Chaitra´s Norway: Journalist Chaitra Shamraya co-works at Oslo Media House.  Foto: Gorm K. Gaare.

Chaitra Shamraya blogs about her experience from working and living in Norway. From the student life in the village of Volda on the Norwegian west coast to the struggle with starting her career as an international journalist and an activist in Oslo, as well as working to establish her PhD project.  The summer of 2019, she started as a co-worker at Oslo Media House, where she is a very active contributor in journalism, as a speaker as well as freedom of speech activist. 

  • My life in Norway - Part One



During my Masters in Broadcast Journalism from Manipal University, India, the college offered a scholarship program with their bilateral university in Volda. The exchange program was my golden ticket and I wanted to give it a shot. To be an eligible candidate, I worked hard on academics since I did study Science for five years and two years of the mortgage. Journalism was a new platform but my interests in communication and linguistics helped me with my academics. While most of the students stayed at the hostel, I had to commute every day for about 90 minutes one way. I dedicated myself to excel in this Masters degree as I believed it is going to change my life.



After a couple of interview rounds, I was one of the candidates who got listed for the study abroad program. The real challenge was to convince parents, applying for the visa, requesting for funds for visa and air ticket money, training the mind for the cold especially minus degree. I lived with my parents in Mangalore city, and with my sister during an internship in Mumbai and neither of those places did the temperature ever drop below 21 degrees. To cope up with the change in weather, to be my own and packing essentials for someone who owned only summer clothes was mayhem.   


All I remember is my first experience of watching snowflakes falling effortlessly in my face, my palms and melting down


I left India on January 7th 2016 the temperature was 32 degrees and the thought of flying abroad for the first time made me a little nervous. Touched down in Oslo on the 9th January to minus 17 degrees, but all I remember is my first experience of watching snowflakes falling effortlessly in my face, my palms and melting down. It was something in its purest and most childlike form of beauty. The sense of appreciation that to see something I dreamed of simply because it is a breath of fresh air to me. It has been four years now, but I still remember every bit of this magical moment. 


Volda, a tiny town which is located on the west coast of Norway in between the mountains is the place that one can never forget. First thing I noticed, they drive on the right side of the road, Volda doesn't have traffic lights, they let pedestrians cross the road first witch for an  Indian creates some disbelief. The switch turns on the other side, people express less and I express with hands and nodding my head, they drink more coffee which makes them the second most coffee consumers in the world, they take coffee breaks in between class hours, you call teachers by their first name and this one is the most difficult. I like to address people by their last name, in due respect. 


The courses offered at Høgskulen in Volda were perfect to experience Norwegian nature and to embark my experience as a short film director. I enjoyed every bit of social gatherings, which gave me more insight into different cultures around the world, especially Norwegian. A culture which treats you equal. The first word which impressed me was kjæreste meaning boyfriend/girlfriend without gender-biased, you are allowed to speak your mind, or not speak at all, to prioritize yourself. Volda gave me time to work on myself, to grow, to heal and be the individual that I always dreamed of, to be independent and to build my confidence. 


After finishing my semester, I got a certificate of Masters in Journalism but I craved for more. I craved to live, to experience more, so I decided to stay back for another year. I renewed the student visa for a year which was about 3500 NOK back then, as I got placed in Outdoor Media Production, Bachelor in IKT. Unfortunately, I had no home university to support my funding, so I had to look for a part-time job. I had to show UDI that I have access to NOK 116,369 for an academic year or show work contract. I was quite lucky to find a part-time in a small town like Volda, it wasn't the best job but it gave me the contract.



The first half of the year, my course took me to different locations on the west coast to film outdoors and I made short videos on cabin trips, northern lights, a fishing harbour, as well as promotional video for Stranda hotel. It was December when I finally received my Student Visa, which gave me access to a Norwegian ID number, bank account, Norwegian phone number, and Tax card. Meanwhile, I joined another part-time job and I had to wait for the salary to be credited because of the visa application took some time than expected. The employer could never pay my salary, and I had been living on the tips, decent money 80-100 NOK on weekends. I was not eligible to apply for lånekasse nor NAV could help an international student like me nor I could borrow money from friends and family as I disconnected and was distant. 




A year later, the University of Volda offered a new master degree course in English for Media students and the International Office offered me a part-time job in Pangaia, an organization helping new students with their pickups from the airport, showing accommodation, organising glacier/ski trips, fun and cultural events, and also residence registration. You call me lucky? I think I am destiny's favourite child, an opportunity came knocking on my door and I embraced them to learn and experience more. I found myself hanging out more with international groups in Pangaia apart for the time I worked down where I had to learn basic Norwegian vocabulary to understand and interact with local people. I got back in making connections with people from different parts of the world and I also reconnected with family and friends back home.



Volda taught me to let go of all the fears and to overcome the challenges step by step.


