The SUPP team on NTNU’s Orientation Week

On the 09.08-15.08 the SUPP team comprising of: Magdalena Łazarewicz, Ola Winiarska, Michael O’Donnell and Mateusz Machnij visited Norway to participate in the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s “Orientation Week” for international students.

Creating a Psychological First Aid Kit is one of the important goals of the SUPP project. The Kit will include a number of multimedia self-help materials for students and MUW staff on such topics as; coping with stress, partying safely, alcohol overdose, communication in conflict situations and prejudice. Discussing and brainstorming on the scripts with the Norwegian experts allowed us to develop them further and adjust them better to MUW’s multicultural student society.

Development of a optimal program for the Orientation Week for International students is yet another important goal of the SUPP project. The most inspiring way to work on such a program is to have first-hand experience of such an event at a University with a long tradition of professionally organizing it. Thus, a possibility to participate in the Orientation Week at NTNU arose as a great opportunity for the SUPP team.

The Orientation Week for International Students at NTNU takes place earlier than at MUW, as the academic year starts in mid-August. Over 1000 incoming international undergraduate, postgraduate, Erasmus and PhD students participate in a variety of events coordinated by the NTNU’s Office of International Relations.

On Monday the “Orientation Week” officially started. At the very beginning each international student received welcome packages including; useful leaflets, some gadgets, wrist bands, which indicated participating and information strictly for students from NTNU’s staff. This information mainly concerned: the schedule of “Orientation Week”, basic health, banking, accommodation information. After that, the students gathered in front of main building to take a photo together. Next in“ Studentersamfundet” (The student union building), was the official welcoming of the day which included NTNU’s rector Mrs Gunnar Bowim, the Mayor of Trondheim Ms Rita Ottervik, few of NTNU’s student parliament, and an clever introduction to Norwegian culture by SUPP team host Mr Wolfgang Laschet. In the middle of the day, the university had organized the “Trondheim Games” to start integrating everybody. Students were asked to create fifteen-people teams and then each team had to reach six checkpoints spread all around Trondheim. This helped students to get to know the city’s most important places. When the game ended Norwegian students union organized a SIM cards sale.

On the next day the SUPP team took part in immatriculation, which included the rector’s speech, several concerts performed by NTNU’s more musically talented students. After that, the rector invited students to take a closer look at the student’s organizations available. Every organization had their own station on the university campus and each were represented by a few members, the variety of organizations was impressive, from sports to human rights. Afterwards all were invited to a BBQ by the office of international relations, to continue the process of integration. Thanks to that everyone could exchange opinions, ideas and feelings about new information.

On Wednesday the SUPP team participated in another integration game called “ 63 degrees north”. Taking place at the Kristiansten Fortress, there were 20 games, although we only managed to get through about half before the day ended. Students once again were asked to divide themselves into teams, but this time 4 teams were paired against each other as groups in order to make 900+ students be able to participate in as many games as possible. For example group one was split into 4 teams; 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, group two 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d etc. The competition was thus amongst those within the same group rather than the whole student body. That eased controlling the games and allowed the most fun to be had. Each game involved team work, some equipment and the game’s moderator who would give instructions and would coordinate the course of the game. There was little crowding, queuing and waiting, thanks to the fact that there was 20 games.

Thursday was hiking day. There were about 10 different tracks to choose from including very easy and relaxing ones along the waterbanks, through intermediate to long distances which required endurance and awareness as well. The SUPP team: Mike and Mateusz chose the longest track to fully enjoy the Norwegian flora and fauna. The hike was called the Wolf Track in honor of it’s guide Wolfgang Laschet. It was full of magnificent views, breathtaking surroundings and a few more difficult paths of the track itself. The meeting point for all groups was by the Lian lake, with a beautiful view of the mountain side. Although we were divided into smaller groups we were able to meet new students we had not had the chance to engage with previously during the week.

On the last day there were a few more fun activities to choose from including: fishing in Nidelva, hiking among the fiords, bubble football, kayaking in the mountain rivers and Viking hiking. Once again Mateusz & Mike opted for the most challenging of events the aptly named “Viking hiking”, which involved swimming in three ice cold lakes. To incentivize such activity for each student each dip into a lake earned them a “degree”, for one lake – a bachelors, for two – a masters and for three students earned PhD in being a ‘Viking’. With the hard earned PHDs the week was over. Mateusz and Mike, having the first hand experience of what an international student experiences in their first week of coming to Norway, were ready to bring back a number of new ideas to the drawing table for the SUPP project.

From the first day to the last the process of integration with other students and adaptation to living abroad was emphasized and certainly made normally rather difficult adaptation to unique environment for most of the international students a much less harrowing experience. Cultural sensitivity was always observed. Despite the experience, proficiency and knowledge shown by organizers, in their own words they tried to learn lessons from and improve on the hugely successful week. SUPP team gained invaluable experience from the opportunity of participating at NTNU’s “Orientation Week”, it will surely be a great addition to the progress of the Orientation Week at MUW. During August 24-27 the SUPP team and the Norwegian staff from NTNU visited Jablonna, just outside of warsaw, to discuss the results of participating in Orientation week and talk about adapting some of the ideas to the SUPP program, as well as evaluating the lessons and experiences gained from the week in Norway.

Mateusz Machnij, IIWL, WUM
Michael O’Donnell, ED, WUM