College and Culture in Norway


Norway is getting a lot of attention lately as an affordable college option. Tuition is free, but most undergraduate courses are taught in Norwegian. International students have to prove their fluency in Norwegian to qualify for college there. It’s easier to find post grad programmes in English. Nonetheless, the idea of studying in Norway has a lot of appeal. The education system is excellent, and it is a beautiful and safe country. Perhaps you have some Viking roots that stretch to Norway. What would a year in Norway be like?


Norway could be described as introvert heaven. The 2015 United Nations Human Development Report declared Norway the best place to live on Earth. It has one of the highest rankings for gender equality globally. Crime and litter are rare. There’s the aurora borealis, of course, and the stunning forests and fjords. The health system is also very good. Extroverts might struggle a bit, however, because it’s not the most friendly and out-going culture. Also, it’s dark a lot – except when it is light a lot. Because of its position so close to the North Pole, Norway is dark 24 hours a day for part of the winter and light 24 hours a day for part of the summer.

Real Life Norway for Students

Norwegian culture is much more formal and blunt than Irish culture. While the Irish are known around the world for our charm and friendliness, Norwegians can be seen as direct and reserved by immigrants and visitors. Locals are not known for going out of their way to include strangers in their conversations. It can take a thick skin and some determination to make friends and develop a social life with the locals. It is not that all Norwegians are unkind or that they dislike foreigners. They just take a while to get to know people. As you settle in, you will pick up the social cues and learn to connect in a more formal culture. And you will find that many people do speak English. A group of Norwegians might not switch to English to include you in conversation, but if you ask for help, you are likely to get a kind response in English.

If you are a student there for a year, you might be more focused on making life-long memories than life-long friends. You will find other international students to share adventures and laughs with while you are breaking the ice with the locals. And it is worth remembering that college is a phase in life when people of every culture are more open to making new friends than at other times in life. So don’t be put off by reports from professionals about their social woes in Norway. A student will have a much easier time socially.

The natural beauty of the fjords, the aurora borealis and the forests make Norway a dream destination for those who love the outdoors. There’s skiing, hiking and camping in pristine wilderness. And getting involved in activities like this is a great way to make new friends. Norway is a bit obsessed with fitness, so if you like being active, that’s a great way to connect with Norwegians.

The main drawback to studying in Norway is the cost of living. It’s a very expensive country. But that’s offset a bit by the free tuition. And the quality of consumer goods and accommodation is generally very high.  The aurora borealis, however, is free and absolutely priceless.

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