Study Abroad

The Ultimate Guide to Studying Abroad in Norway

Christopher Mitchell
Topic Expert

Christopher is a Canadian travel blogger, photographer, and freelance writer who spent time studying abroad in Ireland and Norway.

When you think of the "quintessential study abroad" experience, it's likely that Norway isn't the first nation that pops into your mind. What better reason to go there and have an entirely unique experience?

There's absolutely nothing wrong with deciding that you might be better suited in a more typical nation to study abroad, but Norway offers a lot that other (potentially more popular) countries do not. For one, the opportunities to explore pristine and untouched nature is something I've just never seen in other popular study abroad destinations. I remember that on certain hikes in Norway, you could literally drink out of the streams you were walking over, so all you needed to bring with you was an empty water bottle - that's the level of nature I'm talking about here.

Norway calls a certain kind of person and traveler, namely someone who isn't scared to take a risk or buck the trend. It's only recently that Norway has come to the world stage as a viable and exciting tourist destination, so you get to be at the forefront of discovery, and visit places that aren't on every other traveler's social media feeds.

Studying abroad in Norway is something a little different and I, for one, have never been one to take the path well trodden, so it was the ideal experience. Read on and you might discover that you feel the same!

What to Know Before Studying Abroad in Norway

There's plenty that I wish I had known before I'd gone overseas to Oslo, but it was information that just didn't seem to be readily available in the same way that it was for other study abroad destinations. Personally, I was fine with learning on the ground, but there are some things that it's helpful to know if you're looking to thrive in Norway. Norway is an amazing place to study abroad, but it makes sense to be prepared for all that you do here in order to really take advantage of the experience.

Norway Can be Expensive

Careful budgeting can make living abroad in Norway financially manageable, but there's no use pretending that it's not quite expensive to live there.

When I moved to Oslo, I learned rather quickly how to ensure that I was getting the biggest bang for my buck. For one, I ended up spending a lot more time at friend's apartments and houses instead of at bars and restaurants because it tended to be too expensive to be out for the whole night. You won't be alone in that either; sharing meals with fellow students at home is a great way to save.

You can focus on the fact that food and alcohol are expensive, but you can also focus on the opportunity you have to now cook with and enjoy the company of new friends in their homes (or your home), which tends to be more intimate anyhow. In some ways, the high cost of things like food and alcohol can be balanced out by the price of things like skiing, or the availability or low-cost and free camping around the country. As I mentioned before, it's really all a matter of preparation, and adjusting to new circumstances.

Norway is a Perfect Place to Get Active

If you feel like you're just not active enough back on your home campus, come to Norway! The Norwegians are probably the most active and culturally 'outdoorsy' people I've ever witnessed, and I adored it.

What makes Norway unique is that people are active all year-round. Once the hiking and camping season is deemed over, then out come the cross-country and downhill skis.

I remember getting on the tram one day after class and it was filled with people who were going cross-country skiing right after work. At first, I thought there was a special race that day or something, but then I just realized it was the way Norway worked, or at least Oslo. Quickly, I began cross-country skiing and I fell in love with how methodical it was. I'll be honest, it was only when I moved to Norway that I began to examine what practices I'd adopted from growing up in the fast-paced city of Toronto that I might need to challenge.

There are opportunities to be active in Norway at every turn no matter where you are in the country and what season it is.

Learn a Little Norwegian

One of the huge perks about studying abroad in Norway is that English is ubiquitous, which makes it a relatively easy transition for native English speakers. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't take the time to learn Norwegian. Most of the population speak Bokmål, which is likely what you'll learn should you choose to pursue learning Norwegian.

Often, your university will offer a beginner's course in the language, and I actually took a beginner's Norwegian course that was geared towards the University of Oslo's large international student body. I was able to take this class as an elective, so think about whether that's something you might want to do as well.

It was extremely rewarding to be able to understand some of the language and I feel as if the Norwegians I met were pleasantly surprised to see that I was taking the time to do so, as far too many students don't put in that effort to get to know their home country..

Dive into Norwegian Culture

In a sense, the Norwegians are going through a bit of a cultural renaissance. It's only relatively recently that Norway moved out from under the heavy thumb of both Danish and Swedish dominance in the region, and for hundreds of years, Norway was a nation that was more or less a pawn in a larger game of world conquest. Nowadays, Norway has a thriving economy who has never had a bigger seat on the world stage.

If you want to understand how far Norway has come, you need to take the time to understand where they came from. Taking the time to learn Norway's history made an enormous difference in the way that I understood the nation and its people. As with language, I made sure that I took an elective in Norwegian history in a class predominantly filled with foreign international students. If that course isn't on offer, I'd still very much recommend actively learning about Norway's history from the present all the way back to the Vikings. (Who doesn't want to learn about the Vikings, right?)

