My Norwegian adventure is rarely dull, that much I can say for sure. It’s often exciting and fun, but so far it hasn’t been much of a settled existence for me. This is because my journey – so far – has been dictated by my education.
The important thing is – I’m back in Norway.
My initial stay in Stavanger (in 2016/17 )was interrupted after I got accepted into a university in the U.K. Then, following my time there, my studies took me to Oslo.
Now, because my current programme doesn’t require me to be physically present in classes, I took the decision to move back to Stavanger. But why I hear you ask?
My love of Norway
My love affair for Norway started in early childhood. Growing up as child I was told numerous stories about my Norwegian ancestors. My great-grandfather had grown up in Stavanger before emigrating to the U.K. in the early part of the 20th century. I remember being totally captivated by these tales.
In 2015, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and visited Norway for the very first time. I spent a long weekend in Stavanger with a friend and quite simply fell in love with the city – and the county of Rogaland. I knew I had to find a way to get back, to try and live in the city, to see if I could make it work.
The following year I did return (via a three-month stay in Tbilisi, Georgia). I found a job and a place to live, and things were going well, but something was missing.
My reluctant return to the small island
I needed and wanted a better education. When I was living in Stavanger in 2016/17, I didn’t have the qualifications required to enter directly into Norwegian universities for bachelor studies. But I did have the required entry level diplomas for most British universities. I had a dilema on my hands.
I decided to apply to a number of institutes in the U.K.. I got accepted onto an intensive bachelor programme that was a three-year degree but one squashed into a two-year period with little or no holidays. It was the best option I could have hoped for – i could save myself one year and return to Norway right after.
My return to Norway
One of my main goals was to get myself back to Norway before Brexit took away my chance.
So I marvelled at the British government’s incompetence which in a bizarre way worked in my favour as the leave date was renegotiated. And then there was always the transition window on top of that.
On my return to Norway, I had planned to go straight back to Stavanger but my education dictated otherwise. I got accepted onto a master’s programme at the University of Oslo, which meant that I had to move to the capital. I was, of course, excited for the degree and city living.
After being stuck in a small town (Buckingham) in the heart of England for two years, Oslo was a welcome change – maybe I could settle here, I told myself in the early days.
The Oslo experience
Oslo was a great experience, my studies were enjoyable, and I got to see the other side of Norway, the southern and eastern parts of the country. I made friends and enjoyed everything the city had to offer. But something changed deep inside me in March and April 2020; it was during the lockdown that I again got a yearning for the west coast.
I have a solid network of friends in Stavanger and a flight back to see my family in the U.K. was a little closer than Oslo, only 1 hour and 25 mins. I believe it’s in these unprecedented times that you realise just what is important in life. My decision was made – I was going home.
A west coast love affair
Stavanger is located in the county of Rogaland and is a part of Norway that has just about everything one could wish for. There are mountains, fjords, forests, flat sandy beaches, and at the centre of it, the bustling and international city of Stavanger.
During the three years living away from the Stavanger, each break I had between terms, I visited the city. Each of those trips always felt like I was coming home, and those kinds of natural feelings are always good to bear in mind when you are thinking about moving to—or even back to—a place.
One of the common mistakes many make when they visit a place is they think, yeah, I could live here, but they do so with a “tourist head” on their shoulders. Such spirits are often inflated with a rose-tinted view or charged with nostalgic notions with all practicalities ignored.
That is not to say such moves don’t work out. Because they sometimes do, as in part mine did, but I also had a connection and a plan.
A connection to Stavanger
Without wanting to sound overly romantic, I do and always have had a strong connection to Stavanger and this part of Norway. It was something I felt even before I visited for the first time. I just feel this part of the world, even in the dreary darkness of winter it has its charm.
During my first stint living in Stavanger, I’d often sit on the banks of the fjord and gaze out at the open waters and the mountains beyond and my mind would just empty. Many times I’d think just how lucky I was to be living in such a beautiful place.
Breaking away from that and heading back to the U.K. to study, even though it was only for two years, was the one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It did, though, raise my determination to make it back.
Looking forward and not back
In the early period of moving to Norway, on both occasions, I missed the wider choice of foods in British supermarkets and, of course, the prices in Norway took a bit of getting used to.
But by far the biggest thing I missed was my family. But I’d tell myself that they were only one short plane journey away and I’d also focus on the opportunities and lifestyle that Norway could give me.
Finishing my degree is now only one year away, beyond that, I’m focused on carving a career for myself here. I also have plans to get a mortgage and realise the ultimate dream of owning my own home in Norway.
Moving to Norway isn’t easy, but I did it, twice. It has been an incredible four years, a whirlwind journey, and I’ve loved every minute of it. Even the two years away in the middle weren’t so bad knowing I was going to return. Right now, my heart is happy and I’m content in my quiet corner of Norway.
