Published on April 21st, 2015 | by Karl Werner
IT AIN’T EASY IN NORWAY
How to survive in the never-ending darkness, from a foreigner for a foreigner
Before I do start giving actual advice about how to survive as a foreign student in Bergen and how to get (at least somewhat) integrated to the Norwegian society, I want to introduce myself and what brought me to Norway. My name is Karl, I am currently 25 years old and I moved to Bergen in August 2013 to start my Masters in fisheries biology and management. What brought me here? I have travelled a lot all around Norway throughout my whole life, so I pretty much had the chance to study in the country I used to travel to – hell yeah! I tried to avoid the “exchange-student-chambers” of Fantoft and moved into the city into a regular apartment with two Norwegian guys. And now we already get to…
Rule # 1 Avoid getting stuck in Fantoft
Which pretty much means, I would advise every exchange student or other foreigner either to move into a regular “leilighet” or, if you were unavoidably put into Fantoft, try to get out and enlarge your horizon of friends also towards town (which is more Norwegian-dominated). So when you have successfully managed Rule # 1, we can move straight forward to the next: If you decide to come to Bergen, come for the autumn semester because it’s…
Rule # 2 Fadderuke
Rule # 2 is one of the most decisive, significant and mind blasting week of the whole year for almost every student in Bergen, so take that chance and go all in! It’s worth it. Definitely. 100%. When I moved here, I originally planned on becoming very serious: masters student, house, girlfriend, dog, lawn and garden tractor. But Rule # 2 somewhat intervened, and besides being still a Masters student, the other plans have failed. It is very striking that the words from the welcome ceremony for the internationals are still present in my memory, where it was explained to all new foreign students that Norwegians are not very outgoing, but that would change after a beer (or two). Among the students who proved that to be true on that very same night are both some of the authors of this well-reputed journal and some of the best friends I still have here now. But let’s not get stuck in Fadderuke-melancholy now, but move on for another important decision: If you come in autumn, the best is to stay at least 3 semesters, to do…
Rule # 3 Fadderuke again
The second time is even better. By participating twice, you simply double your chances to find new friends for life. To summarize it, and to leave Fadderuke behind for now: If you can, do it, it’s worth it! If you managed to find some friends now, you are good to go, and can stop reading from here on and rather drink a coffee with some of your new mates instead of sitting on the corner and reading newspapers. However, if for any reason rules # 2 and/or # 3 could not be followed, more initiative is asked of you now. Another aspect you have to consider when you approach the (sober) Norwegian soul, is that people up here are not the same as anywhere else and they are indeed somewhat unique. You simply cannot compare them to for example, the Americans, who make it heavenly easy for foreigners. But that is not a big deal, you just have to make it a bit easier for them to get to know you by showing interest in them. Because, and I surprisingly keep on discovering this continuously, Norwegians really do care about what foreign students think about them as well as being well aware of that it ain’t always easy for a foreigner in Norway. It is also worth remembering that, as with any other country in the world, you will meet all kinds of personalities. As everywhere else you will meet rather introverted and also rather open people. While undergoing this process, it is advantageous to follow…
Rule # 4 Be patient
The quality of Rule # 4 will prove to be more helpful than you might think. It simply does take a bit of time, which in it’s self is no problem, because you can just use that time for yourself.
I think that is enough from my side at this point. Everything you need to know to survive these long and rainy days up here has been said. My last and most important advice is: Don’t hesitate to throw yourself into these Nordic folks, some energy is required but in the end it will be paid back by the friendly, laid-back and trustworthy people of Norway.