By Nia Thomas, (University of Bergen, Norway).
‘Scandic’ hotels are scattered around the beautiful city of Bergen, Norway. Currently, these lodges are full of international students; all patiently waiting (for at least seven days) to be set free, and to be allowed to start a new chapter of their student experience in unfamiliar surroundings. I arrived at my quarantine hotel three days ago, shifting a massive suitcase through the reception area and up into a room where I will be spending my first ever week as an erasmus+ student.
The rooms within these hotels are spacious, with ivy green walls and grey curtains that contrast against the bright light which emanates from a large window. There is an ironing board, a hairdryer and seven different types of lighting for me to choose from. However, unlike any British ‘Travelodge’, there is no kettle- my first culture shock so far.
I’m required to spend every day here; with breakfast, lunch and dinner served straight to my door for the whole week- graciously paid for by my host university. Before arriving, I was told horror stories of what these meals would consist of and taste like. Hence, I was pleasantly surprised when I was given the breakfast of a peanut-butter jam sandwich with a passionfruit yogurt, and a carton of orange juice. Although consistently packaged in the same brown paper bag with disposable wooden knives and forks (very eco-friendly), the lunch and dinner have been different every day so far. My meals have ranged from cheese tomato wraps, to feta salads, to some sort of onion soup. As a vegetarian, I missed out on the ‘ham and cheese squeezy tube’ given to the other students, and part of me is bitterly disappointed in this fact.
Of course, quarantining has connotations to boredom and dullness. But I have tried to disassociate myself from this negative conception of isolation, preferring to view this short period of time as a chance to prep myself on understanding what the year ahead of me is going to look like. In other words, I’ve read up on my course modules and installed ‘duolingo’. To add weight to this beneficial use of my time here, I get to take unlimited walks for fresh air! Plus, there is no time cap on these strolls- something I have taken full advantage of. I have only had a glimpse of the city so far, and already I am overwhelmed by the beauty of the area. Gazing at the mismatch of colourful architecture, seen both on the seafront and down cosy lanes, is like looking at a traveller’s mood board on Pinterest.
Even though I am only really viewing Bergen through the literal lens of a hotel window, I feel like it has now sunk in that I am actually in a foreign country; with no real connections or familiar faces to turn to. There’s no way to sugar coat the feeling of uneasiness that comes with this realisation. The only way for me to feel better about it is to think about the next ten months ahead of me, and all the experiences that ultimately attach themselves to studying in a country that’s not my home. I’m scared but I’m mostly excited, and I’m glad I have this week in quarantine to think about these feelings- before I delve straight into my new life as a student in Norway.