If you are planning to go on Erasmus in Bergen (Norway), as I did almost a year ago, I have compiled a list of some tips for you that were useful for me, or that I would have liked to know before going there. Here they are:
Firstly, if you plan to spend a year in Bergen (or anywhere else), you will have to take the administrative steps early enough (at least one year before your departure), so from September.
Then, no matter how long your stay lasts, you will have to save money because the financial grant you’ll receive will not be enough and it will not reach your bank account quickly (generally 1 to 4 months after your arrival). Besides, you must pay for your accommodation deposit at least one month before your arrival.
It would also be a shame to go to Norway without being able to travel in the country because there are a lot of things to see. Even during the welcome program, the focus will be on the various landscapes available on the territory, rather than the courses.
About credit card payment and international bank transfer: if your fees are too expensive, you should know that there are free (or almost free) online banking solutions that will allow you to pay in the currency of your choice without losing money.
Lastly, if you intend to work there, apply quickly for a Norwegian ID number or a D-number (if you stay less than six months). You will not be able to work without it, but it can still be issued to you if you sign a job contract.
Start your job search fairly early (finn.no) and get closer to some organisations, like Study Bergen or Studvest, that sometimes hire English-speaking amateur photographers/reporters at the beginning of the semester.
2) Plan ahead unexpected circumstances
As Brèves Au Féminin highlights in her video, to prepare an Erasmus, it’s important to keep copies of your precious documents in case of loss or theft. Even though Norway is a relatively safe country, people can still be robbed.
Then, if you visit a doctor, keep the invoices and prescriptions that are issued to you for your refunds upon your return.
Finally, consider adding emergency numbers to your phone contacts in case of an unexpected situation. These numbers can be useful in cases such as one of my friends found himself in one day: stuck in a snowstorm in the mountains. He had to be rescued by helicopter. So, also check the weather forecasts and alerts before taking any excursions.
3) Apply for the Norwegian language courses
The University of Bergen offers Norwegian language courses for all students. If you only want to discover the language, you can choose an introductory course to the Norwegian language and not attend the exam. These courses will help you to get closer to the Norwegian culture. Think twice about it because most of those who don’t take them end up regretting it in the middle of the semester.
As far as social life is concerned, I strongly recommend you go there by yourself. It will force you to meet people. Additionally, think about sharing a flat (with at least 3 people, if possible). Not only will this solution be cheaper than a studio, but on top of that, you will surely meet some great people. The best place to meet international people is Fantoft student housing, ideally in kitchen-shared apartments with 8 people.
However, if you want to meet many Norwegians in your place of stay, maybe you should choose another residence. If you are assigned to Fantoft, you can always ask Sammen for a transfer to another place afterward. (read also “I never meet Norwegians“).
From what I observed during my Erasmus in Bergen, if you choose to reside in Fantoft, at first, you will notice a mixture of communities in the groups, but after a few weeks, gatherings are mostly between nationalities (ease of language). Try not to fall into this trap.
For the purpose of your Erasmus exchange, the advice would be to remain in a rather international environment, which will force you all to speak English and to discover new cultures. That’s the aim of Erasmus!
And if you mainly want to improve your English level, choose to spend your time with native English speakers.
Don’t just stay with people who speak the same language as you, but don’t run away from them either! All acquaintances are good to have.
Also, consider getting involved in social life by volunteering for student organisations. You can then request a recommendation letter based on your contribution that you could use later on.
Also read : Student housing in Bergen.
5) Make the most of your exchange
Enjoy the slightest sunshine rays! When the weather is good, don’t isolate yourself at home. Go out if you don’t have university duties or go hiking. Join all student events and parties, especially the first ones because it’s the time when everyone wants to get to know everyone else. These 5 or 12 months will go by extremely fast, so enjoy every moment.
And for your souvenirs, don’t forget to bring your camera (if you have one)! You will end up taking a lot of pictures! If it’s a DSLR or mirrorless camera, it’s even better. You’ll be happy to admire the excellent quality of the scenery you shoot!
You will probably miss things from your home country, and that’s normal. Instead, enjoy the things that make Norway unique and that you may lose when you return: mountains, proximity to nature, Norwegian language, English practice, the jovial student life.
All good things come to an end.
For your return, choose to leave the country with many people. Indeed, if you go to the airport with them, it will be less painful. Don’t leave last either if you are too emotional because you will see all of your friends moving out successively.
When you return, make sure to keep yourself busy by continuing to going out with your friends, going on vacation, or working to avoid falling into a post-Erasmus breakdown.
Read also : Tips and advice for new students
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Sources : Erasmus Bergen (my own experience), testimonials uib, oslomet.