Hey… again

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hi blog, it’s been a really hectic start of the year!

Exams in all of January, new subjects and continuation of a really big exam in February. That leads me quickly to March. March is the month where the real work of the master thesis goes into the plan. This means one should have an opinion on what you want to write about. There is a big difference in focus between the school in Lillehammer and in Berlin. In Lillehammer, the topic about the thesis begins already during the third semester, whilst in Berlin, it starts in March. That’s almost 6 months difference. Also, in Lillehammer, the entire period from January to May is used for writing. In Berlin, this is reduced from the middle of March until the middle of July. This means there is quite a lot less time to actually work on the thesis. This is not just bad. The positive side is that one will work much more consistently with the thesis.

So, what is the work being done before actually writing the thesis?

First, you need to decide what you want to write the thesis about. In my case, I wanted to write about remote working. I had some thoughts writing about how remote working affects teamwork, but this was too generic according to my supervisor. Some other thoughts I had was “how remote working affected productivity” or “does remote working have a negative impact on productivity”. This was also to generic.

After discussing the topic with my supervisor, we came up with how remote working affects two groups (one group which can work remotely versus a group of employees that can not work remotely) of employees experience any challenges and the perception they might have.

The actual title of the thesis is “The challenges of remote working; a comparison of the perception of remote employees versus traditional office employees.”

When this is figured out, one needs to fill out some forms for the administration and examination office. One of the documents wants you to describe the core focus of the work, outline or structure of the thesis and elaborate what kind of methodology will be used for the thesis. This work can easily take a few days by itself. When the documents are submitted to the administration, you will after some time receive an email from the dean of the school. This email contains information if the subject is accepted or rejected. In my case, it was accepted.

In addition to this, one needs to find relevant empirical information about the topic. This can be really challenging or easy, depending on the topic you want to write about as well as how much research has gone into the topic. In my case, it is somewhat challenging as remote working has changed quite a lot since the term was originally coined (in the late 80’s/early 90’s) compared more recent times (after 2010). It’s also worth mentioning that not only need you find empirical resources, but they also need to be relevant for the thesis.

Some other, but relevant thoughts

This is not something I thought too much about before I started speaking with my supervisor, but the master thesis will define you and your knowledge area. This means the topic should be selected with some reflection in mind. For instance, in what area do you want to work after the master’s is completed? A potential employer can consider you and the master thesis up for a position.

Another point is that the topic will follow you for the period for writing. Make sure to pick a topic that you like, because you will end up disliking it for some time after it’s finished (according to several people I have spoken with).

This is a small update from my end, but feel free to ask my any questions.

Oh, hey blog (week 49)

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hey, dear (forgotten?) blog.

It has now been too long since my last update (1 month). My original excuse for not having internet in the apartment is no longer valid. It might not sound like a big deal, but being without internet (for me) for 2 months was actually challenging, but at the same time somewhat nice. I don’t understand how people are only able to use a mobile phone for internet. However, I began reading some books, which is not really typical me but I must say I actually enjoyed it! I read the book by Simon Sinek named “Start with Why – How great leaders inspire everyone to take action” and the biography about Steve Jobs. I have now started on the biography on Elon Musk and another book named “TED Talks – the official TED guide to public speaking”.

So you might wonder what I have done the last month since the last blog post? I’m glad you asked! I have actually done a variety of activities.

With ANSA, we have done a few activities like a shuffleboard tournament and Christmas party with a good dinner! Both activities were really fun and I really like what we are doing. For Norwegians studying abroad, I would really recommend ANSA for several reasons. 1) Usually, people are in the same situation as yourself and it makes it easy to make a good connection and creates a safety net of people. 2) They have insurance that covers events that could occur and the even have a legal department, so if you get unlucky and having problems with school, work or other instances, they can most probably help you. 3) The activities are usually fun and cost a lot less for members of ANSA, so you’ll easily save in the cost if you attend several activities during a year. 4) If you become a member of the board, it’s a really good experience and way of learning how to plan events as well as sitting on a board.

I have also been standing at the Christmas market for the Swedish and Norwegian church (on behalf of ANSA) which was an interesting event. On the Christmas market, you could buy some groceries and traditional items from the two countries. There was also traditional food sold there. Seeing the expressions of German trying Norwegian waffle with brown cheese was really nice! Most people became fascinated and really liked the caramelized taste of the cheese.