Your education and immersion in Norwegian culture doesn't have to be just based in the classroom, either. When I wanted to learn more about the Vikings, I literally just caught a bus to the Viking Ship Museum. There are outstanding museums aplenty across Norway which can help enrich your experience. Also, as with language, the Norwegians I met really appreciated the time I put into learning about their homeland.

Get Out and Explore Norway

This might sound self-evident, but it's the number one piece of advice I'd go back and tell myself if I could do it over again: explore your new home country!

I got so caught up in the rush of flying to see the big cities of Europe, that, at times, I didn't focus enough on Norway itself. I've never actually stopped traveling since I lived in Norway; now I've visited cities like Budapest, Vienna, and Prague multiple times. I wish I could say the same for cities like Bergen or Kristiansand.

I didn't really recognize it at the time, but Norway is quite out of the way of the European vacation path, so cherish your time exploring a nation like Norway. Now that I'm better traveled, I'm even more convinced of just how special Norway is. Don't get distracted by larger nearby cities, embrace Norway as much as you can.

Top Cities to Study to Study in Norway

There's absolutely nothing wrong with studying abroad in the great cities and well-trodden countries of Europe. However, there's also value in spending time in a quaint Scandinavian town or city that is almost sure to have access via the metro system to a ski hill (in the case of Oslo) or, at the very least, a place where you can learn to appreciate the outdoors and empty your mind of worry (in the case of every other city).

Norway has no shortage of intriguing university cities, but which one is right for you?

Oslo: Budding Metropolis & Cultural Stronghold

It's fair to say that Oslo would be the obvious choice when thinking of going overseas to study in Norway. Oslo is the capital of fair Norway and by far its most populous city. Not to mention, Oslo is a great place to learn about the nation because of its density of quality museums, and dedication to showcasing Norwegian history. The Viking Ship Museum is a gem for obvious reasons, and art lovers with surely fall in love with the Munch Museum, a museum dedicated to Edvard Munch, painter of the famed piece, "The Scream."

Beyond that, Oslo has an array of public spaces perfect for student enjoyment. Vigeland Park, the bizarre and intriguing sculpture park, is as good a place as any to enjoy a picnic with a few new friends. Oslo, by nature of being the capital, also has a large international study body, which can aid in making your time there enjoyable.

Lastly, Oslo has no shortage of concerts rolling through the city from a reputable array of artists. Cities farther north certainly have their own charm and appeal, but you're not quite as likely to get the big names in music to make the journey up.

Bergen: Fresh Air & Stunning Views

Bergen is the second largest city in Norway, but many contend that it's Norway's most beautiful. In many ways, Bergen is the city you're picturing when you picture Norway. The city is politely nestled into a mountain range, and a fair portion of the city is actually on a fjord (which, for those who don't know is a large, deep body of water between cliffs, in what would long ago have been a glacial area).

Bergen is in part known for its enterprise in shipping and oil, but, naturally, that's not what makes it a perfect university city. When I lived in Oslo, I had a slew of friends who lived in Bergen, and they loved what an outdoorsy city it was in all seasons. Bergen is widely referred to as the "city among seven mountains," so you can imagine what sort of opportunities there are for those who love to be in nature, especially hikers.

Beyond just nature, Bergen happens to stunning, which makes it a photographer's paradise, especially since aerial views aren't hard to come by thanks to the nearby mountains.

You can also imagine what it'd be like to be attending a school in a city that has a restored medieval wharf (known as Bryggen). When you're in Bryggen, don't forget to stop by the museum which commemorates Bergen's time as an official bureau city of the Hanseatic League (The Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene).

If Oslo is a bit too big, but you still want to attend a school in a sizeable city, Bergen is a good bet!

Kristiansand: Student-Friendly & Off the Beaten Path

It's the fifth largest city in Norway, but many Norwegians would say that it deserves to be in the talks for the top university city in the country. This is largely because, the population is under 100,000, but nearly a tenth of that are university students during any one time.

Kristiansand is also known for its harbor and natural beauty (like so many of Norway's cities), but also has one of the top zoos in the country, and an amusement park that isn't all that far away from the city. In my humble opinion, it doesn't get much better than Fiskebryyga, which is the old fish landing, with plenty of colorful houses nearby just to make it that extra level of picturesque.

Students also love that it's become a bit of a hotbed for music and concerts, as it's got a world-class performing center, and plenty of venues which love hosting and promoting music in the city. It won't necessarily have the international student body you could find in other cities, but the Norwegians are highly proficient in English, so perhaps that's just what you're looking for!

