What a lot of Erasmus students regret the most in Bergen is not meeting any Norwegians or only a few of them. Plus, you may have heard that you must be hypersociable to go on a student exchange. Not reassuring for many people, is it? Well, you should not worry that much about that.
First of all: no, you don’t need to be hypersociable to make an Erasmus. The only strength is your willingness to meet people. And for that reason, many means will be at your disposal. For my part, I met several personalities, and all of them managed to make their way as international students to Bergen.
Any means are good! Here are 12 tips:
1) Go alone
One of the first things you should do is to go alone. For many students, Erasmus is the first significant long-term stay without relatives. Many people will advise you to choose this option and even often for travelling.
You will be outside of your comfort zone, and this will force you to socialise. You will even get a taste for it in the end, because that’s how you will experience your best encounters.
If you are going with other people, note that it will be essential for you to include activities to help you get out of your circle (see points 4 to 7).
2) Don’t waste time, participate in introduction days
Your arrival in Norway at the beginning of the semester will be the best time to meet new people. All of the new students will be in the same spirit as yours and therefore inclined to meet new people. Don’t miss that opportunity by not attending the first parties, welcome days or other events that may seem unnecessary at first sight.
Among these events, here are some important ones:
- The introduction day(s) at your school;
- ESN Bergen which organises a hike to Mont Fløyen every new semester;
- ESN Buddy Program: which connects you with a Norwegian student for about six months;
- Tandem Partner organised by several institutions in Bergen, enabling you to have a language exchange with a partner;
- Hansafest : which takes place every other Thursday in a friendly bar.
If during an event you observe a group of people chatting for example, go to them and don’t stay in your area. If this is too complicated for you, locate and approach a single person and start talking to him/her. The rest will come naturally. Most first Erasmus discussions often begin with, “Hi, where are you from?”
Once you have repeated this scheme, it will trigger an automatic response and you will no longer be afraid (or less afraid) to approach people.
3) Live in a shared apartment
There is nothing better than living in a shared flat for your student exchange. Even if some aspects of this lifestyle will displease you, you will not regret it. To integrate among Norwegians people, I advise that you choose to share a flat near or in the city centre. With hybel.no, you will have the opportunity to select your roommates and be sure to find local people who want to live with international students.
Otherwise, Fantoft TRE‘s buildings offer apartments with personal bathrooms and a large kitchen shared with seven other people. In my opinion, that’s the best solution for student accommodation sharing in Bergen. And if you come in a group, you will have the possibility to ask SIB to be gathered in the same apartment. However, you may not have Norwegian roommates.
4) Get out, don’t stay locked at home
Living in a shared apartment is not an excuse not to meet other people. Some people stick to their roommates and manage to forge a family spirit thanks to the group cohesion that settles in the apartment they share. And that’s very good! It can result to a homely spirit.
However, on Erasmus, that is indeed not a good idea. Especially in Bergen. Indeed, you should enjoy the Norwegian landscapes. Many people regret that they did not enjoy nature enough, unfortunately too late, especially if you’re only there for one semester.
Ask to participate in outings and sports sessions, no matter what it is, as long as you enjoy the activity. Don’t restrict yourself because you don’t know anyone. Don’t wait to be invited either.
Volunteering is undoubtedly one of the best ways to be sociable and make sustainable international contacts and especially Norwegian meetings. Here are some places where you could make them.
- Kvateret : mainly catering (barista etc.);
- ESN Bergen : various assignments for international students (events, digital, public relations);
- T.U union Fantoft : Organisation linked to the Fantoft residence (every type of assistance: events preparation, cleaning, etc.);
- Festivals : Bergen Music festival, Beer festival, Bergenfest;
- Bergen Student TV;
- And much more…
All volunteer options are listed here.
6) Participate in the Languages Café
Languages Café is a regular and frequent activity in Bergen. Here is a good way, in addition to the Tandem Partner, to make new acquaintances through the mastery of your language.
Follow the Facebook page and the events organised almost every week.
7) Practice a group sports activity
As you may have noticed, the regular practice of any group activity will usually help you to meet people in the long term. Sports sessions are one of the best ways for this. A team sport like football or basketball is even better!
For my example: By often going to step classes, I repeatedly saw the same people. So, on the small group sessions (during exam periods for example), they started to get to know me. In the end, it was the instructor and some regular Norwegian women that I became linked with.
8) Visit alcoholic places
You will hear it everywhere during your stay:
It is much easier to approach Norwegian people when they’re drunk.
And that’s true for many! It usually happens at parties. Some of them may also introduce you to their friends. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if the next day they have completely forgotten you. These meetings are temporary most of the time.
You won’t have to try too hard to have some fun discussions with Norwegians or expatriates.
Many Norwegians generally go out and drink on Friday and Saturday evenings to compensate for their sobriety on weekdays and celebrate the weekend. For the rest of the week, they consume very little or no alcohol at all. It’s the “binge-drinking” for those who drink excessively (aged 20 to 30 for the most part), and that’s the reason why it will be much easier to socialise with them.
9) Travel in the country
Some destinations in the country may reveal some surprises! Like your meetings in hostels or at a stop during a road trip. Discover new cities and in the countryside inhabitants there are generally very warm and welcoming. You can easily chat with them and even have a coffee in a house on the edge of a fjord! (Lived experience.)
10) Follow Facebook groups and pages:
To be up to date on upcoming events.
You will find a list of all the accounts and pages to follow in this article.
11) Do not only stay with people from your country!
I know it’s tempting to spend all of your time with your compatriots because you are sure not to face culture shocks or misunderstandings, and on top of that, discussions will be more comfortable. But that’s not what an Erasmus is meant for. Well, as long as you don’t abuse it. Let’s say that it would be a shame not to mix with people in this international environment that is the best for cross-cultural meetings.
12) Organise meals/parties at home or invite people to accompany you
One of the best ways to build lasting relationships with people you like is to welcome them. Whether it’s a meal at home, or an event hosted by one of your new friends, any occasion is good to attend. In addition to the sense of gratitude your guests will have for you, you will also be more likely to be invited to other parties and meals in more intimate settings.
Finally, Norwegians pay particular attention to mental health. Note that many support services are available for students suffering from depression. Feel free to talk to them.
Read also : Get to know your neighbour (by Sammen).
In the end, more than anything else, Erasmus is a human experience. You will learn more about yourself than you think and you will be able to keep these new habits in your daily life when you return. If you decide to apply some of these tips, you will have all of the keys to making lasting encounters and friendships.
Don’t forget to follow Erasmus Bergen on Instagram !
Sources : Erasmus Bergen (my own experience), testimonials, Universitas.no, whereinoslo.