I have been a few places for partying. Some places were pubs and some other places were clubs, and I don’t mean club like you find in Norway where the music consists of playlists with the top 40s. Berlin is known for their electronica and trance and some of the places I have visited was a whole another level! It’s hard to explain the difference, but people, in general, aren’t there to be drunk. Instead, they are there to enjoy the music and have fun. The same clubs have temperatures which make it possible to stay for quite some time compared to Norway where it’s turned up so people buy more to drink. You then feel like asking if I have been to the famous club called “Berghain” and the short answer for that is no. I know several people who have tried and all of them have been rejected by the security guards. But some cool places I have been to is “Ritter Butzke” and “Kater Blau”! Definitely clubs worth checking out if you ever come to Berlin.

I promised to write something about the apartment I currently live in. As mentioned in the previous blog, it is located in a traditional and quiet place west in Berlin. The apartment itself is a traditionally constructed apartment with really high ceilings. I believe it’s 4 meters from the floor to the roof, which makes the room to feel quite big and spacious. The size is 45 square meters, which is more than sufficient for me, but the interesting part is that most apartments in Berlin up to around 50 square meters tend to be one-room apartments. This is, for me anyway, quite unusual. The floors are made of wood in an old-fashioned pattern (like this image). It is also a minimalist style of interior, which is different from most apartments I have seen here in Berlin. The typical interior design tends to be focused on what is nice and needed to have in order to store everything. I am not sure what more to write about the apartment at the moment. If I come up with some idea, I will write in the next post.

However, as Christmas gets closer, it means that I also have exams on the horizon. My first exam is already tomorrow (Monday 11th of December) in German.

It’s not you, it’s me

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Hi Blog,

It’s been a while since my last update. Writing (longer texts) on my mobile phone is not something I’m particularly used to and with limited access to the internet (yet) in my apartment it is somewhat challenging to make good updates. I am sorry for this.

However, I will give some updates on my life in Berlin.

I am used to living a hectic life with many activities side-by-side and Berlin is somewhat different on this. Last semester, I ended having too many activities which became restraining for me. I decided during the summer that my time in Berlin won’t suffer the same challenges (and so far I’m good). However, life isn’t just chill. I have 13 subjects and my part-time job in a startup company.

About a month ago, I joined ANSA (Association for Norwegian Students Abroad) to expand my network with other Norwegians here in Berlin. I also decided to seek on the board for ANSA East Germany and the result became that I am vice president of the board. This must not be mixed with being part of ANSA Germany. The board I am part of, only arrange activities for Berlin and surrounding areas.

The apartment

I promised to write something about my apartment in the last update. As mentioned in a previous article, I decided to hire an apartment via an agency called Home to Home Berlin. The advantage is the apartment is fully furnished. Bedsheets, towels, kitchen equipment for cooking food etc. is available in the apartment. Almost like a hotel, but longer term.

The apartment is located in a district called Wilmersdorf. It is a quiet place with mostly older people in it (as one of the international coordinators said: It’s an old-people-place). The benefit of this place is that it’s close to almost everything. Want to walk to school? Takes 25 mins. Want to go to someplace in the city, no problem. The subway brings me where I need with one or two changes.

German

I currently attend a German-class provided by the school and even though I’m not much of a speaker, I have a better understanding of the language. I say to people I meet that I am like a baby with an understanding of grammar. However, I feel the pace is somewhat slow and have decided to attend a more intensive course after new-year. I do want to be able to speak some German before I head back to Norway.

I will try to make an update soon (at least not as long as the previous update).

Guten abend, blog (week 41)

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

This weeks update will be a little shorter as I have to write from my phone. But I feel good this week. The school has begun and I finally received some positive information about an apartment – officially speaking, I’m moving in tomorrow (Monday). So no more hotels or AirBnb even though the last stay was amazing! Yes, I stayed with a couple and their dog for 6 days and they were incredible sweet people. So nice that we’ve planned to meet again soon. The apartment I have taken over is not located far away from school, approx 30 minutes to walk. This is a good distance which wakes me up in the morning.

The school:

The school (EBC Hochschule) is actually a private school, but because of the exchange program, I only have to pay tuition to the school in Lillehammer. At the same time, I have the same benefits as my peers in class and I’m actually quite satisfied with my class. I was really excited to see what kind of people who’d be in class. It turns out that we are an international class with people from Taiwan, Philippines, India, Germany, Norway, Latvia, Italy, Bulgaria and more. We have a good class dynamics and learn something about cultures every day, which is partially why I searched for an exchange program to begin with – to learn more about cultures. The school system is also quite different than Norway. All subjects are way smaller in terms of credits (ects) – 2 and 3 points. This means I have 11-12 subjects. There is mandatory attendance for all classes and the school regulation says that if you skip more than 3 classes, you can be rejected to enter exam, which is quite different than I previously have experienced. Kind of going back to high school, only tougher in terms of the content in the subjects. It seems to be normal with classes that begin 8:30 in the morning and some days lasts until 17:30, so some days can be quite long(!). Especially compared to the classes in Lillehammer where we could have entire weeks shorter than this. But this is a matter of transition and would feel natural over some time.

