February Summary – Mazz Cummings

February report

March 14, 2023

I feel like I say this all the time, but I feel like this year is already going by so fast! This year may seem to be going particularly fast due to how quickly the daylight hours are getting longer. When I arrived at the end of December, we were in polar nights with only a few hours of civil twilight per day. We had our first real sunrise in mid-January, now we have almost 12 hours of daylight, and it won’t be long before the sun sets at all!

The semester started very slowly at the end of January, but definitely picked up speed in February, especially with my first homework! I really had a hard time getting started, especially on the first assignment, not only because the class is a bit out of my comfort zone (there’s a lot more chemistry and physics involved than I expected!) but I also think because I was unsure of their expectations and how my quality of work would translate from my home university to the University of Tromsø. While studying abroad I’m actually only pass/fail when it comes to the University of Aberdeen so whether I get an A or a D it’s worth the same at the end. I want to do well, and it’s good to have this knowledge like a little comforter, but I was still a little disappointed with my first homework grade, but I know where I could have improved and what wait for the next ones!

In addition to my first homework, we had our first practical work, and towards the end of the month I finally found someone who could agree to be my thesis supervisor! I had been very stressed about finding a supervisor, I didn’t know who to contact and there had been no support for this particular module. There isn’t even a course coordinator, so I really started freaking out because I wasn’t sure how much work I could actually do before I found a supervisor. Luckily one of the teachers from one of my other classes agreed and she was incredibly helpful and I’m so glad I finally got off to a good start!

That’s not what I was thinking of signing up for!
High-tech lab experiments

As well as starting my job at university, I started immersing myself in Norwegian culture, first by watching the reindeer race (!!!!) at the end of the Sami week, and then by attending at a Fastelavnsboller gathering. I had been looking forward to the reindeer races for weeks. It’s not something I had ever heard of before and the photos from previous years were amazing. When the day arrived, I made sure to arrive early and well to ensure I had a ticket and had a quick look around the Sami market. I put myself in a good position and then saw people from the university who invited me to join them and other people they were meeting. Of course, by the time we got to where they were, the crowd was a few people, and being only 5’3 it was a very rare occasion that made me regret my lack of height! After a few laps though, the person in front of me very kindly agreed to change with me a bit so I could watch part of the race.

In the short time I’ve been here so far, I’ve come to realize that many events are celebrated with some sort of “boller”. For the first day of the return of the sun we had solboller, and the last Sunday before Lent was celebrated with fastelavnsboller. The solboller looked like stuffed donuts, so when I was invited to a fastelavnsboller gathering, I expected it to be similar. The fastelavnsboller were more like brioche rolls and ate like we would eat scones at home, with cream and jam, and chocolate to grate on top. I asked if there was a particular way to eat the, open like one would eat a scone, closed like a sandwich, cream first or jam first, and the consensus was that it wouldn’t. There was no consensus (although none seemed to be a heated debate over cream or jam first as there would be at home!). I made sure to try them in different ways, one like a sandwich and one open with just one filling on each half. Verdict: delicious either way.

It turns out that while Norwegians celebrate fastelavn (which translates directly to Mardi Gras), no one I spoke to had heard of pancake day, which was only a few days later. Now, I don’t celebrate Lent, but I do celebrate pancakes, so I made a big batch of pancake batter and invited my housemates to dig in.

February is gone without me really noticing, and somehow it’s halfway through March already! I hope you enjoyed my February roundup and added “Reindeer Races” to a list of things you absolutely have to watch at some point! If you have any questions about study abroad, my studies, or biology, let me know in the comments!


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