Why I Let A Norwegian TV Show Influence My Study Abroad Plan

Save London for when you’re ninety, and go to Copenhagen now!

by Kirsten Nolan
Staff Skammer

This is pretty embarrassing for me to admit but I one hundred percent chose where to study abroad based on a TV show. The show, Skam, takes place in Oslo, Norway and is actually funded through Norway’s public broadcasting channel, but I’m not even studying abroad in Norway. I’m going to Copenhagen, Denmark, which was the closest place I could get to Oslo, but it’s cool with me. I haven’t actually studied abroad yet, so I could regret this completely, but I’m really excited!

I found out about Skam on the Internet, as most people nowadays find out about things. But when I first read about it, it didn’t really strike me as something I absolutely had to watch. Norway is so random, I thought when I read about how the show was becoming the latest Internet sensation. But then in my Understanding Television class my professor mentioned it. She hadn’t watched it either but explained what she knew about it, and the show began to intrigue me more. At its core, the show is a teen drama. I’ve been told it’s just like the British show Skins, but I have never actually watched Skins, so I cannot confirm this. What I can confirm, is that Skam is really enthralling and is worth the watch.

What makes Skam more unique than your typical Gossip Girl or Riverdale teen drama is that it heavily incorporates social media into its content. Almost every major character has an Instagram and Facebook account and while the show is airing, these accounts are updated. The show also posts screenshots from the characters’ text messages to get yet another glimpse into their lives outside of what viewers see during the episodes. The best thing about it though is that their accounts and text messages actually seem authentic. It doesn’t seem like it’s just an out-of-touch middle-aged producer trying to sound like a teenager on Instagram. Besides just the cool and original use of social media and technology, Skam drops clips from their episodes throughout the week in real time. So if there is a scene where a character is getting coffee with her boyfriend on a Tuesday at 5 pm, the clip will drop on Tuesday at 5 pm Norwegian time. The producers and creator work hard to make the show seem authentic and true to life, which is refreshing to see in a show when so often on American television there are thirty year olds playing high school sophomores (@Glee).

So because Skam is so innovative in its conception, I decided to start watching it last December. I then proceeded to binge the whole series during my reading days and finals, and it was honestly a great decision that I do not regret at all. I didn’t even do that poorly on my finals, so it was a win-win for me. Around the same time that I started watching Skam, I was also starting to think about studying abroad. For as long as I could remember I had my heart set on going to London for study abroad. I thought it was perfect because 1) they speak English there and 2) being that One Direction is a British-Irish boy-band, there is a greater chance of me running into one of them in London. And after all, what is the point of studying abroad if you aren’t going to maybe run into Harry Styles in front of McDonald’s?

But watching Skam had a weird influence on me and my study abroad decision specifically. Being that it is Norwegian, Skam introduced me to a culture that I really had no knowledge of beforehand. The most I knew about Scandinavian culture was that it had IKEA, the actor Alexander Skarsgård, and Swedish meatballs. By watching Skam I got a better glimpse at what Scandinavian culture is like. The cozy sweaters and high-waisted jeans the characters wear, the music they listen to, and the little weekend trips they go on to their cabins by the lake and in the mountains showed me how trendy and interesting their culture actually is. I know the television show really just showed the highlights of it all, but it was enough to sway me to definitely want to visit Scandinavia.

Watching Skam made me realize that maybe sticking to London would be a bit boring for me, personally. That is not to say that if you are studying abroad in London you are boring or making a boring decision! Just for me, it felt like the safe choice.

Still, even after watching and re-watching Skam over winter break, I was not ready to fully commit to studying abroad anywhere else besides London. I hovered over the “Study Abroad in Scandinavia” link on the study abroad website, but I continued to fill out the London application, telling myself it was the better option. Like I said, London seemed like the easy, safe decision to make. Then, ten days before the application was due, I took the plunge and changed my mind. One of my professors pushed me the most. She told me I would definitely go to London someday, but there was less of a chance that I would ever have a reason to go to Copenhagen. She said I could be ninety and still get myself to London, but a city like Copenhagen was less likely. So I raced to get my application done and then I was accepted to study abroad in Copenhagen in the fall.

I know this is not that revolutionary. So many people study abroad in Copenhagen. The city is still in Europe! Most people still speak English! But for me, a natural born homebody, the decision is a little scary. And it’s weird because I know if I had never watched Skam, I never would have even thought about going to Copenhagen instead of London. I am happy with the decision I made though. Now in less than 150 days I will be there, soaking up Scandinavian culture. Hopefully everything will be exactly how it is in Skam, or I will be so disappointed and demand to get my money back.

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