Living in Oslo means a high quality of life

Street art with Oslo, Norwegian flag and a viking helmet. Photo: Benjamin A. Ward

“My department at OsloMet is very international, and I don’t feel foreign working here. It’s a very welcoming place.”

Kristine Heiney from the United States is one of a large and growing number of international academics at OsloMet. The urban university located in the centre of Oslo has succeeded in attracting PhD candidates, post docs, scientists, and professors from all over the world. This university attracts adventurous young adults as well as experienced academics with long careers.

Moving to another country and away from friends, family, and everything you know is a big step. Academically appealing assignments can be enticing, of course. But you may be wondering—why choose a small and cold country in the very north of Europe? Well, for some, the winter is actually part of the attraction.

“I was curious about the northern lights and winter activities,” Ramtin Aryan, a PhD candidate from Iran, tells us. “My interest in Scandinavia started when I was about ten years old.”

A friendly and informal atmosphere

I had read a lot about Scandinavians, and how they can be quiet and hard to get to know. But it was nothing like that. – Ramtin Aryan, PhD candidate originally from Iran

The 34-year-old Iranian came to Oslo in 2016 to pursue a PhD in network administration.

He settled in quickly with plenty of help from his supervisor and other colleagues who later also taught him how to ski.

“I had read a lot about Scandinavians, and how they can be quiet and hard to get to know. But it was nothing like that,” Ramtin recalls. “On the contrary, I was introduced to my colleagues right away—and they are very friendly.”

He adds that he is impressed by how well everything is planned and organised into a schedule. “The department is well managed and yet very relaxed, which is really nice.”

People strolling along a foot path and a bridge across the Akerselva river. Photo: Benjamin A. Ward

After arriving at OsloMet, Ramtin started attending Norwegian language courses. This was a smart move, Ramtin believes, and definitely something he would recommend to others.

“Absolutely! You learn the Norwegian language, but you also get to know staff from other departments. These classes also give you an introduction to Norwegian culture and are in many ways important for your social life during your stay,” Ramtin points out.

Born to ski

Ramtin has since become an avid skier and regularly travels around Norway.

“Since I really like winter and enjoy the snow, living in Oslo is perfect for me. There are lots of tracks for cross country skiing and ski resorts which are just a short bus ride away. I have even been to Geilo, Hemsedal and Finse, popular ski resorts in the mountains”, he says, adding that he now does both cross country and downhill skiing.

While he has been here, he has also visited the city of Tromsø in the northern part of Norway to experience the absence of daylight places to the north of Oslo experience in December and January, along with the northern lights.

Ramtin emphasises that summertime in Oslo is nice as well.

“Oslo is really cosy during both winter and summer; it’s probably the most cosy capital city in the world.  It’s extraordinary that you can easily balance hectic, modern city life with activities in nature. I hope I can stay and get a permanent position at OsloMet after finishing my degree. Living here ensures a high quality of life,” the PhD candidate from Iran insists.

View of boats on the water in Paradisbukta in the Oslo fjord. Photo: Benjamin A. Ward

A world leader on workers’ rights

When we ask US native Kristine Heiney (32) how she likes living in Oslo, she echoes much of what Ramtin had to say.

“I had visited several times before I moved to Oslo in October 2018, so I knew what it was like. Living here offers a great quality of life. When it comes to workers’ rights, it’s probably the best place in the world to get a PhD”, she says.

Kristine is working on a PhD in Computer Science as part of the Living Technology Lab, which is part of the Applied Artificial Intelligence group at the Faculty of Technology, Art and Design.

The US native took a long break between her bachelor’s in engineering physics at Cornell University and her master’s in biomedical engineering, which she completed in Portugal in 2018.

Living here offers a great quality of life. When it comes to workers’ rights, it’s probably the best place in the world to get a PhD. – Kristine Heiney, PhD candidate from the United States

“I realised I wanted to continue in academia,” Kristine tells us. “The academic environment at OsloMet, along with the collaboration with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim was right for me.”

Having spent much of her childhood just outside the world metropolis New York, herself, she finds that Oslo, a city of around 700,000 inhabitants, suits her.

“I really like Oslo; it’s not too big and not too small. I live close to OsloMet and therefore quite close to downtown, so it’s easy to shop and experience the city. At the same time, I have easy access to nature,” the 32-year-old notes.

Like members of one big family

Sergiy Denysov (50)  is a physicist originally from Ukraine who left a position in Germany for a permanent position as professor at OsloMet in February 2019.

“I felt very welcome,” says Sergiy. “It’s a nice working environment and more relaxed than that in German academia.”

His wife joined him in Oslo, while their son remained in Germany where Sergiy lived and worked for 16 years. So far, his experiences in Norway have not made him regret making the move.

“I have limited experience in Norway and can’t really pass any judgement yet. My impressions are mostly about Norwegians who I find to be very friendly, open, and relaxed. There is social cohesion and people feel like members of one big family,” he reflects.

A group of kayakers on the docks gathered around their instructor and their kayaks. Photo: Benjamin A. Ward

When first moving to Norway, the price level was really the only thing that surprised him a bit. He can’t think of any other downsides worth mentioning.

What I like the most about Oslo is the location, with the Oslo Fjord and forests nearby. – Sergiy Denysov, Associate Professor originally from Ukraine

“I cannot name even one. I know that problems and unhappy people are everywhere, but I like to think that people overall are happy here.”

Like Ramtin from Iran and Kristine from the US, the Ukrainian professor speaks warmly about Oslo.

“What I like the most about Oslo is the location, with the Oslo fjord and forests nearby.”

A young and ambitious university

When asked if they would recommend OsloMet and Oslo to others, neither the Iranian, the American, nor the Ukrainian hesitates for even a second.

“Certainly, but I don’t think it’s necessary for me to recommend working here,” says Sergiy. “All my colleagues, when considering the possibility of a tenured position, would put Norway at the top of their lists. OsloMet is a very young and ambitious university, and it is a great place for a researcher to advance his or her career.”

OsloMet's campus building at Pilestredet 32 seen through leaves in golden autumn colours. Photo: Benjamin A. Ward

Kristine is equally emphatic when recommending pursuing a PhD at OsloMet.

“There are a lot of opportunities to do research. You may also get to teach classes and participate in new collaborative projects. It’s a really wonderful environment. My impression is that the professors also enjoy working here. I know I love it,” she says.

 Ramtin agrees with both Kristine and Sergiy.

“There are so many opportunities at this university for those who are motivated to do something new,” he reflects.

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