Finishing up my second Masters was a challenge to me, I had to do two jobs so I could earn and pay bills. Furthermore, I wanted to give enough time to my Master project and writing a dissertation so I had to quit one of the jobs to make room for my academic work. Meanwhile, I planned to move to a bigger city and that meant to leave Volda and I had no heart to say goodbye to the place yet. Volda taught me to let go of all the fears and to overcome the challenges step by step, learn to be patient especially with myself, made me a stronger person- a fierce warrior if I could say! It was difficult but I already made up my mind because Volda turned out to be my comfort zone and I had to take a blind leap to grow.



I took a bus to Oslo and my friend gave room to stay so I could drop CV application around and make contacts. The first interview hit it off and I got myself an internship in the Oslo Media House, a co-working space for freelancers and small editorial teams as well as freedom of speech-activists, and I started to contribute as a journalist at the local magazine Oslo Business Memo. Lucky again? My master thesis on lives on trans women in India landed me on this internship. I believe in hard work and dedication, to keep myself calm and be focused. I applied for a job-seeking visa (5400 NOK) in June, and I knew I have six months to establish myself in a company who could give me a work contract. The challenge is learning Norwegian because I don't have good spare time in the evening for the Norwegian learning course which again cost some money. 



After delivering speeches and spreading awareness on Transgender India in two conferences at Oslo Media House, on I recognised myself as an activist who uplifted trans life. This conference helped me in growing my network and I got myself a part-time job in the same media house who let me write this article.  My work at Oslo Business Memo ranges from online video streaming, photography as well as interviewing and writing articles. My work colleagues are so warm and welcoming, they even speak to me in Norwegian so I can pick up the language and indeed helps me to practice daily. I believe to achieve more as I work as a journalist, and an activist, in Oslo while I prepare myself for PhD studies, which is one my big goals before moving on with my career as an international journalist. 

It´s a fight with the clock to achieve establish PhD project, because of the Norwegian Visa regulations.  I have been waiting for affirmation from UDI for quite a long time now. I understand the procedure here takes time and it is not the first time I am applying for Visa. The job seeking/ researcher visa takes about six months to process in the meantime we have to update the state with a work contract, apartment details and information on general income; currently, I have a student visa status which allows 20 hours of work over a week. But living in a city known for its overpriced apartment (6250NOK/month) while working part-time, eating plant-based food and paying bills is itself a lot to juggle and I just wished that I receive the answer soon so I could work full time and prepare 100% for my PhD research study. 


My application is under process and I work part-time, but missing out huge opportunities as the visa doesn't let me work full time. Living in a bigger city is expensive and the apartment here consumes most of my income but well everyone has their struggle. A Saturday a couple of weeks ago some thieves broke into my workplace, stole Mac computers, few pieces of equipment from podcast room. They also succeeded in stealing my camera bag with a flashlight, 18-200mm canon lens, and two hard drives one with all the pictures and memories from back home and the other one had all my video projects, two documentary files which I was editing. I don't care much about flashlight and lens but the two drives had good old memories and all my projects made including work in progress. Trying hard not to sound dramatic, I feel partial as if they stole my identity in terms of work and memory.  




My clan back home are still upset as I don't fit in their box of  ́married by 25 ́, ́Kids by 30´


I tackled it well because I am a hustler, I don't stop and it will look effortless because I don't show the weights I carry. These weights have been pulling me down lately, it has come to a point that I feel exhausted at times. But well, this is what I subscribed for, right? Nothing is easy in life when you are living in a county miles away from home and away from people with whom I grew up for 25years. Yet I am glad that I have folks here who make time for me and have turned out to be a bigger part of my life. My clan back home are still upset as I don't fit in their box of  ́married by 25 ́, ́Kids by 30 ́, nor I follow the community beliefs I am just spiritual person.



Norway has helped me in reinventing myself, I am thankful for all the experiences I have had so far from getting a second master's degree, to work as a journalist. Now I dream of getting myself a PhD degree, to make more projects of my interests, yes it is not a piece of cake. 

Life is all about making the right choice for yourself, grabbing the opportunities and making the best of it, believing and never giving up on yourself.  Nothing is ever accomplished without a desire, these desires gave me wings of `imagination´ to visualise the life I want to have and `faith ́ in myself and the universe. I had one golden ticket, it came with a huge price and I had to choose my dreams over the family. To believe that it's all gonna work out while I had literally few pennies in my pocket and I couldn't ask for a dime from my family. I had to just keep walking ahead and the universe worked it all for me.



As I am looking forward to the adventures of this decade, I want to confess that I never knew I would come so far. Ten years back, when I had just graduated in Bachelor of Science, I had no thoughts about taking another degree or leaving the country. Turning a few pages back in time, I found myself limiting my capabilities, not striving to achieve more as I was happy in my comfort zone. I felt the need to be true to my highest values, do more greater contribution, and share my gifts with the world.

To implement the change hence I focussed more on who I want to be and create that person, give my best shot in every field of work, and making a good impact while learning and growing to be a better person. One need to develop courage and vulnerability in the face of fear so we can live our lives authentically. Trying to change the world without changing our habits to the better is futile. Everything is alive and connected to this incredible, vast, mysterious evolving cosmos and we must help another being. One of the important lessons I have learnt so far is: Nobody is gonna save you and you are on your journey and you write your own story.