Berlin – the city

I have now been here more than one week and feel like I understand more of the dynamics. For one, the city is way bigger than I anticipated. Two, I have seen outfits that I will never be able to understand or grasp the meaning of. But this is also some of the charm down here. My impression is that Berlin is a beautiful city with many parks in the city and feels safe regardless to where I walk.

When it comes to nightlife and cultural scene, I yet don’t have much to report other than a few tourist visits like a visit to Brandenburgen Tor, the home of Angela Merchel, and ring outside the museums on Museum Island.

Everyday life

Because I have limited access to internet, I have started to read a book by Simon Sinek. The same person in the interview about “the problem with millennials“. The book I’m reading is called “Start with Why – how great leaders inspire everyone to take action”. I bought this book because I find a fascination in his interviews on YouTube. If you haven’t seen any videos about him, I highly recommend doing so! There are many topics he touches into, but the general aspect is leadership and inspiration. I find these topics to be really interesting as this affects, basically, everyday life.

I have also been hanging out with Line, my classmate for the tourist activities and I must admit that it’s quite strange to now being able to call friends to ask if they want to hang out as I could back in Norway.

Next Sunday I will tell more about the apartment.

First Sunday update!

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Hi blog,

My first regular update and from now, I will give updates on a weekly basis. I am, however, unsure of the format so any input would be appreciated! So, what have I done this week?

Wednesday:

After I settled in at the hotel (and slept for 1 1/2 hour), I spent some time to walk around in the district (Charlottenburg) and it felt almost like home; clean streets, a lot of cafés and shopping options. However, the shops I saw, reminded me of 5th ave in New York. To name a few; Versace, Moncler, Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Hublot, Hermés

You know the deal… Expensive stores in a fashionable area. I also saw a lot of more expensive cars in the neighborhood like Porsches, Lamborghini, Bentley etc. I guess Charlottenburg is the rich part of town, whereas other districts may be more hipster-ish or even chill-out. I will find out at an later stage and give an update. After viewing the area, I went to find food and ended up at an nice Italian restaurant. Just like the district, the food was pricey, but at the same time really delicious! You may wonder what I ended up eating? Haha, my secret! Just kidding; I ate at a place called “Mondo Pazzo”, which is an Italian place. Don’t know why, but I had a craving for Italian food. After dinner, I went back to the hotel and more or less went to sleep.

Thursday:

Waking up on Thursday, I wanted to check the news and social media before heading out. It turns out the WiFi at the hotel sucks and if I have my computer at the desk, I can’t receive a signal. If I put the computer on one of the shelves (40-50 cm above the desk, I can get a signal). I ended up going to the local Starbucks instead.

I had an appointment with the agency providing the apartment I spoke of in a previous blog entry, but it turned out that I had misunderstood the setup. They had originally sent me an email of apartments that fit my requirements and I should have replied which one I wanted to visit. Instead, I met up at their office and they became confused about this (which makes total sense in hindsight). We did speak about some apartments and they would setup a viewing session for me. They would then call me to confirm the time and availability for the apartment.

After this, I went to a shopping mall called KADEWE (short for Kaufhaus des Westens). This is a warehouse similar to Harrods in London or Steen & Strøm in Norway. I knew I was in need of a new jacket and this was todays shipping quest. I must have spent between 1-2 hours because I was done close to 15:00 and I was in need of something to eat. I found a place via Yelp, called “Dolores” which is a mexican-inspired food place, which I really would recommend! It kept me full for many hours and it was cheap. I then walked home via “Kurfürstendamm” which is the shopping street with the expensive shops I saw on Wednesday. When I came back to the hotel, I ended up taking a power nap (which felt much needed). At the evening, I met up with my classmate to eat dinner. We decided to go for German food, and we went to a place called “Repke Spätzlerei & Flammkuchen” which I found to be a good place. I ordered  something called a french pizza. This uses a very thin bottom, which makes it crisp and with simple topping it’s a fairly light dish.

After this, we separated and I went back to the hotel.

