As part of my bachelor’s degree, I had the opportunity to embark on an Erasmus exchange student experience. Which, as you may have gathered, aligns perfectly with my penchant for international adventures. My quest for an interesting exchange program led me to explore options not only within Europe but also beyond its borders. However, I quickly discovered that the costs associated with exchanges outside of Europe were prohibitively high. Some fortunate students benefit from programs that establish partnerships with specific institutions located beyond Europe. Making such opportunities more financially feasible. Unfortunately, my university didn’t fall into that category.
Initially, I focused my search on exchange programs in Southern Europe, as I was naturally drawn to the idea of basking in warmer climates. It seemed like a logical choice. Yet, much to my chagrin, I couldn’t find any programs in that part of Europe that aligned with my academic interests and personal preferences. And that’s how I found myself on the path to Norway. Preparing to embrace the Scandinavian winter—a prospect that admittedly didn’t thrill this tropical soul.
My experience as an Erasmus exchange student
I enrolled in the exchange program at the Inland University of Applied Sciences, nestled in the quaint town of Evenstad, Norway. You’re likely not familiar with Evenstad, and that’s entirely understandable. This town owes its existence primarily to the presence of the university, which, incidentally, is quite small. To give you a sense of scale, the university boasts approximately 200 students and a staff of around 50 members.
Evenstad is situated alongside the picturesque Glomma River. A serene location nestled about a 3-hour drive north of Oslo, Norway’s capital city. The closest larger town is a 20-kilometre journey away, making grocery shopping a bit of an adventure. Especially for those of us exchange students who arrived without a car. In such situations, forming friendships with local residents who owned cars became a crucial part of daily life!
An Enriching Campus Experience
The university’s remote and secluded location in Evenstad, Norway, was something I absolutely cherished. It offered a unique blend of academics and nature that enriched my experience. The presence of a moose centre right on campus meant that it was not uncommon to see these majestic creatures strolling nearby. So, in the moment I wasn’t engrossed in lectures, assignments, or exams. I found myself either observing the moose, wandering along the tranquil riverbanks, or exploring the expansive surrounding forests.
My arrival in Norway during the second week of August 2018 allowed me to savour a bit of summer weather. However, the warmth didn’t last long. By October, the first snowfall had already arrived, and I felt like a kid again. Growing up in the Netherlands, I’d never experienced substantial snowfall. The little snow we did get tended to melt away within hours. But here in Evenstad, the snow just kept falling, and I had the time of my life. I revelled in making snow angels, attempting head rolls, sledging down hills, and engaging in countless snowball fights. As the Erasmus exchange student experience neared its end, just before Christmas, temperatures plummeted to a bone-chilling -25 degrees Celsius. While I can’t say I relished those freezing temperatures, I’m grateful for the experience. It was all part of living in Norway and made my exchange truly unforgettable.
Transformative Moments in Norway
Moreover, my transformative moments extended beyond academics. Standing atop Tronkberget, a mountain just outside of campus, and witnessing the first snowfall in a place so far from my comfort zone was a surreal and transformative experience. Similarly, I attempted cross-country skiing for the first time with my newfound friends. Where every glide felt like a small victory, was both humbling and exhilarating.
But it wasn’t just the outdoor adventures that left their mark. Simple evening walks along the moose enclosure with fellow Erasmus exchange students fostered bonds and friendships that will last a lifetime. The frigid dip in the river during a baptism event, a rite of passage to officially become a student of the university, symbolized the challenges and triumphs of my exchange journey. These moments, although not directly related to my academic pursuits, played a pivotal role in shaping who I am today and enriched my overall experience.”
Erasmus Exchange Student Experience
The specific Erasmus Exchange program I enrolled in was the Ecology and Conservation program. This specialized curriculum delved into various aspects of conservation, evolutionary biology, population dynamics, and wildlife research, all with a strong focus on ecology. It might sound quite fancy, and indeed, it was. I opted for this program because I believed it would fill important gaps in my knowledge. My bachelor’s degree primarily centred on forest management, encompassing both natural and plantation forests. While this foundation was valuable, I recognized the need to deepen my understanding of forest ecology and its inhabitants for my future career. This program was the perfect opportunity to acquire that crucial knowledge and skill set.
The Erasmus student exchange program I embarked upon has proven to be instrumental in shaping my career path. While the academic aspects of the exchange certainly enriched my knowledge of ecology and conservation. It played an even more pivotal role in helping me secure a coveted spot in my preferred Master’s program, focusing on tropical ecology and the management of natural resources. The exposure I gained during my time in Norway expanded my horizons and deepened my understanding of ecological systems and biodiversity conservation.
Moreover, the experiences and lessons I gathered from my time abroad solidified my passion for conservation. As a tropical ecology and management of natural resources enthusiast. The Erasmus exchange program was the stepping stone that opened doors to higher learning opportunities in the field I am truly passionate about. It provided me with the knowledge and background I needed to excel in my future studies and embark on a fulfilling career dedicated to preserving our planet’s natural wonders.
Subjects from Ecology and Conservation
During this exchange program, we delved deep into various fascinating subjects within ecology and conservation. Our coursework covered a wide array of topics. Including the intricacies of animal mate selection, the workings of natural selection, the processes behind species evolution, and the dynamics of interactions between prey and predators. We also explored the world of parasitism and the diverse survival strategies employed by different animal species.
Furthermore, we delved into the identification of biodiversity hotspots and learned how to assess their value, potential threats, and the factors leading to species extinction. One of the most engaging experiences was conducting research on voles, and investigating their population dynamics. This research allowed us to explore trophic interaction cycles, deciphering how changes in prey populations influence predator numbers and vice versa.
Want to support my work?
I spend a lot of time keeping this website filled with educational content and keeping updates about what I do to achieve my dream of working and living in Africa. Do you want to support me? You can buy me a coffee or purchase one of my digital prints. All proceeds will go towards my elephant research and the time spent on this website.