Monday, August 12, 2013

Yearly Update

Well, I'm a bit ashamed to see that it's been almost one year since I managed to write a blog post! but hear me out - it's been a busy year! Here's what I've been up to:

School wise

Fall Semester:
  • 1 presentation
  • 4 papers throughout the semester
  • 1 Norwegian written exam
  • 1 Norwegian oral exam
  • 3 x 3 hour cumulative essay exams 
  • 1 x 4 hour cumulative essay exam
  • 1 x 48 hour Case exam (Solve a case and write a 12 page solution in 48 the middle of all your other exams)
  • 1 x 12 page final paper
Spring Semester:
  • 2 presentations
  • 1 mid-term paper
  • Master Thesis presentation and preliminary proposal
  • 4 Term papers (15-20 pages, including one on Multivariate Data Analysis Statistics - ahh)
  • 1 x 3 hour cumulative essay exam

and those are just the graded items - I can't even begin to quantify the hours of stress, class preparation, group meetings and group editing sessions, and trying to have fun and enjoy the fact that I am living in Norway!!

Travel wise: 
Despite being extremely busy with my studies, and traveling being an expensive hobby, I have managed to enjoy quite a few travels this past year! Not as many as I had hoped for before moving to Norway, but reflecting on all that I have seen and done, I am happy to have managed these trips considering my schedule this past year.

Where I've been this past year:

In Country: 
August 2012: Road trip from Oslo to Stavanger, Kjeragbolten hike, and Kristiansand
September 2012: Fredrikstad
March 2013: Bergen
March 2013: Bergen
April 2013: Bodø and Lofoten Islands
April 2013: Lofoten

Out of Country:

September 2012 and July 2013: Sweden shopping trips - cheap meats and alcohol! 
    December 2012 - January 2013: Home to VA for much needed Rest and Relaxation
March 2013: Portugal
March 2013: J Girls in Portugal
March 2013: Discoveries Monument, Portugal
April 2013: My one and only picture from an amazing week in GAP, Germany
June 2013: Valencia, Spain
July 2013: Puglia Region, Italy -- this picture was taken from the Tremiti Islands
July 2013: Garmisch, Germany - FEST!!!
July 2013: My amazing hosts and friends in Garmisch, Germany
July 2013: Hiking in the Alps - my favorite place in the whole world!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Life in Norway so far

I can't believe it's been almost two months since I arrived in Oslo to start this new chapter of my life as a graduate student in a foreign country. As the days and weeks wear on, or rather fly by, I find myself feeling more and more settled. The first week of classes seems like it was ages ago - we are entering our fifth week of classes now. The semester started off a little rocky considering we were all behind from the first day of classes since professors had expected us to read several chapters before the first class (welcome to masters level studies). It has taken some adjusting to the new type of class schedule and how to best prepare for only having each class once a week instead of three times/week. Two of my classes meet for three hours, two for four hours, and one for SIX hours (starting at 8am on Monday mornings - joy!) but the six hour class will stop meeting at the end of September and the professor will start to teach a different class for second year masters students...meaning we will have three-day weekends for the remainder of the semester. BI (the school I am attending) mandates 15 minute breaks after 45 minutes of lecture time, which helps manage the longer lectures. 

The classes have overall been really fantastic. My classes include: psychological measurement (to include personality type analysis - my favorite!!), business ethics (potential thesis topic), Organization Science, Strategic Management, and Organizational Behavior (love this subject so much - another possible thesis topic). Of course, I can't forget my Norwegian course! I figured since I will most likely be here for two years I should learn some Norwegian and it would be nice to learn the basics to get by even though every Norwegian I've met speaks English. The class meets twice/week and so far is going great...if only I could justify spending time studying Norwegian over my other subjects...

My apartment is nice considering it's student housing. Of course it can't even compare to the student housing at CNU (the best on-campus housing in the nation!!) nor does it come close to my lovely furnished apartment in Bangladesh! but it fits the bill for a place to sleep and eat. I have also been very lucky to have a wonderful "roommate" - we share a bathroom - from Germany and 5 great flat mates to share the kitchen with (7 of us in total). My flat mates are from Germany, Latvia, China, and France - talk about truly international student housing. The apartment complex is located close to the best spot of nature in Oslo - the Sognsvann (picture below) and the beginning of the forest, so I've been able to take study breaks and run around the lake and enjoy the beautiful nature. 