Friday:

I was on the school for the first time to meet up with the coordinator for the international students and select what subjects I will have this semester. It felt good to actually see the facilities of the school. I found out the school have its own roof terrace! This will become handy during the coming spring to refill my lack of vitamin D. This will also be nice for socializing and we’re even allowed to use it for barbeques!

After school, I went to view the apartment I was offered from the agency. Even though it’s expensive, it turns out that the entire market in Berlin has skyrocketed the last two years, so it’s kind of the expected price. I did go through the apartment and it looked just like the pictures. I said to the real estate agent that I would send an email later the same day, to let her know if I accept the apartment. I later found out the apartment is available from October 4th (Wednesday) because the current tenant have gone on vacation. Turns out there is a national holiday on Tuesday. I took a stroll in what should be my new neighborhood, just to see what it’s like. I turns out that its close to a park, some cafes, grocery stores etc. In general, located in a central, but quiet place in the city. As someone I know would have said, in a old-people-place. However, I’m primary here for studies (or so I believe, so far).

The same afternoon, I was invited to see where my fellow classmate is located. I stopped by, and talked with the landlords (a family) who live in the same apartment. Turns out they are super-friendly and big fans of Norway! So much that the man is going to Norway soon to look for jobs. After spending some time in the apartment, we went to eat at an Irish restaurant named “Celtic Cottage”. Also a place I would recommend.

Saturday:

I woke up, went to Starbucks to use their WiFi and searching for some place to stay from Sunday to Wednesday and ended up eating both breakfast and lunch there. It felt really good to have (proper) access to Wifi! I sent an email to a AirBNB host to ask if I could stay there from Sunday to Wednesday. I also used the time to decide if I should find another place to stay this semester and compare prices. Turns out the price difference is not as big as first anticipated and there is a park to speak with someone in English if there should be some problems with the apartment as I don’t speak German yet. It’s one of my goals to learn German during my stay in Berlin (there, I said it out loud). Later during the day, the landlords for my classmate wanted us to join them for a walk in the city to show us around. We spent a few good hours walking around in the district of Steglitz. Later on, we went to eat at an Indian restaurant. This was cheap and fairly good for the price, but not fully comparable to some of the places I have eaten in Oslo.

Sunday:

I had to check out from the hotel at 10:30. This felt kind of early compared to most other hotels I have stayed in, but let’s play by the rules of the hotel in order to not be charged for another day. I had also received feedback from the AirBNB host that I was more than welcome to their place! Yes (!), I thought to my self. Not ideal in terms of temporary home, but at least a place with a person I can speak with in contrary to the “hotel” I was staying at. I went to Starbucks to browse through the internet and I was invited to my classmate todays as well. For some unknown reason (at least to us) most shops were open today. They are usually closed on Sundays, just like in Norway. As my classmate had some need for some stuff to the room, we decided to go to IKEA. I actually believe this is my first trip to IKEA outside Norway (such wow, right?). Turns out we were not the only one to go there. I actually don’t believe I have seen so many people in one warehouse before! But nevertheless, it’s good to know where it’s located and how to get there. I probably need to go there when I move into the actual apartment for the semester myself. More on this later.

This has been my week so far, but again, I’m not sure if the format becomes too long or if I should keep it? Have you been able to read through the wall of text?

Guten tag, Berlin!

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

It’s been a while since my last post, but finally, the fun begins. I ordered my plane ticket on Friday and on Wednesday at 12:15, my plane took off, heading for Berlin. There is no undo-button for this and I’m throw myself into the feeling that I’m actually on my way to Berlin! It feels both exciting and somewhat weird for several reasons. The past weeks, I’ve spent quite a lot of time at work and the weeks simply flew by without me fully realized it. Because of this, I wasn’t able to say (temporarily) good bye to a lot of friends and it actually sucks. It’s just my fault and my friends should deserve better. Luckily, Berlin is just 1,5 hours away from Oslo with the air plane, so it’s not like it’s impossible to meet/catch up. At the same time, I’m ready for an new era in my life; something I haven’t done before. I’m ready for Berlin and its challenges.

First impressions:

So, I arrived in Berlin and these are my first impressions: the airport (Schöneberg) was surprisingly small. It was easy to find my way around the airport and people were both kind and helpful. My luggage arrived quickly and now I needed to find out how to get in to the city.

After speaking with the information desk, I bought tickets for the train and S-bahn (a metro driving above the ground). It was easy, convenient and cheaper than anticipated. I’d recommend this for all visitors.

