I am having a wonderful time in Norway, please do not get me wrong. So far throughout this entire experience, it has been my study abroad program that has given my the biggest headache. I think that USAC is probably a lovely program for some students, but in the case of the Norway program I am extremely disappointed.
Looking back on the whole experience, it would have been cheaper, faster, and easier to temporarily withdraw from my school and apply independently as an exchange student to the University of Oslo.
I'll start with the program fee. The entire program fee for the USAC Norway program is a bit over $5000, not including a security deposit. What USAC does not tell you is that international students get to study here at the University of Oslo for free. FOR FREE. Please let that sink in. So what does this $5000 program fee buy you? It basically buys you a set of instructions to get your visa (which can be found readily online), "help" with the application to the University of Oslo that you could have completed yourself, and the feeling that you are part of a group (most of whom you never see after you start at the university). This $5000 also buys you a t-shirt and some pretty cool USAC-emblazoned luggage tags, so I'm sure that my money is being well-spent.
In addition to this $5000, you must pay for your own food (Norway has some of the most expensive groceries in the world), housing expenses (around $400-$700 per month), and your own travel fees. The program doesn't even guarantee you a pass to the city transit system, which all students use.
Two more things that USAC does not tell you about up-front are the transfer credit process (or lack thereof) and the visa requirements. I'll start with the visa:
In order to study in Norway for more than 3 months, you need an official student visa. What USAC does not tell you initially is that you must apply for your visa entirely on your own and hand in your documents IN PERSON. This is not a big problem if you live in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or Houston. However it is a problem for the rest of us who must make an appointment at these consulates and fly out to them during the regular work week to apply for our visas.
Most study abroad programs, including all of the programs at my home university, do this service for their students. Perhaps this would have been a better use of my $5000? All relevant information about how to apply for a student visa to Norway from the United States can be found on Norway's immigration and visa website, which is called UDI: https://www.udi.no/en/want-to-apply/studies/studietillatelse/university-college-or-university/how-to-apply-for-a-residence-permit-for-a-student-at-a-university-college-or-university/?r=usa&n=n&c=usa
Now on to credit transfer. What USAC does not tell you is that there is absolutely no guarantee that your credits will transfer from the University of Oslo. This is not a problem that they can fix themselves, since they are in no way licensed to transfer credits from the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System), but it was not a problem that I was made aware of until I had already committed to the program and ASKED.
You would think that with so many students doubtlessly in the same situation every year and with more than $5000 from each student, a memo could have been made to let future students know about this significant shortcoming. If your university is like mine and only accept credits which have been been approved by a US institution, then congratulations. This program is not for you.
Yes, USAC does allow some of their programs to transfer credits through the University of Nevada, Reno. I tried to explore this option and sent about 20-odd emails to USAC staff when I first discovered that no system was in place to guarantee my credit transfer. There was literally nothing that they could do. I was eventually able to find a costly but official third-party organization called ECE that is transferring my credits for my for a significant fee of their own.
In short, if you are considering Norway and looking at the option of USAC, I strongly suggest that you either reconsider your program options or apply to the University of Oslo independently as an exchange student. I can honestly assure you that it will be well-worth you time and money. Norway is a lovely country and I would not trade my time and experiences in this place for the world. However, if you consider using USAC, be prepared to accept the consequences of the details that they don't tell you.