Tromsø: Northern Lights & Welcomed Solitude

Tromsø is the city that you should study in if you're really looking to get a feel for what it's like to live in northern Norway. Kindly remember that, geographically speaking, you can't go that much further north than northern Norway. In fact, Tromsø is the third largest city north of the Article Circle in the world. If that's not an intriguing place to go overseas and study, then I don't know what is.

The city itself comes in with a population of just under 70,000, and it's really the city in this region. The major sites reflect its latitude with the likes of Polaria, an arctic aquarium, and The Polar Museum both being major attractions.

When I was attending school in Oslo, I had friends who were studying in Tromsø, and they constantly stressed that, while it didn't have all the bells and whistles of Oslo, studying in Tromsø felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity. I'll also tell you that while the northern lights were shining bright in Tromsø, I was more than a little jealous.

If you're looking for something a little different, but with a strong academic background and university heritage, then Tromsø might be your best bet.

Trondheim: Music Lover's Hotbed & History Lover's Paradise

This isn't a city that you may have heard of prior to this article, but in Norway, it's a very well known city, and that's largely because of its universities, and technology and science-oriented institutions. It also happens to be the third largest city in Norway.

It's been an important city for quite sometime, and as such, it's a great place to be if you're someone who loves history. Nidaros Cathedral, for example, is an 11th-century gothic cathedral that many in Norway feel is one of the countries most beautiful.

It's also a great place to be if you're a lover of music, and are particularly interested in diving in Norway's musical history a little further. For one, great bands swing through here regularly (especially top Norwegian artists), and Trondheim houses the Rockheim, a museum dedicated to showcasing Norwegian popular music.

This is a great spot to be for students who are looking to dive into Norwegian culture from a number of angles while receiving a top-notch education at the same time.

The Top Study Abroad Programs in Norway

Choosing which study abroad program in Norway is right for you should ultimately be based on a variety of factors. The academic program itself is obviously going to have a great bearing on your decision. You'll also be considering what your housing situation will be like, what fun you might be able to get into, and overall safety. I can tell you personally that one benefit to studying abroad in a place like Norway is how safe and peaceful it really is.

There are a number of programs in Norway that all have their own strengths, some of which might genuinely speak to you. For me personally, I appreciated the strong academics at the University of Oslo, and the opportunity to learn more about Norwegian literature from some of Norway's top professors. That being said, my past decision isn't the same as your future decision, so it's worth taking the time to carefully examine the following programs and where you feel you'll find the best fit.

I also want to briefly stipulate after years of studying and living abroad that you won't necessarily ever find the "perfect fit," but it's about appreciating what makes a place special, and accepting that you might find certain aspects of a place difficult to digest at first. Having lived on five different continents, I can tell you that the number one factor in your success is your attitude. You can find faults in the best situation, and beauty in a difficult one.

Below are the top study abroad programs in Norway here on Go Overseas for you to consider.

1. American College of Norway

Over and over again, students tout the American College of Norway for its "small school feel" that makes for an intimate educational experience. This is a unique experience as the school is situated in Moss, Norway, a medium-sized coastal town in the northwest of the nation. Studies are conducted in English, and classes often have a mixture of both international students and Norwegian students, which many students appreciated. The school offers fall semester, spring semester, a full year, or summer school classes.

What really came across from past students is what a safe and supportive environment ACN provided (both getting a 10), but also that they really appreciated the housing, and felt they were able to have a lot of fun.

Here are some other highlights from alumni reviews of the American College of Norway program:

  • "Being at ACN has made me become more confident in myself and more spontaneous when before I was shy and didn't do many things outside of my comfort zone. ACN gave me the opportunity to meet many new friends and the staff at the school were our close advisers for anything we needed."-- Jeannette
  • "With ACN being such a small school compared to most American universities, we naturally have a tight and welcoming student environment...I can honestly say that the teaching staff at ACN that I've encountered represents the best educators I have ever had the privilege of learning from." -- Simon

Read more reviews →

2. University of Oslo: International Summer School

At the University of Oslo, you'll be enrolled at one of Norway's most prestigious universities, as well as the oldest. With this program in particular, students appeared to be very impressed with the efforts the University went to organize trips that would allow students to get a better grasp on the city and nation, but also in promoting the social aspects of such an experience. While I certainly don't want to offer too much of my own bias into this, I will say that I do concur with the above statements. I very much enjoyed my time in Oslo, and the summer is a perfect time to visit because of the long days.

With this opportunity, students appreciated the support they received from the University of Oslo (rated at a 9), as well as the academics (8.5).

