Friday, August 23, 2013

Beautiful Trondheim

End of a great week #1
Thanks for joining me again for my next blog post! I've been here a full week now and it seems like it's been almost a month. I've met so many great people and have started forming the beginnings of my dissertation. I've also spent some time walking around the city snapping some photos of the natural beauty: you can see the amazing contrast of colors from the photos I am posting. As you can see, Norway is a city full of an eclectic blend of vibrant colors (not the people of course, it's a pretty homogenous town [well, country] in terms of race). Today, an "American scientist" came to workshop ideas with the Norwegian scholars; it turns out that this professor (Dr. Jay Belsky) works with professors in my department and friends of my in California. It really is a small, small academic world. For the most part, I have been able to figure out the city and begin to know how to get around without asking locals for help. The bus system is one of the best I have ever seen- it is almost always on time and there are busses everywhere. It is much more enjoyable to drive around here than in the big American cities, but there is still traffic during rush hour, which is more like 4:00pm here. My plans for the upcoming week are to map out the three papers of my dissertation, play around with the data I will be using, host a colleague and friend for a couple days before we travel to Lausanne, Switzerland for a conference, and enjoy the sun while it lasts. The temperature was an incredible 70 degrees today and will continue throughout the weekend, so I best enjoy the sun before the snow and freezing temperatures arrive. My California skin will probably be in shock once the cold weather arrives. One of the places that is central for students is the student union, or "stud enter samfundet", the red building in the photo to the right. This is where most of the activities happen for the students; I have yet to visit inside. There are also cinemas (movie prices aren't too bad, about $16 per movie), and a national theatre that brings Norwegian versions of plays like West Side Story. I will leave you with some other photos I took today, and will write about Switzerland in a week!

Check out these huge bumblebees that frequent Trondheim! And this is the cathedral taken from an angle including some tombstones that surround the front of the castle. And below is the view of the city from the fortress that used to protect Trondheim from the British. "The British are coming!"

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ryan's Norwegian Adventure Blog

The Nidelva River in Trondheim

Greetings and welcome to the blog about my European travels this Fall 2013. This is my first blog ever, so please bear with me. A little background: I am studying in Trondheim, Norway for 3.5 months funded by the National Science Foundation and Research Council of Norway; my host scientist is Dr. Lars Wichstrøm at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. While I am in Norway for 3.5 months, I will be working on my dissertation using Norwegian prospective, representative data. Dr. Wichstrøm will mentor me and help further my program of research. While I am in Europe, I will be traveling to Lausanne, Switzerland for the European Conference on Developmental Psychology (Aug 30-6) and take short day trips to Zurich and Bern. My Aunt and I will also travel to Germany for a week and visit Frankfurt, Munich, Rothernburg, and other small cities.

First impressions of Norway

The view I had walking to buy my groceries
I arrived in Norway on Thursday, August 15th around noon. This was a particularly tough time to arrive because I had been awake 30 hours making the long journey over. I know to stay awake until at least the sun goes down (well, that is 21:45 here right now), but I was so exhausted I fell asleep. Oh- and forgot to mention my luggage didn't make it from Amsterdam. So- I was without a toothbrush and clothes for another 24 hours. I immediately noticed how beautiful and green Norway is; there are rolling hills of forests that stretch to Russia and across Norway. Trondheim is situated further north than the capitol (Oslo), and so it is a little colder and lighter/darker than Oslo (depending on the time of the year). The buildings are gorgeous; you can see the main river that runs through the city in both of the photos I have posted. I was also impressed with the Norwegians' ability to speak English - while all conversations are in Norwegian by default, as soon as someone hears me speaking English, the entire conversation (including others' side conversations) turns to English. My next observation was how much everything costs - I was so thirsty so I got a bottle of water. "30 kr" said the attendant, which I didn't realize until after is a little more than $5! A Big Mac meal is $18, one-way bus ride is $5.55, ~$66,000 for a Honda Civic (cars are heavily taxed) and Converse shoes are over $100.
Tax is 25% on most items, but 15% on food at the grocery store. The alcohol laws are quite different than the Pacific west coast of the USA; only the vinmonopolet (wine monopoly) sells hard alcohol on M-F until 6pm, and a few hours on Saturday. The prices are also very high. When a mixed drink is made in a bar, there may be no more than 1.3oz of hard liquor included by law (try making a Long Island with that law). Beer and wine are less regulated: the beers served are typically larger than in the United States and can be served in grocery stores under the same hourly laws followed by the vinmonoplet. Unlike in the US where grocery stores play some type of music, the stores here are silent and a bit eery. That will take some getting used to I suppose...

Norwegian people and my studies

Cathedral two blocks from my house
The Norwegian people are very friendly. While there is less small talk in retail shops (e.g., cashiers in the grocery store do not ask how your day is or tell you to have a nice day), friends are very helpful and available to hang out. I have already made about a dozen local friends who I've gone on walks and to dinner/bars with, which is telling of the student culture found here in Trondheim. Most of these friends are Norwegian natives (from Hammerfest [very North], Oslo, etc.) and others from Russia, the US, and Finland. Norway also seems to represent the epitome of self-care; many people work 9-3:30 and take their free time seriously.  
     In terms of work, Dr. Wichstrøm was able to provide me a private office to work in. We have met to discuss what types of research questions I can explore using the data he is generously offering to me. The dataset is one-of-a-kind and provides the ability to trace developmental trajectories over the life span; in my case, I will be investigating mental health disparities and stability of identity over time
I had to ask 3 people
whether this was mustard
(in terms of behavior as well). I plan on organizing the data and developing my conceptual models the first couple weeks. During this time, I will work on my dissertation proposal and potentially propose my dissertation to my committee via Skype while I am in Norway. The idea is to begin 2 out of the 3 required manuscripts that will eventually become my dissertation.

I will plan to update the blog weekly to report on neat findings and share exciting photos from my journeys. Thanks for reading!