A lot of people have asked why we’re choosing to spend our sabbatical in Norway. It’s true, Norway is one of the happiest countries in the world, but that’s not exactly why we chose it.
At first, we just knew we wanted to live abroad for a year. We wanted to enroll the girls in a local school and get to know one place really well, which ruled out homeschooling and traveling the world. When we researched how to go about getting a residency permit to spend a year abroad, it initially seemed quite daunting—work/residency permits weren’t easy to come by for many of the countries we considered, and just about every European country in the Schengen Agreement requires you to spend 90 days out of the Schengen Zone (basically all of Europe) after 90 days of residency, which isn’t well suited to attending school.
After reaching out to a good friend who holds a joint appointment with both Michigan State and the University of Oslo, I was able to connect with some wonderful people who run the Center for Computing in Science Education at the University of Oslo, and they were very supportive of the idea of me spending a year at the university as a visiting researcher.
In March, I took a short 50 hour whirlwind tour of Oslo to visit the University and scout several possible schools for our daughters and came away convinced of many things:
- Norway is a stunningly beautiful country.
- Oslo is an incredible city with an infrastructure 50 years beyond anything I’ve seen. It’s going to be a joy living for a year without a car here.
- We can adjust to the cold.
- We found a great school for the girls.
- Norway is amazingly eco-friendly.
- The city is expensive (this is just about the first thing everyone tells you about it).
So that’s about it. We had to fill out a tall stack of paperwork to process our visa applications, and visit a website of available apartments every day for a month until we found an apartment that would work for us, but we eventually found a wonderful furnished apartment 5 minutes from our daughters’ school.