Alien Life

No, not the UFO kind, the immigration kind.

It’s been a while since I talked about the immigration process and it’s time for an update! I have FINALLY gotten my Norwegian personal number (the equivalent of a Social Security number). This means that I can FINALLY open a Norwegian bank account. Here is the rough timeline of the steps that I had to go through to get to this point:

August 19: registered for a residence card at the police station
August 22: received my residence card in the mail
September 2: Registered at the Tax Office (note when getting a ticket stub to wait in line hit Public Registration, NOT the option that says something about taxes)
September 19: Received my personal number in the mail and registered for a bank account

As you can see, it’s taken about a month to get to this point. This also means that when I was emailing the wiring instructions to the Fulbright Office it was hard not to end every sentence with ten exclamation points (don’t worry in the end there were no exclamation points to be found). But this is really exciting! I can finally get my stipend from the last few months, as well as the travel money that I’m owed for my flight to Norway.

Furthermore, because I had so much time to kill before I could open a bank account, I had plenty of time to consider my bank options. In the end, I decided to go with DNB since it has a great reputation and, perhaps even more importantly, pretty much every page of their website has an English version. Using Google Translate for my online banking was something I wanted to avoid at all costs.

Opening the bank account itself was pretty easy and I was walked through everything I needed to know at the bank. DNB also has some really easy ways to start investing, so hopefully I’ll be able to do that in my year here. The last thing to know about the banking process is that the bank told me it could take up to a week for me to actually receive my debit card and online banking information in the mail. While it’s still a bit of a bummer to wait another week for everything to arrive, it’s great to finally be done cutting through most of the red tape.

Strikes, Education, and More

The school year has officially started! As an exchange student at NTNU I have the right to take classes here (I even had to fill out a proposed schedule of coursework when I applied). As of right now, it’s looking like I’ll be taking a Norwegian class and a class on gender and Norwegian culture. Neither class starts until next week so I was able to enjoy lazy days and the bliss of sleeping in for most of the week. While my days started later than normal I was able to accomplish a few major things this week:

The Residence Permit

Everyone that I have ever talked to about the residence permit has hated the process. While the process itself is simple enough, it can be time consuming. Once you arrive in your designated city you are told to register at the police station within 7 days (at Trondheim they told me that they could care less about this step and that I should go home). You also have to book an appointment at the police station. Usually these appointments are only available four or more weeks after your arrival, which is less than ideal since I need my residence permit in order to get paid. Luckily NTNU schedules massive blocks of time at the police department for students which means that I was able to get to an appointment this week. I don’t have the physical residence card yet, but it is on its way! If things go well I should be able to open a bank account in about two weeks.

Byåsen

I finally got to meet my contact at Byåsen, the upper secondary school that I’m assigned to. Kirsti (pronounced Shisti) was able to take me on a tour of the campus and tell me a bit more about my role at the school. I’ll primarily be helping her with a class called International English although I may help her with some other classes and will have the chance to work with other teachers at the school, particularly one who is teaching American history.

Another highlight of this meeting was getting the chance to ask about the ongoing teacher’s strike. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I thought that the primary reason for striking was related to teaching schedules. Kirsti quickly shot down that notion and explained that while teaching hours are what is drawing the most media attention, the reality is that it is just one issue out of a series of issues that teachers are protesting. Some of the other things that teachers are upset about are:

  • The increased use of testing
  • Teachers already don’t get paid for overtime and the government also wants to stop teachers from getting paid when they act as substitutes for other classes
  • Currently when teachers reach the age of 55 they are given fewer classes to teach. Now, the government wants to stop this practice, but give new teachers fewer classes to teach. Teachers like the idea of giving new teachers fewer classes, but they also want to keep this same policy for people who are 55+

When this week started I was told that if things remained unaddressed that teachers would go on strike starting on Thursday. Today is Saturday and the strike is still ongoing. When I talked to Kirsti about the strike on Friday she said that it was quite possibly the biggest and most important teachers strike in Norway’s history, making it more unfortunate that I can’t actually read any Norwegian newspapers.

Scheduling & Teaching

I also got the chance to sit down with both Nancy and Kirsti to figure out my schedule for the semester. Unfortunately a lot of Nancy and Kirsti’s classes overlapped so it looks like I’ll be spending the majority of my time this semester on NTNU’s campus and every other Friday at Byåsen with Kirsti. I went with Nancy this Friday to help with our first class, Communication for Engineers. We weren’t able to cover too much in class since it was just the first one, but Nancy talked a lot about how to properly read scientific articles and how we’ll be teaching students how to improve the content and structure of their essays. We also require students to free write for at least 10 minutes and send in their writing at least six times by the end of the semester. I’ve already started to get emails from students, and some of them have some pretty interesting projects that they are working on. Most of the students are working towards their masters degrees and it’s fun learning a bit more about their passions and what they are hoping to achieve by the end of the year.

Lastly, it seems like no week will be complete without some sort of hike so here are a few pictures from the Estenstaddammen and Estenstaddamman lakes.

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Week 1

A lot has gone on in my first week and about half of it is related to filling in the appropriate paperwork. Since arriving on campus I have:

1. Gotten my student ID and semester card, both of which are needed to qualify as a student in the eyes of most Norwegian businesses
2. Gotten my new NTNU email address and thus access to NTNU internet
3. Registered for courses and exams
4. Gotten a somewhat functional SIM card
5. Gotten an unlimited 6 month bus card

Unfortunately here are the things I still need to do, all of which hinge on me getting my residence card:

1. Get said residence card by going to the police station on NTNU’s scheduled date
2. Notify the Tax Office of my move to Norway and get a tax card
3. Open a bank account so that I can get paid by the Fulbright Office
4. Register a change of address with the post office
5. Join the National Population Register

Thankfully my week has included a lot more than red tape since it was orientation week for international students. I didn’t get the chance to participate in all of the events, but I did take part in a group competition called 63 Degrees North. Most of it involved silly games such as a three legged race, relay race, and spelling Norwegian vowels using your body, but it also involved answering trivia questions on Norway. While I was able to answer some of the very basic questions I was blown away by how much knowledge some of my teammates had about Norway (knowing the exact date Norwegian women achieved suffrage was one of them). My other favorite activity was hiking along the fjord. Yes, this is the backdrop of my new home.

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Some other highlights include meeting new people! Not only am I starting to meet other students, but I also got to meet Nancy, the professor I work with at NTNU. It was great finally getting to put a face to a name and to talk about the courses that I’ll be helping her teach. As of right now, I’m only going to be helping her with classes in the fall (her spring classes tend to be in Norwegian) and we hope that I’ll get to help with a writing center in the spring. For now, the classes that I’m helping with are called Communication for Engineers and Academic Writing, and I’ll write a bit more about them once they actually start.

The other person that I got to meet this week was Alix, currently the only other Fulbrighter in Trondheim. Alix is here doing research at NTNU and it was great getting to meet her and explore the downtown area together. I think the highlight was showing her a stuffed bear that I managed to find in Sentrum.

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