Reader’s Digest UK started featuring a series called “I Remember” that inspired me to write my own “I Remember” list from my two years of study in Europe. I must have forgotten a lot of things here but I shall keep adding to the list. I look forward to reading your own “I Remember” posts.
I remember applying for a Quota Scholarship at the University of Oslo and they offered me Erasmus Mundus, which was just starting at that time, instead.
I remember almost missing the deadline for sending my letter of acceptance. The packet had been in my room in the province and nobody had told me about it. I hadn’t gone home for three weeks.
I remember coming to a strange land on my own, not knowing a single soul, and felt a warm welcome through the kindly bus driver who, when I got down, also went down and let all the other passengers wait while he took my suitcases from the compartment and then used his mobile to phone a cab for me.
I remember that after only two weeks in Oslo I had met people from over 40 countries, most of whom were scholars. The Tibetans I found the most interesting.
I remember missing home but never for once did I cry, till I met my future husband and his parents. I remember that the trips to England became frequent and I started crying for that place I call my home in Europe, wanting to go back each time.
I remember my funny and great neighbours in Oslo. I remember the empty beer bottles the guys used to leave in the hallway, the slush-covered boots sprawled everywhere and the snow creeping through the fire exit door.
I remember watching my first football game to satisfy my curiosity after hearing people shout and yell all the way from the Ulleval Stadium up in my room in Sogn.
I remember that I suddenly stopped reading for pleasure, and tried to talk to people more and travel as much as I could.
I remember writing a paper and being confused with my own arguments.
I remember Helga Engs Hus at UiO, and how we bought hot water at the café and brought our own tea because everything was so expensive.
I remember going to Grønland, a cheap grocery, for 10 kilos of rice to save NOK10. I remember the burden of carrying it from the T-bane station in Ulleval Stadion up to my room in Sogn, 20-plus minutes away (with small steps). I never did that again.
I remember slipping on the ice, and on ice masquerading to be snow, six or seven times during my first winter in Norway.
I remember how easy it was to jump on a bus to go to Sweden or Denmark from Oslo.
I remember getting used to -15 or -20 degrees of temperature during winter in Finland.
I remember missing Norway a great deal but was grateful for the fact that the people in Finland took care of us more.
I remember summer in Tampere, Finland, the sunsets close to midnight, and the mere four-hour darkness that seemed to have affected the sleep I got as well.
I remember changing my thesis topic three or four times.
I remember literally being close to the Atlantic Ocean; walking on the beach in Barra, Portugal barefooted, the saltwater surprisingly cooler than the very hot sand. I remember sending a “spot the difference” picture to my friend in Oslo, the Georgian poetess, two sets of feet – one in snow, another on the beach. She wrote back: “not fair to be made to take a look at these pair of little feet Norwegian and Portuguese side by side.”
I remember pretty little Aveiro in Portugal reminding me of our very own Vigan. I remember the rainy and windy days that left me soaked to the bones after walking home from the university. I remember wanting to get out of Portugal, fast. I didn’t give it much of a chance as it was really a lovely place, to be fair.
I remember not remembering much of Portugal as I had spent only six weeks there in all, flying half the semester to my adoptive family in England. I remember my future husband driving his British car all the way from England, passing France and Spain, to pick me up from Portugal for Christmas holidays. Coming back to England was the second time we drove around Europe. We have seen most of Western, Southern and Northern Europe since, always favouring driving through the mountains if we could, more than the boring autobahn.
I remember the student trips, the most memorable of which was the train ride from Finland to Russia.
I remember being introduced to the songs of Belle and Sebastian and Leonard Cohen through an Italian neighbour in Oslo. To this day, I still feel nostalgic whenever I hear those songs, remembering those first magical months living alone as a student abroad.
Catherine Batac Walder
University of Oslo, Norway; University of Tampere, Finland and University of Aveiro, Portugal