Here are some other highlights from alumni reviews of the University of Oslo - International Summer School program:

  • "Good mix of students; excellent weekend excursions. Faculty helpful and friendly. Super setting and location. Variety of weekday evening activities." -- George
  • "The social program of the Summer School was one of the best I have experienced in a summer program. They organize both weekend trips and nightly social events. I recommend the International Summer School to students who want a rigorous academic summer in an international setting and who wish to explore Oslo and Norway (on the weekends)." -- Rachel

Read all reviews →

3. HECUA: The New Norway

For those not aware, HECUA stands for the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs. HECUA is, in short, a collection of colleges, universities, and associations which are focused on social justice. This program in particular aims to highlight Norway's political and social challenges as their population continues to change in the face of mass immigration, asylum seekers and refugees.

Students in this program again highlighted how safe they felt in the city of Oslo (10), and they also alluded to the support they received (9).

Here are some other highlights from alumni reviews of the HECUA Semester: The New Norway program:

  • "On the New Norway program we spent a lot of time exploring the city of Oslo... Becoming familiar with the city was also made easier by how incorporated outings were in our classes. We visited museums and walked around different parts of the city in the HECUA interactive classroom." - Elika
  • "Through external and internal research, I was able to discover my strengths, weaknesses, and gain a better understanding of what I would like to achieve in the remainder of my time in college and beyond." -- Emma

Read all reviews →

4. USAC Norway: Oslo

USAC stands for the University Studies Abroad Consortium, and this particular program is run at the University of Oslo. One major benefit of this program is the wide array of courses that are offered in English, which means that students from a variety of majors can actively fulfill their degree requirements. Students taking part in this program were pleasantly surprised by the beauty of Oslo, especially its wide boulevards, as well as the proximity of Oslo to outdoor experiences like skiing and hiking.

Once again, students highlighted the safety of the city of Oslo (10), and the students of the USAC program, also felt that the housing opportunities were good, as well as noting it was a fun program.

Here are some other highlights from alumni reviews of USAC Norway: Oslo program:

  • "I chose this program on a whim but I'm so glad I did! Oslo is a great place to study, the people I met were great, and studying at the University of Oslo was a wonderful experience." -- Elizabeth
  • "Studying in Norway was great because the University of Oslo was accessible and they offered so many valuable courses. Even if you don't live close to the school, it is a ten-minute subway ride to the main campus. As someone thinking about becoming a lawyer, I even had the chance to study law which was helpful." -- Lauren

Read all reviews →

How Much Does it Cost to Study Abroad in Norway?

Let's call a spade a spade: studying abroad in Norway comes with a cost (though not necessarily when it comes to tuition). There are certainly ways that you can be economical as a student, but it still doesn't totally negate the fact that Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world.

That being said, if you're mindful of spending when eating out and at bars and pubs, it isn't altogether too bad -- just be prepared to be a little more money conscious! It's also worth noting that if you're attending a public institution in certain circumstances, your tuition could be significantly lower than elsewhere, or even free.

Let's dive into that further.

Average Tuition Cost For a Semester in Norway

You'll have noted by now that daily spending and life can be expensive, but how much is tuition, again?

Well, here's the beautiful part, as I alluded to before, almost all of the public institutions in Norway offer free education to both the national and international student body. This includes prestigious institutions in the country like the University of Oslo, University of Stavanger, the University of Bergen, and other well regarded public institutions. However, I know that when I enrolled in my third year of study at the University of Oslo, I was still required to pay my tuition to my home institution. I can't speak for how all institutions run their exchange programs, but it's worth understanding that your year on exchange might not be free regardless of the cost of the Norwegian university.

While public universities might be free, private institutions are not. The following is a sample list of the cost of tuition at private universities in Norway.


Average Cost of Living in Norway

There's a good chance that Norway will be more expensive than wherever you're coming from. I do remember that, at first, I was taken aback by the cost of everyday things, particularly eating out, but you do get used to it and find ways around it. I personally just spent more time in less affluent areas and tried to scope out local places to get food on the fly.

Naturally, different cities in the country are going to come with a different price tag, but note that the drop off isn't terribly significant. As a nation, Norway tends to be expensive, but Oslo is the most pricey overall. While Oslo is technically the most expensive, I would also argue that, due to its size, there are also more areas where you can hunt and find a bargain. Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger and other cities all very expensive, but less so overall compared to Oslo (though food in Stavanger is very expensive).

One thing to consider in Norway is that some communities may have more expensive goods due to their isolation, so that's worth noting.

