LI Si Yeung FS2014-15, City University of Hong Kong | to Norway
This is the third week since I have been back to Hong Kong. It is good to be home again, but also I am glad that I have gone through such an amazing 5-month exploration, in which I had wonderful experiences and learnt countless lessons.
Before going on exchange, I tried to set up goals in order to better prepare myself for a meaningful journey. But as always, I wanted to do so many things, from learning Norwegian, getting immersed in and learning from another teaching and learning style, to travelling around Europe. Concerning that I only had at most 5 months aboard, I know I had to narrow down my goals.
It had been a hard decision, but finally 3 goals were set. First, I would like to leave myself some time everyday, to relax and think. When I was in Hong Kong, I always wanted to fill up my time with various activities, from long-distance running to playing piano; from participating in volunteering work to organizing training camps for psychology freshmen. My life then was fruitful, but at the same time, my schedule were too packed that I did not have time to digest the things learnt in the activities. As a result, I sometimes had no idea what I was doing. I knew that was not going to work. Taking the chance of going on exchange, I decided to give myself a break, giving myself free time to retrieve the pace of life.
Therefore, when I was in Oslo, I allowed myself time doing nothing on purpose, just brainstorming, reading books, listening to music, wandering on the street, noting down the interesting things I found during the day, and writing dairy. I enjoyed these moments a lot. These moments were recharging, a feeling that I had never had in the past few years. My mind then became clear again and inspirations popped up from time to time; I was much happier and learning much faster.
Besides refreshing myself, as interested in the field of education, I would also like to learn from the teaching and learning style in Oslo. For the courses I took in the University of Oslo (UiO), the professors’ teaching styles were quite distinct from that in my home university, the City University of Hong Kong (CityU). In UiO, most of the courses I took did not have a textbook, but only relevant journal articles. In the lectures, teachers mainly summarized the weekly readings and encouraged discussions on related topics. So rather than passively receiving knowledge, the lectures provided a platform for students to exchange their ideas on the topics which helped students to understand the main ideas of the articles, as to facilitate students’ learning at home. For learning the basic ideas, it mostly depended on students themselves.
Comparing to the teaching style in Hong Kong, there were considerable differences. Firstly, most of the courses in CityU had textbooks as the main teaching materials, supplementing with journal articles. During the lectures, lecturers would illustrate the main ideas in the related topic and teach the basic concepts in the topic. Not as much interactions were in lectures in CityU as those in UiO. Secondly, as the lectures’ focus was on discussions among students, most lecturers in UiO expected students to read through the articles before lectures, so everyone can exchange things they had learnt from the articles with each others, in order to facilitate learning in both sides, both the one explaining the ideas and the one listening. While in CityU, as most of lectures focused on teaching course contents, though it would also be preferred for students to read through the book chapters before lectures, students usually went to lectures expecting to learn everything they need to know in the topic. These observations for sure could not be generalized to every student, but these somehow captured part of the phenomenon.
After learning in UiO, and discussing this issue with one of my floormate, a professor in architecture from Kenya, I thought preparing before class would greatly improve learning in class and understanding of the topic. But at the same time, textbook could be included and teachers could explain more on the basic concepts so it could raise students’ interest in the relevant topics, and a solid knowledge base could be built before moving on to studying the more advanced journal articles.
Concerning the learning atmosphere in UiO classes, it was quite a surprise. Before attending classes, I thought pupils in UiO would ask lots of questions in class. But what I experienced was that it was so quiet in class that I could clearly hear someone flipping their notebook in the huge lecture hall. Perhaps the Norwegian culture was one possible way to explain this phenomenon. According to one of my Norwegian friends, there is an idea called the Law of Jante, which was suggested by a Dano-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose. It described how outstanding individual successes and achievements were criticized in the Scandinavian societies and group behaviors were much favored. It might be to certain degree extravagated, but still it might have illustrated certain characteristics common in Norwegians. People might be more reserved under these societies, while equality among people are much valued and emphasized.
Looking at a culture from the view of an outsider was always interesting, in a way that it often challenged my world view, and always reminded me to stay open-minded. When I first arrived at Oslo, I found that when I tried to look into people’s eyes, they were all avoiding eye contacts. Besides, during weekends and holidays, Norwegians love going to cabins and spend days in little wooden houses. These houses have neither electricity nor water supply. Living in one would be like living in the wild. Though many students from other countries found this hobby hard to understand, I very much appreciate the idea of going primitive. As nowadays people are surrounded by all kinds of up-to-date information and technologies, life seems meaningless if phones and Internet are taken away. Although spending holiday in such conditions may have gone to another extreme, the idea of living a simper life is inspiring.
For these cultural practices, different aspects in life might have contributed to its formation, including the living habits, socio-economical situation and historical reason. Concerning this, I had an unforgettable experience in Prague. When I travelled to Prague, I could hardly find smiles on people’s faces, even when they were talking to their friends. Also, I found them easily got angry. Later during a conversation with my hostel host, I mentioned about it and asked if it was common in Prague. My host said it was quite common, and maybe it was due to the historical reason. She said that in the past, people in the Czech Republic lived under monitoring, feeling like there was always someone watching them. That might have caused distrust among people. After that period, the Czech Republic has opened up to other parts of the world, where various people and cultures were rushing into the country. It might still take time for the people there to trust their fellow countrymen, so not to mention people from other places. Although I have read about the history of the Czech Republic before travelling, the feeling was never that intense when being there. This experience had encouraged me to travel more, for seeing and feeling the world.
This thought resonated with my final goal: Stepping out of my comfort zone and to be myself. During my exchange, I had met people from all around the world, some of them became my close friends, with whom I had wonderful moments and memories. A Barcelonan girl had become my good friend and now we still keep in touch every week; an amazing Norwegian women I met when coach-surfing in Stavanger had taught me that a simple life can also be wonderful, encouraged me to live my life in the way I love and had showed me how brave, independent, and powerful a women could be when she had a strong belief in mind; a Kenyan professor, an Colombian accessories designer and an American lady who made delicious cheesecakes had made me realized that when I am doing the thing I love, I will do it with all my passion. In this case, others will feel it, be influenced and moved by it. Other than these people, too many others were to be mentioned, who have inspired me in different ways. All these amazing men and women had taught me the most unforgettable and valuable lessons, motivating me to keep exploring the world. If I was not so brave and take a step forward to see the world, every single one of these encounters would never have happened.
Reviewing the goals that I set before going on exchange, I am glad that I had fulfilled most of them to a great extent. I had never dreamed that I could achieve any of these during my university studies, but Li & Fung Scholarships has given me the hope. With its support, I dare to dream for such a wonderful journey and had even realized it. The scholarship has allowed me to discuss psychology topics with experts and talents from different parts of the world in UiO, get immersed in a distinct culture, and had provide a platform for me to communicate with other Fung scholars from all around the world to continue my journey of exploring. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my scholarship donor, Victor and William Fung Foundation Limited, for offering me the exchange scholarship and allowing me to dream.