Another trait is the data traffic being possible to use in EU without any additional cost! I have used maps most of the day to get around. A reason for using maps is that many people in Berlin (at least those I have bumped into) speaks very little English. This can become a challenge as I don’t speak any German except for being able to tell my name, order a small or large beer. Not everyday language for most occasions. Regardless of the language, I have been able to find food and grocery stores, so I won’t go hungry here.

When it comes to places to stay, I ended up paying for a hotel. I expected it would be easy to find a place to stay, but I forgot that Oktoberfest is about to begin… Luckily, I will be displayed some apartments tomorrow via an agency which rent out furnished places. Yes, this does cost more, but at the same time, I don’t have to spend time finding furniture, transporting them to some place to stay and not but not least, I don’t have to deal with selling the same furnitures towards the summer when I’ll be moving back to Norway! I my opinion, it’s totally worth it for the short amount of time I’ll be here (less than a calendar year). If I, however, were to study here for two years or more, I would have invested more in the apartment and furniture as it would have been much cheaper over the years.

My impression of the city is that it’s clean, friendly and easy to get around, in many ways like Oslo. The biggest difference would be the size itself. Berlin is a much larger city and getting from point A to B, obviously takes longer. I have heard each district has its own center, which is somewhat different than Oslo (or other cities I am familiar with).

Tomorrow, I will also meet up with my fellow classmate from Lillehammer and it will be an exciting time for the two of us because we are the only one from Norway (I believe) and the first students to join the double degree exchange programme.

Summary:

To summarize my first day in Berlin, this is a city I am very excited to gain more knowledge about and explore to greater lengths as opposed to be a tourist here.

English test and some administrative work

Reading Time: 1 minute

After I received the acceptance letter, I were told to upload relevant documents so the school could process student card and the administrative process.

So, so far, I have uploaded documents like ID to ensure my identity, picture of myself for use on the student card, transcript of records from my current studies and other official documents related to health and security.

I have also had to complete an english test. This is to measure my level of the language. This is graded from A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2, where A1 is lowest and C2 the highest. The reason for measuring my level is two-fold. 1) To be certain that I will be able to follow classes and general school-related information. 2) to see if my English improve during the stay. I did score C2 on all sections except C1 for one section.

The next step on my way is to find an apartment. This will be a process somewhat different than Norway. One of the big differences is that rentals are done per month in Germany, but in Norway, this is usually performed with a contract for a specific amount of time. Usually 1 year or more. Of course, this does not apply for exchange students only being in Norway for 1 semester.

I have also spoken with people about going to Berlin. As I have never been in Berlin myself, they all keep saying I am going to love it(!). I just hope my expectations for Berlin isn’t too high, thus making me becoming disappointed for some reason. Just like when a movie are being talked up in the clouds and when you see it yourself, you just thinks everyone exaggerated.

Next post will probably more about finding a place to stay and the process around it.

Yes, I’m moving to Berlin!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

My intention is to post weekly updates, but before the actual move date, there will be a limited set of entries, i.e., the process from my first acceptance, my expectations to Berlin, determine where to live, talk with other students and friends that have been in Berlin on recommendations and places to see.

I will start with my first thoughts from when I received the acceptance mail from the international office at school. It stated that I was accepted for my first choice of school, which were Berlin (EBS Hochshüle) with a double degree. I had to read the email a few times before I realized what this meant. Yes, I am moving to Berlin! …and I will be living there for two semesters due to the double degree. So what is the double degree you might ask? According to Wikipedia; “a double degree involves a student’s working for two different university degrees in parallel, either at the same institution or different institutions (sometimes in different countries), completing them in less time than it would take to earn them separately. The two degrees might be in the same subject area (especially when the course is split between countries), or in two different subjects.”

Readers probably wonder why I did not choose another place than Berlin. I could’ve chosen Australia, USA or Asia, which seems more exciting or exotic at first glance. Moreover, with some more planning, I could probably have chosen schools that aren’t even supported by our school at the moment. However, one of my reasons is the double degree itself. Berlin was the only option with this, whereas all other exchange options only last one semester. I know from friends that have been exchange students keep saying one semester is usually too short of a period to actually experience the host country and getting to know new people.

This also means that my stay in Lillehammer only lasted one year instead of the planned two years. However, Lillehammer versus Berlin – quite an easy choice, right? My friends in Lillehammer is not so sure as this means I am leaving them behind.

My first post!

Reading Time: 1 minute

This is my first post on this blog. I will use this blog to share my experiences throughout the year abroad in Berlin. Read more about why I have created this blog in the section “About this blog“.