Paul R. Carr and Gina Thésée, Chair-holder and Co-Chair of the UNESCO Chair DCMÉT, have taken part of their sabbatical leaves to be in Norway for the April 2 - May 5, 2019, period. The experience has been incredibly rich, dynamic and critically engaging at several levels.
Some initial thoughts...
* Oslo, in particular, is much more ethnically and racially diverse than one might think from the outside; we stayed in Gronland, a largely Somalian and Turkish area; it was a wonderful experience!!
* We were also pleased to engage with members of the Black and Sikh communities
* The cost of living is extremely high, and Oslo ranks as the world's second most expensive city after Tokyo (a hamburger, for example, is roughly $35 CAN)
* We experienced what appeared to be an extremely functional public transportation system, including a rapid train from the airport to the central train station, and a large network of tramway, bus and subway lines
* Walking around, everywhere, is an enjoyable experience, and people were always friendly when approached
* There are many parks, museums, monuments, public squares and activities to enjoy
* The level of English is extremely high, and there was no difficultly communicating at any time, although signage was often in Norwegian only and we did have a few experiences with ticket machines and the like where we guessed our way (mainly with success) through the menu
* There is a right-wing government in power, and some critical issues concerning immigration, for example, have been raised; coalition governments have to cater to some unusual circumstances, and smaller parties are often to inject into the public arena issues such as access to abortion, which is the case today
* We learned through our colleagues that professors automatically receive tenure upon being hiring, and that a portion of their time is allocated for research with release-time but that hiring research assistants appears to be a bit more difficult to work out
* Norway's economy has been strong for a number of years, fuelled by oil, and it has been largely invested in ways to assist the population (you can see this in the infrastructure as well as some of the services)
* Norwegians pay 2% of the salaries for their pensions, and upon retirement receive a pension that is considerably significant compared to other countries
* While oil is a main factor in the economy, there is also a vibrant green movement, electric cars, a culture of "sustainable development" (Yes, we find the word "sustainable" a tough sell as well as many others) and other movements to cajole government/society to a more environmentally-friendly vision of the world
* There are a number of refugees in Norway but immigration is another question altogether; some members of the European Union can and do come to Norway but they must secure a job, which generally requires being able to speak Norwegian, so the numbers are generally low
* Is there discrimination in Norway? Do the second and third generations of immigrants integrate more fluidly in society? Is there much crime in Norway? Is their education more engaged, more critical, more democratic than others'? What types of relations does Norway have with other countries? What types of relations exist between the Sami Indigenous peoples and the broader Norwegian population? Is their relationship with the European Union a good one to emulate? We will look at these questions another time
Below are some of the activities we engaged in: