Norway: The country everyone has heard of, but few know much about. With a population of five million in a country larger than the UK, there seems to be room for more Australians. With no tuition fees, beautiful nature, and four-times UN top ranked for highest standard of living in the world, why would you not want to study there
Research done by the Australian Government, shows that there were 24,763 Australian students abroad in 2012. According to the Norwegian Database for Statistics on Higher Education (DHB), there are 19,104 international students in Norway in 2014, of which 131 are Australians. The number is not very high, especially compared to the 710 Norwegian students in Australia.
Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education (SIU) is a public Norwegian agency promoting international cooperation in education and research. Margunn Instefjord is a senior adviser at SIU and tells us that 70 per cent of international degree students consider staying in Norway after their studies. It seems like not a lot of students go, or even consider going to Norway, but the ones who do, love it. So, what is so great about this little country on the outskirts of Europe?
Jay Patel, a 27-year-old Aussie, lived in Norway for a year, before he returned to Australia in June 2014 to finish his Master’s in finance. He made a lot of new friends overseas, and when you meet him, you understand why. He greets you with a strong Norwegian dialect that he picked up in northern Norway. You’ve never heard anything like it, but you can’t do anything but smile. When asked what he misses the most about Norway he replies:
“Everything, to be honest. From the amazing people and landscape to the articulate, open, free, equal, and most importantly, liberal society.”
Jay spent fourteen months in Trondheim, studying Norwegian at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. He encourages more Australian students to do the same.
“More Australian students should study abroad, especially in such a unique and different place as Norway. As foreign students, we get an unparalleled perspective and appreciation for the life we live and the life we want to live,” he said.
Could be better known
How much do non-Norwegians actually know about Norway? A recent reputation survey done by SIU, shows that Norway was the first priority study destination for three out of four international students who came to the country in 2014.
“It’s not because I don’t like Norway. It’s just that it never occurred to me that I would study here”, a Chinese respondent to the survey said. She originally had USA on top of her list.
It seems as if people don’t know enough about Norway to actually consider going. In the same survey, 70 per cent answered that their impression of Norway changed in a positive way after their arrival.
“I had no idea what to expect before going to Norway. I barely knew anything about the country. I knew it was cold, and that was pretty much it,” Jay explains.
No fees and high quality
Norway is one of very few countries in the world not charging tuition fees at public universities.
“Even though this is an obvious advantage, living expenses in Norway are very high. On average, international students find this more of a challenge to cope with than for example the climate”, Margunn points out.
This was also one of Jay’s biggest problems while in Norway; he said living on a student budget in Norway is hard. Some people are also under the impression that there is an automatic correlation between the cost of and quality of higher education.
“This is not the case in Norway. Education is free, but is still renowned for it’s high academic quality,” she said. Jay agrees:
“In Norway the teachers were up-skilled in the art of creating discussion and interaction between students to create an ideal environment for group learning. Norwegian teachers have a unique philosophy on teaching,” he said.
When asked to point out his favorite experience, Jay didn’t need much time to think.
“Learning to ski and snowboard, hiking the amazing Norwegian forests, learning the language, travelling to Bergen and to Northern Norway to experience the northern lights, skating for kilometers down a hill down to a bay in Lofoten... Insane experiences,” he raves.
If it were up to him, we should all be international students in Norway.