Ahh, Norway. A small but powerful country with a unique mix of cosmopolitan areas and unbridled nature. A place where the summer sun is still out at midnight, a viewing spot for one of nature’s most spectacular phenomena, the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights, a country rich with oil and resources, open spaces, and of course, plenty of fjords (google it).
There are currently about 15,000 international students studying in Norway...will you be number 15,001?!
Wherever you choose to study in Norway, you will have easy access to nature! However, these three cities are particularly appealing to college students, and all offer great univeristy resources.
The major universities in Oslo are Oslo University College, The Norwegian School of Management (for you business kids) and the aptly named University of Oslo. Though the capital of the country, most of Oslo is forest, making hiking and biking integral parts of Oslo life. At the same time, Oslo has a young, fun nightlife in its city center. Museums, parks, and other fun sites are plentiful, and the city has lots of fun festivals throughout the year.
University of Bergen, University College Bergen, and Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) are three major schools in Norway’s second largest city. Music lovers, Bergen is for you! Not only does the city host awesome concerts both for local musicians and megastars, but it is also known for its indie-music scene if you want to explore some Norwegian music while abroad. Though hip and modern in the music world, Bergen is also a beautifully historic city, and home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Bryggen.
Note that the last “o” in Tromsø has a slash through it, a letter unique to Scandinavian languages that comes after “z” in their alphabet, so if you’re planning on studying in Norway, learn to love this little letter. If you don’t want to limit your Northern Lights intake to just once during your time in Norway, then try living in Tromsø, a city with a prime view of that lit up sky. Though small, Tromsø has lots of museums, parks, cafes, and nightlife options. The main university is University of Tromsø.
Planning Your Trip
Norway is highly internationalized and a fantastic study abroad option for people looking for a modern country that is still a bit off the beaten path.
There are three official languages in Norway-- Bokmai, Nynorsk, and the indigenous Sumi language. The first two are most widely spoken are are basically two dialects of the Norwegian language, meaning that if you understand one, you can pretty much understand the other. What’s unique about Norwegian language, and Scandinavian language in general, is that they are all similar enough that if you master Norwegian, you will be able to get by in Denmark and Sweden (all the better for traveling!).
That being said, Norway is incredibly international so many Norwegians speak English very well. The major universities also offer lots of classes instructed in English, so if your Nynorsk is a bit weak, have no fear.
Often, the university you go to can set you up with dorm style housing in a “student village” (an area of only student housing holding up to several hundred students), or smaller “student neighborhoods” which are scattered through the city.
Universities and academics in Norway are very similar to those in the U.S. in that class structure is similar (lecture format), the grading system is A-F (a recent change), and . Norway was one of the first European countries to take on the Bologna Process, placing more emphasis on the success and quality of higher education. Slight differences include the length of undergraduate education and the types of schools Norway has.
Undergraduate schooling only lasts for three years, and there are universities (large schools that offer a broad range of subjects), university colleges (smaller schools often affiliated with a university, but they might be international or offer vocational training), and private schools (which are for more specific programs).
Visas are only given to visitors staying less than 90 days. You will need to apply for a student residence permit if staying for more than three months.
Social Life and Student Culture
Norwegians are known for being active and adventurous, no surprise given their Viking ancestors! With nature easily accessible wherever you are in the country, hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities are popular social outings. But the great outdoors are matched by an vibrant nightlife. Be warned, alcohol is quite expensive.
Every university has a student welfare organization. Upon paying a pretty inexpensive membership fee, you then get access to counseling, dining halls, exercise facilities, and other nice perks. Being a student enables you to get discounts on transportation, too.
We aren't going to beat around the bush on this one... Norway is an expensive country. Here are some links to help you put a little more cash in your pocket.
- The Study in Norway website has a whole slew of scholarships. Browse 'em all!.
- The American Scandinavian Foundation (ASF) offers scholarships and grants to encourage cross cultural exchange between, you guessed it, America and Scandinavia!
- As a non-profit, the various USAC study abroad scholarship opportunities aim for students to gain international experience -- without breaking the bank.
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships
A special brownie point goes to Norway for being ranked by the UN to have the highest standard of living. If this isn’t enough to get you packing your bags for this Scandinavian oil hub, I don’t know what is!