Thursday, September 09, 2021

Go north!

 I have gone north. This update comes to you from just north of the polar circle, Nord University in Bodø. If you need to google that, you are not alone. Until a few years ago, Nord University Bodø was Bodø University College, along the same lines and Volda University College, where I worked for 19 years. It is a small, messy place which has grown in different direction based on interest, need, politics, convenience and opportunities. There is no clear plan that can be easily identified from the outside, and while there is a strong profile, it is as much forced by geography (arctic, local, indigenous) as designed. These small universities in the Norwegian periphery grow from the inside, based on necessity and possibility, rather than from the outside, based on grand visions and planning. They are the medieval city center rather than the renaissance park of educations.

Being here feels like coming home, but at the same time, I left that renaissance park behind. As I step in under the low ceilings of the 80-ies architecture, climb the red brick stairs and settle between the light yellow walls, I miss the steel and glass of ITU, the flights of fancy dominating the atrium instead of the snug warmth of the offices. However, here people can speak to each other. The Norwegian habit of bringing your own lunch means most are settling down around the same table unpacking their sandwiches of dark bread, having homegrown vegetables and sharing homegrown fruit. The directness that feels like such an alien thing when I speak to my colleagues at ITU is the norm here, with sharp jokes, insolent comments and quick teasing, with everybody unapologetically getting into all business being revealed in the open. This is Norway too - if you are a stranger, you are shielded, but if you are in, you are in for it all, every impulsive thought played out for better or for worse. I had forgotten I missed this, the language letting me be quick and sharp back without slowing down to shape the words carefully to be understood, the body language so easy to read, the actions and habits to easy and normal.

Things may still change. Whether I stay north or go back south depends on a range of circumstances falling into place. The main reason I am here is to be in Norway, with my husband and children, and not trapped at the other side of a border, our visits determined by quarantine laws, not desire to be together. But as for now, I am planning for a future in Bodø, building a master in journalism and strategic communication, and this place being as open to opportunity and invention as it is, I am building the education I really want to offer. It will be exiting to see it play out.

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