Sognsvann near my apartment in Kringsja, Oslo
I've been able to do some exploring around the city and country. Before classes started, my German roommate and I hit the road to the west coast to enjoy our last days of freedom. We made the nine hour drive through the picturesque countryside through the middle of the country (see picture below). These roads were often only wide enough for one car and involved lots of steep inclines and switchbacks. There is really only one 'highway' through Norway. It follows the coast line and I use the phrase 'highway' because the speed limit is only about 50mph at its fastest points. We explored the small city of Stavanger before a good night's rest and a gruesome and completely rewarding hike in the Lysebotn fjord to Kjeragbolten. On our way home along the highway, we stopped in Kristiansand, a popular beach spot for Norwegians. 
Driving through the Norwegian countryside (Oslo to Stavanger)
Lysebotn Fjord
Kjeragbolten! done and done.
Fun/random observations so far:
  • In any given 24 hours, you can expect rain.
  • It's cold already - time for my winter coat and thermals kind of cold.
  • Norwegians claim that their eggs do not contain salmonella - making it perfectly acceptable to eat all the raw cookie dough you want :) 
  • I'm not sure if I'll ever get used to the fact that Norwegians do not greet each other when walking/running around the Sognsvann

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Grad School in Norway!!

I'm sure this post won't surprise too many of you. One, most of you already know! Two, we all know how much I love living abroad!

I'm moving to Norway for an amazing graduate program I discovered last spring (2011) before I received my job offer from AUW. I was searching and searching (and searching some more) for a masters program that seemed like a perfect fit. I am passionate about employee appreciation, employee job satisfaction, and overall effective business operations (HR topics). Most Organizational Psychology programs in the US are PhD focused and/or require a strong psychology background ('strong' considering I have no psychology background). This particular program is a masters-focused program in a top European Business school. There is also an incredible opportunity, if I get accepted, to earn a dual degree. This means I would spend one year in Norway earning my Masters in Leadership and Organizational Psychology and one year in the Netherlands earning my Masters in Organizational Studies. What a fantastic opportunity -- two countries, two degrees = double the experiences, double the learning power, and double the adventures.

BI Norwegian School of Business, Oslo Campus (official photo)

Tour of the BI Campus from the Architect

In December, I had the opportunity to visit Oslo for several days and visited the BI campus. Here is a picture of the interior I took while touring the campus:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend 2012

This was the first Memorial Day I have been able to spend with my family since 2007. I have been loving the time at home since returning home from Bangladesh in September and being within weekend-visiting driving distance! Here's how the weekend shaped up:
  • saved a kitten that managed to 'doggie paddle' ('kitty paddle'?) all night long in the swimming pool
    • searched for said kitty after he escaped from his box in the house....15 minutes later found him hiding in a corner 

  • killed a Virginia Black snake ...which was mistaken for a copperhead snake at first which was in the house!! (ok, Dad killed it! but still!)
  • family reunion complete with pool time, grilling out, and chicken egg hunts!
  • pitiful yard sale x2 mornings
  • two extra paid days off from my company! = 5 day weekend!
Hope everyone had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend! 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Leaving Bangladesh

I know I haven't blogged in quite a while. A handful of you know where I am and what I have been through the past few months but to bring everybody up to speed, here is a super abbreviated, unemotional update....After returning to Bangladesh in August, I quickly (considering I was hoping to live in Bangladesh for several more years) turned around and returned to the US after quitting my job. The decision process seemed incredibly long and drawn out (it took me almost three weeks to decide to leave!) but considering the implications, it seemed to be an insufficient amount time to respond. To ridiculously under play what happened, there were major unethical leadership decisions made that I could not ignore. Unfortunately for the students, the decisions of one person led to a huge turnover before school even started... Leaving Bangladesh, AUW, my students, friends, memories, and future hopes and travel plans was, without a doubt, the most difficult decision I have ever made.

Top 10 things I miss:

  1. The students!!!!
  2. My co-volunteers, office mates, and roommates (shout out to the penthouse!) who became my travel partners, sounding boards, and best friends
  3. The Food - Doi Puchka, Kalo Jam, Kacha Gola, Tandoori Paneer to name a few
  4. Aarong! amazing fair-trade store with gorgeous Shalwar Kameez outfits, saris, household items, etc.
  5. The Clothes - picking out fabrics in the market and sewing designs at the tailor. and of course, Sari Sundays at school!!
  6. Traveling - Asia is simply amazing!
  7. Work Dynamics - having a challenging, rewarding job with a fun office environment, ample time off, and in general feeling like you're making a difference every day
  8. AUW - the sense of community, diversity, and constant learning experiences
  9. Humility - I miss being humbled on a daily basis. Living in Bangladesh reminded me how sheltered and easy my life has been and to be more grateful for the experiences and opportunities I have had.
  10. Bangladesh - overnight buses (the real-life equivalent of playing chicken on the road!), rickshaws, CNGs, miscommunications, villages, holiday celebrations, and the list could go on!
Thanks to my great new friends, daily van rides, lunch gatherings in the cafeteria, travel fiascos, twice daily tea breaks, etc. I have come to associate numerous songs with my memories of Bangladesh....If my time in Bangladesh had a soundtrack, it would sound something like this:

  1. 'Sheila Ki Jawani' by Tees Maar Khan (hottest Bollywood song of the year)
  2. 'Pee Loon' from Once Upon A Time in Mumbai (favorite song to listen to in the van in the am!)
  3. 'Tum Jo Aaye' from Once Upon A Time in Mumbai (another fave van song)
  4. 'Home' by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
  5. 'Somebody to Love' by Justin Bieber (let's be honest, all things Bieber)
  6. 'Enchanted' by Taylor Swift (again, let's be honest, all things TSwift were jamming in our office!)
  7. 'Wavin Flag' by K'Naan (South Africa WorldCup theme song)
  8. 'On The Floor' by Jennifer Lopez ft. Pitbull
  9. 'Waka Waka' by Shakira
  10. 'California Girls' by Katy Perry

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Preparing for Eid is like preparing for a hurricane

I feel like I'm with my east coast friends and family in spirit right now. Even though the worst is hopefully behind you now, I feel like I am going through the same preparation steps you may have taken days/weeks ago. It is Ramadan here, meaning people have been fasting all month and tomorrow will be the big day, Eid, for their holiday (their Christmas, if you will). Eid does not even compare to shopping before Christmas or preparing for a hurricane or anything - it is on a whole new level of craziness all by itself, especially here in Bangladesh. It's a month full of shopping for gifts and a special outfit for each family member to wear on the Eid day. I've gone out shopping several times the past few days to stock up on supplies before Eid, because after Eid most shops will close for up to 10 days. Even the grocery stores close for 3-4 days. It has been overly crowded everywhere but today was amazing to see! I wish I could begin to estimate how many people were in Agora (the local grocery store) -- hundreds!! Every aisle was packed, there were at least 10 customers waiting in each checkout line (about 6 checkout lines in total). It was insane! When I first walked in, I thought to myself, you do not really need any of the items on your list, but I continued on anyway because there was a great sensation of feeling like I was a part of their holiday in this one way. While I am very excited to be here during Eid, I will be happy when things go back to "normal" (whatever normal is in a country populated by 160 million people).*side note -- I was going to get a facial or massage but the "spa" was packed! They estimated the wait to be at least an hour but I think that was an under estimation. The ladies like to be made more beautiful for Eid, including having mendhi done.*

A few items on my must-have list for the holiday weekend include:
  • going to the DVD store - bought Grey's Anatomy Season 7 (the second half since I purchased the first half last spring), Nicholas Sparks multi-movie disc, and Pirates of the Caribbean collection (I have only seen the first one - now might be a good time to get caught up) -- each disc cost $1 (amazing!)
  • ribbon - I brought mini clothespins with me and needed more ribbon so I can then hang pictures off of the ribbon -- so I can spend some time over the holiday nesting/decorating the apartment
  • 2.5kg potatoes, onions, pasta, limes (lime juice goes in a lot of dishes I seem to make here!), oatmeal (and other ingredient for no-bake cookies), and my favorite food obsession - chickpeas! 

The pictures below do not even begin to give you a sense of the crowdedness of the grocery story today. At least people were very polite about it, no pushing and shoving you like you might have seen in the US (hello, black Friday....). Occasionally someone would bump into my handcart or I would bump into them and there was always a quick, friendly apology with a look of understanding - that this is crazy!

A shopper's nightmare....

Waiting in line to check out....

  Waiting in line while others try to maneuver around the lines to get down the next aisle

A sample Iftar meal...I love Iftar food but my tummy doesn't always love it because it's all fried, as you can surely tell in this picture. When I first arrived we went to my favorite restaurant, Tava, to order some food to bring home. While waiting for our meals to arrive in take-away boxes we were served this lovely plate of Iftar food so that we could break the fast with the other patrons in the restaurant. Michelle and I also went to our neighbor's (from last year) home for Iftar the other night. Families often create a pre-made plate of food just like this, even when breaking the fast at home. PS -- can we talk about the bird in the middle of the plate?! I am what I like to call a polite vegetarian when in Bangladesh. I do not really like to eat meat here (I am not vegetarian by any means it's just a personal choice to not eat it here). I especially do not like to eat beef here but I will eat it if it is served to me and there are not any other options, to be polite. Last year I did not eat the beef after seeing cows slaughtered during the second Eid (that was the end of my beef politeness....). I could not, however, bring myself to eat the bird on my plate....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Joys of the Rickshaw

You know you love riding in a rickshaw too much when....

you get mad about losing momentum!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer of 'Before and After'

At the beginning of the summer I had all these lofty goals and that summer is over I accomplished more than I would have without any of those goals but certainly did not check everything off my list. Number one on my list was to clean my room! It's been a storage room for the past 8 years and I decided that if I was going to have call that home for 2.5 months I needed to be able to see the floor. I also wanted to change some things up since I haven't lived in my room since high school. Here's how my summer room-cleaning project shaped up..... (some of the colors are a little off because I didn't think I needed my flash on....apparently I did! oops!)

