This is the second of two guest blog posts by students who attended this year’s Peace Research course at the International Summer School 2015.
My visit to Oslo, Norway, to participate in the International Summer School always had an element of pleasant surprise. It was my first time visiting; straight from the end of the Indian summer to the cool comfort of the country of the midnight sun. Awestruck by the abundant nature, a fellow student and I slowly made our way into the Blindern dormitory. It really took a while to settle down. As we missed the registration part, there were a few issues which people over here were more than happy to sort out for us. I was part of the Peace Research course, and a series of stimulating classes started the next day.
It was unlike a typical teacher-taught lecture, with breaks in-between classes with visits to PRIO & sightseeing tours to various historic landmarks of Oslo spicing up the experience. One of the most important things I liked about the programme was that each class was fresh in its own right, with lecturers bringing in first-hand insights from their own research experience in the field. Another high point was the cabin trip which will remain etched in my mind for a long time to come; the ambience, the food, the hospitality, Mother Nature, and the workshop by the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue were really an overdose of what we could have asked for. Every time I thought that this is it, a bigger experience was waiting for us.
Midway through the course, we went on an excursion to the Telemark province. It is an understatement, but for lack of words I would only say that it was such a beautiful journey. A bit of glorious Norwegian history, a slice of life in the countryside, a group of friends and a beautiful guide. It left me speechless. I was whispering into the ear of my friend: “I think we have more than we can live with!”
People in Norway are so beautiful, a heady mix of humility, simplicity, and modernity. A place which loves its celebrated history and is ready to contribute to world peace. A visit to the Nobel Peace Center lifts up the spirit with hope. People here are very open to differences but also at the same time, they love not to talk too much. Every time I would ask for some information on the streets, some of them would choose to respond by taking out their gadgets to trace the location, for instance.
My thanks to Anne (PRIO’s summer school coordinator) for warning us beforehand about the Norwegian way of doing things. Non-Norwegians, as most of the names of streets, people and utilities are written in Norwegian, sometimes face problems in finding places, shops, etc. However, the small idyllic cities are not difficult places to negotiate. Summer in Norway actually comes with a festive feel – like in India. After just one month, I now know a minimum of functional Norwegian words!
My impressions would be incomplete without a line on the course coordinator and co-participants. Wenche and Anne were so nice, the stay here became something like a home away from home. Meticulous in their planning and in keeping the diverse interests of the international participants in mind, we could have asked for nothing more. Students in the Peace Research course are generally very talented in bringing in peace and conflict narratives from their respective countries, but I did learn that one has to be quick in making friends if one does not want to be left out. And, if there’s is an examination hanging over one’s head, one is bound to feel the heat. Friends, nature, learning, shopping, music, and food – everything takes a backseat.