According to Numbeo, here are the average costs for the following, all of which you'll need to consider when living abroad:

Meals $19.92 - inexpensive meal
$99.61 - three course meal at a mid range restaurant
$12.45 - McDonald's meal
Monthly Rent $1286.40 - 1 bedroom in the city centre
$995.69 - 1 bedroom outside the city centre
$2113.69 - 3 bedroom in the city centre
$1672.03 - 3 bedroom outside the city centre
Utlities $190.36 - basic utilities for a 915 square foot apartment
$53.93 - high quality internet costs
Transportation $4.36 - one way ticket on the metro
$91.64 - monthly metro pass
$11.21 - starting price for taxis, with additional $2.81 for each mile after that.
$7.10 - a gallon of gas
Personal Expenses $9.96 - domestic pint of beer
$17.12 - mid-range bottle of wine
$4.84 - regular cappuccino
$51.46 - monthly gym membership
$108.52 - pair of jeans
$15.50 - ticket to the movies

It's difficult to say how much you should budget for because, in Norway, your cost of living is so dependent upon how much you decide to eat and drink outside of your respective accommodation. Rent, in general, isn't horrific, but daily life is going to come with a cost, as I've mentioned prior. One big way to save money is on groceries, and I found watching for daily and weekly deals at the grocery store REMA 1000 saved me a lot of money.

Average Airfare & Travel Costs While in Norway

When flying from the United States you will more than likely be arriving in Oslo, the largest city and hub of the country. If you're flying from a major American city to Oslo, you should expect to pay around $1000 for lower cost airlines, and $1500 and higher for anything above a budget airline. Prices will vary from city to city, but that's what you should expect to see from a major hub like New York, etc.

Flying within the country is much more reasonable, especially since the emergence of Norwegian Air. Flying from a major hub like Oslo to Bergen will cost you $200 or less. Taking the train is also lovely in Norway as you get to take in all the scenery around you, and road trips are a lot of fun, as long as you're splitting the costs with a number of people. Remember, gas can add up pretty quickly.

Many low-cost airlines do fly in and out of Oslo, so flying to major cities around Europe isn't that much more expensive than travel within the country. A flight to Rome, for example, might cost you $325 with Norwegian Air. Using a service like Skyscanner or something similar to gauge flight prices makes sense, and even set up a flight alert to places you know you're going to want to travel to. That being said, the first thing that I'd do would be to become a member of Norwegian Air and take advantage of their deals and sales whenever possible.

Other Costs to Keep in Mind While Studying in Norway

For the most part, the above text covers what you should expect to encounter in terms of expenses. The one thing I might add is that most major cities have Norwegian language classes on offer for foreigners. However, check at your university prior to enrolling, as there's a good chance you'll be able to take a basic Norwegian language class as an elective.

Personally, as I mentioned prior, I took a basic Norwegian language class as an additional elective while there, and it didn't cost me anything extra. Furthermore, the people you tend to meet in language classes are people who are actively engaged with making the most of their time in the country, and therefore, are great people to know and explore the country with.

I would also budget to include sports as a part of your life there if you're an active person. Getting a membership to the local ski hill makes a lot of sense if you're looking to take a break from the city, and you can rent cross-country skis for next to nothing. I actually rented my cross-country ski gear directly from the University of Oslo.

Beyond participating, it's also worth it to go out and watch some sports while you're in the country. I attended several football matches and even attended an international match with Norway facing Montenegro. A group of international students and I actually painted our faces as the Norwegian flag before the match, and those are some of the finest memories that I have. Ice hockey is also popular, the league is both competitive and enjoyable. If it's your thing, be sure to budget for some sports!

Lastly, the music scene in Norway is good fun, so I'd keep a careful eye on the concerts that are coming to your town or city, and plan to attend shows where you can. I went to some excellent shows while I was there, particularly for some Norwegian artists who are now much better known. While drinking at the shows can be pricey, the ticket itself isn't going to destroy your bank account.

Is it Worth it to Study in Norway?

Norway is expensive, as I've noted throughout, but it's also so much more. I literally can't think of a country with more opportunities to explore the outdoors in meaningful ways. If you're willing, you'll spend more than you've ever spent outside, and, like the Norwegians, live to breathe fresh air and be in nature. Newsflash - a hike won't cost you a thing except a packed lunch.

Studying in Norway changed my life, plain and simple. I credit living in Norway with a lot of what I've internalized as far as my desire to be outdoors, and strike a fair work/life balance despite now living in ever busy North America.

Studying in abroad Norway is a truly unique opportunity, and not something everyone can say they've done. I can, and, if I could go back, I'd make the same decision one hundred times over. There's truly only one Norway and, if you're willing, she's ready and waiting for you to arrive on her shores.