Working at a Norwegian University

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Working at a University in Norway

A look inside working life at NTNU, one of Norway's biggest University.

The conversation goes by in a curious mixture of Norwegian, broken Norwegian, English and sometimes a bit of Spanish. It amazes me how well Ana can speak so many languages apart from her native tagalog. As she finishes cleaning my office, I thank her and bid her goodbye, wishing her well in her incoming travel to the US.

As I said before, I work in what is known as the “academic world”; but as the meme goes these days, what I think/friends think/boss thinks/society thinks I do, and what I actually do, isn't always the same. A friend once told me he pictured my office with guys running in lab coats shouting at each other all the time, which was funny because, to me, most of my work consists of sitting in front of a computer crunching numbers, or writing on a piece of paper equations that hopefully make some sense!

Doing that sort of stuff in NTNU is not really different from doing it anywhere else. The subjects might change, and the Norwegian/NTNU academic bureaucracy is still impossible for me to figure out, but the basic activities are there.

Now, most people in Europe and the US are more than used to mingling and working alongside foreigners. For me, coming from a rather small city in a Latin American country, the occurrences of meeting someone not from Mexico were almost nonexistent before entering the “academic world.”

Yes, there were a couple exchange students in my high school. Yes, the physics lab professor in my college was from Chile. But it was only after I was about to get my bachelor that I started to have an “international experience,” with my Russian thesis advisors, my leave in Texas, my first and decisive visit to Trondheim.

NTNU Trondheim

I must admit, one of the most exciting aspects in working in another, so multicultural country, and in such a field, is the ability to interact with so many individuals with so different background. And of course, being so small, most projects I participate involve partners and conferences in other parts of the world, which usually implies exciting travel opportunities (because, if I am in “tourist mode,” I can always squeeze very nice excursions even if I am traveling for business)

There are many perk to working in this type of environment, and some are more noticeable when in Norway. The travels are just one of them. Others include the very nice salary I receive. Even though Norway is a VERY expensive country, living a simple life like mine leaves one with lots of savings, which when converted to Mexican currency means I am making more than I would back home, for less the work I would be doing there. Another good thing here is the Norwegian work ethics.

More than one, my boss included, have repeated to me that Norwegians only actually work half the year, but when they do, they do it in an exceedingly productive way! This, I understand as: if the day is rainy, work yourself longer and harder, so that when the sun goes up, you can take the day off. Sadly, my Mexican “be at the office all the time” custom gets in the way, but flexibility is something so rare in most working environments, and I am happy to have it here.

Just as I admitted in my past posts here, there are some things I will never get used to, like the distinction between “test” and “exam”, or the way student’s progress go on. But the experience of working in NTNU has been illustrative and rewarding, and I hope my next couple years are just as satisfying as the first two.


About Gerardo Perez

Gerardo made the unusual move from Mexico to Norway in April 2010. He works at the Norwegian University of Science & Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim and writes regularly about his experiences adapting to Norwegian life.

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