Bryggen is nice to walk around, the funicular provides a great view of the city on a clear day, and I’ve heard that the Kode is an amazing art museum.
I’ve had a few friends tell me that they were planning on traveling to the Lofoten Islands so I figured I should wrap up and summarize the advice that I have for a trip:
- Depending on where you are coming from, you should budget for at least a day to get to the Islands and a day to get back.
- Your schedule will probably be dictated by ferry times (many of which you can look up here). The ferry runs fairly infrequently and is the quickest way to get to and from the Islands.
- Rent a car. Having a car makes it extremely easy to see the many beautiful sights that Lofoten has to offer. Many of the attractions on the Islands are also fairly spaced out, so it’s handy to have a car so that you can see everything on your bucket list. Alix and I did notice bus stops on our road trip, but I can’t testify as to how frequently the buses run.
- If you are planning on seeing some of the sights, double check their opening hours. Many places have limited hours in the off season or only open upon request.
- Rent a rorbu. Not only are rorbu fairly cheap and quaint, they also tend to offer you great views. Most of them come with kitchens so that’s one easy way for you to cut back on costs.
- This one is fairly obvious, but bring a camera. You’ll kick yourself if you aren’t able to document your trip.
From what I’ve heard and read, I would say that the best time to actually visit the Islands are during the on season (summertime) up through October. Many of the locals said that we had picked a great time to visit since we avoided other tourists, still had nice sunny weather, and were there for the beginning of the Northern Lights season. I would also say dress appropriately and keep an eye on the weather forecast. Alix and I apparently missed a spectacular display of the Northern Lights when we were traveling, so it’s worth keeping your eye on sights like Aurora Forecast and the Geophysical Institute. As for daylight weather, I’d recommend looking at yr.no.
That’s pretty much it for advice! Safe travels!
August is the season of fellowship applications and I’ve gotten quite a few emails asking about how the Fulbright application process works and requests for any tips that I might have regarding the application. I’ve included most of my advice here, although I’ll address some reoccurring questions in separate posts. It’s also important to know that I specifically applied for the English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) program and thus everything included below pertains specifically to the ETA track of the Fulbright.
The Fulbright is a fairly flexible fellowship. Each country has different requirements and different types of Fulbright grants that they offer (thus making it relatively easy to find something that you are truly passionate about). The Fulbright can generally be broken down into three types: 1) English Teaching Assistantships (ETA) 2) Research 3) Some sort of graduate study. The ETA program funds you to teach in the host country that you applied to; however, what kind of teaching you’ll do and the age level you’ll be teaching at is country dependent. There are also other types of Fulbright grants so if you’re interested in a particular country it’s well worth taking a look to see what kind of fellowships they offer. For example, several countries offer grants that support things like the creation of art, music, and in the case of Italy, cooking.
The Application Process
It’s important to know that you apply to a specific country in your application as well as a specific type of grant (i.e. I didn’t generally apply to Norway or the ETA program I specifically applied to Norway’s ETA program). You can apply to multiple grants within Fulbright, but know that you have to complete a separate application for each grant. Once submitted your application is sent to a national committee, and if the national committee approves your application, your application is then sent to your host country for its appraisal. If your application makes it past the national round I’ve heard that your odds are pretty good. If you make it to country round the country you applied to may contact you regarding additional steps in the application process. For example, Norway asked me to have a three person Skype interview. If you’re curious about the acceptance rates for Fulbright grants the Fulbright program posts them for each country on their website.
The Application Itself
Generally speaking you shouldn’t treat your Fulbright essays like college application essays. You want to craft a story around the reasons why you are a qualified applicant and why you want the Fulbright. One thing to have at the back of your mind is the reasons why you stand out as a candidate. What makes you unique from other candidates? Why should they pick you? Once you have answers to those questions try to incorporate your answers into your application. You should have an actual vision of what you want to achieve and articulate that in your essays.
Furthermore, the Fulbright requires three letters of recommendation and may have a language requirement depending on the country that you apply to. With the ETA program it’s also important to note that you should not voice a preference for either location or institution. Host countries will place you at their discretion and are looking for people who are flexible in their preferences so be openminded both mentally and in your application.
The Fulbright Program also has great resources on their website. They offer a checklist for your application components and even offer tips on how to make your application stand out.