Foto: Boyka Todorova

Dear Travel-Diary,

This is Johanna writing. I just started my first weeks of my exchange Semester at the UiT – The Arctic University of Tromsø. And would like you to support me memorizing my experiences.

When it comes to the question of taking part in an exchange program people might come up with two positive ideas of it. The careerists may argue that, even if you might lose half a year in your CV, you might on the other hand be benefited on the job market later. Because it will be appreciated that you had been keen enough to take this step and you may have developed more cross-cultural competences than your competitors. The more esoteric people might say that leaving your comfort zone and head off to a foreign country all on your own is a great way to find yourself.

So now here I am in Tromsø as an exchange student for none of those reasons. First of all I decided to come because I woke up one day realising I want to go to Norway! Second because my Institute offers two studentships each semester for this University here in the far North. This is actually a funny thing because I am doing German Studies and as it appears they do not teach any German in Tromsø. Nonetheless I decided to spend a semester in Tromsø to broaden my mind.

Photo: Johanna Schirra
Photo: Johanna Schirra

So now that I am here and started to settle, I wonder about what kind of effects these upcoming months may have upon myself. Some people – even some of my friends – believe that I might come back home as a totally different person as the one I´ve been when leaving my hometown. And although I would not completely agree on this idea I can´t deny that I expect some changes to happen. And for those changes I want to hold on to this diary/blog/logbook-thing. Continuing to write about my expectations and experiences I hope to finally create a picture of the influences of my journey to different aspects of my personality and skills.

So let´s start with a list of my personal expectations:

  1. Improvement of English language skills (written and spoken)
  2. Acquisition of a new language (obviously Norwegian)
  3. Cross-cultural experiences (getting to know different nationalities, dive into arctic culture)
  4. Leaving the famous comfort zone and grab awesome experiences by this!

Since this is now my third week in Tromsø, some of these points have already been scratched. But all of these things are ongoing processes and so we will have to wait and see what happens. Reading these reports later might give an overview of the further development of these things. As for example (hopefully) in my written English skills. So far I can tell that I definitely started to use more English in everyday life. Though this might be obsolete to mention I have to say that there are so many German exchange students that it might be possible to get along quite well with speaking German. I also started learning Norwegian. There is this sweet open minded church community, who invited all new students to have homemade dinners during the first weeks of the semester. They also have a Norskkafé every second week that I started to attend. Only by listening to the church members and trying to repeat some phrases I already felt to improve my sense for this new language. Of course there are also a lot of similarities to German, so that it might not be too complicated for me to learn Norwegian.

Photo: Johanna Schirra
Photo: Johanna Schirra


In the first days in Tromso I went hiking, camped in the open nature and made myself talk to a lot of different people. So maybe the “leaving the comfort zone”-idea is already starting to take place. Until now I feel really good living in Tromso. I met a lot of wonderful and outgoing people and everyone from Tromso I talked to welcomed me heartily here.

So far for the first month. Let´s see what experiences September is going to offer!