Chalkboard Before....

Chalkboard After!

 My Bed Before....

Bed After! (featuring a painted picture from Aunt (center above bed) and Grandma (right of bed))

Bulletin Board Before....

Bulletin Board After! painted the frame, covered the back with paper from Paper Source, and attached ribbon in a zig zag pattern :)

That side of the room after all the changes :) - notie the stylish bulletin board! I found cute clothespins at Michaels that go well with the color scheme!

My beautiful hand stitched pictures from Aarong (fair trade store in Bangladesh) with my favorite doll from my childhood on top of my wardrobe

disaster zone on the chest at the end of my bed...before....

After! with the beautiful Nakshi Kantha table cloth (from Sylhet)

My desk before the massive cleanup! Needless to say, I never actually used my desk, even in high school.....

My desk space after!

Bookshelf before....

Bookshelf after!! A lot of the books that were on here went up to the yard sale, leaving room for all the books in baskets on my floor and in my closets!

So that was my massive clean-up project for the summer! By the end of the summer it felt soooo good to have a nice, clean, organized room! I am a neat freak, Type A after all :) Hope you enjoyed seeing my productivity!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thailand Sneak Peak!

I feel like summer is flying by and it does not have my permission to do so! My mom's family got together for a family reunion at Myrtle Beach, which was awesome. It took us three family photos to get everyone in a picture...and still there is not one picture that captures all of us at one time! haha It was a great time hanging out, eating, tanning, and finding lots of weird critters in the ocean!

I finally got my laptop back today...even though it isn't fixed yet....thank you Bangladesh for doing quite a number on my laptop! and I was feeling inspired to look through the hundreds of photos I took in Thailand and Malaysia in May! I thought I'd start by posting a few of my favorites that stuck out as I sorted through photos today.

Young girl in one of the long-neck villages

 at a temple in Bangkok

 Koh Tao!

 Chiang Mai temple (don't ask which one....we went to a million!)

I don't know why but I really loved these hot water kettles at our breakfast on our overnight hike to a hilltop tribal village outside of Chiang Mai

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

So This Is Summer...

Well, I had the ideas for a great blog in my head earlier today but now I'm just flat out exhausted...blame jetlag or the fact that I worked out for the first time in a loooong time or the fact that I was totally defeated while shopping in town today...

Here's how my day shaped up
7am -- Day 1 of the couch to 5k run program! Loving the app! It tells you when to do what...week 1 = 20 minute run/walk intervals with a 5 min warm up/cool down. I don't know if my early wake ups can be attributed to jetlag or not but at least the run was a lot cooler at 7am! Let's just say that now that it's the end of the day my legs are pretty tired! Hopefully I can keep up the motivation and commitment to finish the 9-week training program!

Spent the morning shopping in town for craft supplies for a few projects for my room....I haven't lived at home since high school and I thought I'd spruce up my room a little - including massive, massive cleaning/organizing! *Note: my room has been a dumping zone for the past 8 years...after college, after Germany, and now mid Bangladesh!* Perhaps I'll post a few before/after photos when my craft projects start to look a little more promising (today was a fail on craft looks like I need a bigger crafts store!) and when I'm feeling like I will have enough energy to muster through the piles and tupperware boxes in my room. Oh! Let me tell you about the wonders of the brief, why can't it just say "turn right now [you idiot]" haha - seriously - it always seems to be one step behind me and I'm staring at street signs and wondering "Is it this road or the next?" maybe I'm the only one with this problem but I doubt it...."recalculating" ahhhhh

"Installed" mom's new baby....and her and dad's evening entertainment.....pool cleaning robot. He was a little crazy if you ask me - I had to keep pushing it under water because it would spin its wheels and come up to the surface and climb the walls of the pool....of course it worked perfectly when mom came home and wanted to see it do it's thing. Go figure. Well, hopefully it keeps working (it did a great job cleaning the parts it did roll over) so I don't have to have my old job of pool cleaner back! Spent the afternoon supervising the robot, tanning, and reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The evening was spent making homemade banana ice cream and mapping out my day for tomorrow....eye appointment in Richmond so I'm going to try to do some shopping before the apt!

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer and had a wonderful Monday :)