In 2016, quite by chance, I found a blank canvas. At first I was unsure what to paint, but I knew I had to paint something. After months of planning, I bought some brush and some oil paints.
I moved my brush enthusiastically around the blank space, layering my favourite colours over and over. But some brushstrokes just didn’t look right and I had to go over them with a different colour, a colour I wouldn’t have perhaps chosen at first but to my amazement it complemented what was already there: the fluffy whites, the light blues, the dark blues, the greens … During the last two years I have really learnt how to control the brush, as a result, the picture is starting to take shape. However, there are still some parts on the canvass that aren’t quite finished, and I have almost run out of paint. So I have decided, in June, I’m going to acquire some new paints and put some fresh colours down. I’m sure I will need to use more colours I have never used before but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest anymore. Someday I’ll finish this painting.
Oh! And I forgot to tell you … the picture! It’s starting to look a lot like a Norwegian landscape: in the foreground there is a tall figure, only you can’t see his face because he is gazing deep into the fjords, but I’m sure he is smiling, though.
Autumn in Buckingham, a cool breeze enters the living room through an open door. My hands hover over the keys of my MacBook Pro as I contemplate what to write …
Yesterday, I finished my first essay of term, a 4,500 word paper exploring the notion of self-fashioning in three different eras of English literature. In most part it was an enjoyable process, but curiously it did have an intriguing affect on me. In that, it allowed me to think about my own writing in a more contemplative manner. I thought about my writer’s journey, of how far I have come in such a short space of time, and how much I still want to progress. I can remember a time—pre 2015—when I simply didn’t write at all, it was a time when the only writing I was likely to do would have been a grocery shopping list! Then, I started writing for fun, composing various blog posts which in turn coincided with an increase in my tweets. It suddenly dawned on me—hey, writing is kind of cool! That enjoyment switched to a more serious mode of writing when a professional sports writing job came my way. In addition to that, academic writing for my degree accelerated my understanding of English further. I feel both have helped me immensily in improving and honing my grammar, punctuation and my writing progression in general (even though it is not perfect). So, with two more terms to go in Buckingham, I can look back at my older blog posts, not with embarrassment but with a sense of pride at how far I have come.
I look forward to my future beyond University, a future that I aim to build in Norway.<3
Saturday, September 15, 2018, will forever be etched in my memory. It was the day I ran in the Oslo Marathon. The race was an experience of a lifetime and right up there with anything I have accomplished before; physically, it is the hardest thing I have ever completed and by some way. Never again!
I made my way around the crowded city streets, through open parks, breathing in the beauty of Norway’s capital. At every turn the roar of the crowd encouraged me along. Loud speakers boomed out music at a tempo that seemed to match the beat of my heart. All was going smoothly. However, at the 35 kilometre mark, out of the blue, every part of my thought process was telling me to stop, to give up, it was no big deal—but deep down I knew it was. And even though my legs were aching like crazy they kept striding out, and the further I went the closer I was to stopping. 500 metres from the finish line, with the end in sight, children held out open palms, numerous high-fives were completed. Before—Mål! It was all over.
Thank you to everyone who sponsored or supported me along the way, I raised £320 for Cancer Reasearch U.K. and The Norwegian Cancer Society.
Outside in the open the pale blue sky like a water colour, broken only by a few soft brushstrokes of white. The sun creeps ever so slowly above the trees on the horizon as day came. On the ground two squirrels chase each other at the foot of a horse chestnut tree; the long shadow of a runner lengthened, striding towards them; their game was over, quickly scurrying up the nearest tree trunk, pausing halfway, casting a watchful eye upon the tall intruder. A bird dashed by and landed on a nearby fence, singing down to a worm it had dropped. It was a time of brightness and of nature and of positivity.
On 15 September I am running in the Oslo Marathon, and for the last seven weeks I have been training hard in anticipation. Running 42km nonstop is going to be the toughest thing I have ever done physically. However, I remain positive and in good spirits, and I am running for two incredibly worthwhile causes: Cancer Research UK and Kreftforeningen (Norwegian Cancer Society).
Please contribute whatever you can on the page below:
Just under four weeks to go now until I lace-up my running shoes on what will likely be a fresh Oslo morning (and hopefully a dry one). I am just over halfway through my training plan, a plan which, so far, I have managed to stick to pretty rigidly. I have covered a total of 241km whilst in each individual run I have managed to keep my average pace below 5 minutes per kilometre, this, in turn will allow me to finish the Marathon in around 3 hours 30 minutes. I have had only a few minor problems with my body so far—sore knees, blisters and the dreaded nipple rubbing.
To date, £240 has been contributed to the cause by friends and family—to which end I am eternally grateful.<3
If you would like to donate you can simply click the link below and by doing so you would be supporting two reputable cancer charities. You can read my full story on my Go Fund me page.