What were your main reasons for choosing Norway as your study destination?
When I was younger, I had an interest in Norwegian music. Norwegian heavy metal music, to be more specific. And I had this very romanticised view of Norway; I thought it was all going to be castles and woods, and people living in cabins…
So I wanted to go and see the actual Norway, and to acquaint myself with how people actually are over there.
As a language student, I was also fascinated by the Norwegian language. I knew a few words, and I was really curious to find out more about it.
Why did you choose to study at the Østfold University College?
Originally, I wasn’t aware that you could go to Norway as an exchange student. I was planning to go there after finishing my bachelor’s degree, just for a week or two, using my own funds. Then, in the year before my final year of study, I discovered the possibility to go to Norway on exchange, funded by the EEA Grants. So I did my research, I applied, and after a while I was accepted.
I could choose between two institutions, and I chose the Østfold University College because they had more of the programs I was interested in. I was an English major back then, and I was looking for something combining English culture and Norwegian culture. My programme included a course focusing on the cultural and linguistic links between Anglo-Saxon England and Scandinavia, and my research project involved exploring these links.
The course included a 10-day research trip to York, England, where we talked with people researching the Yorkshire dialect. They have a lot of words that are clearly of Scandinavian origin, you could recognise Norwegian words, Swedish words, combinations… it was very interesting.
How was your life as a student in Norway?
What I love about the Norwegian education system is that people are very, very calm, they are not uptight. You can really talk to the professors, and they understand your needs. They even adapt the course itself to suit you.
In my dorm, there were a lot of international students, and most of them were studying computer science. I learned a lot from them and it ignited my interest. So I went to a few courses. It was an opportunity for me to move into a different field, in which there are a lot of jobs.
I was allowed to use the computer labs and to have access to a lot of really nice technology, because they are very well equipped. And the library was great; they have access to a lot of scientific literature in databases, which in Romania is difficult to get to.
After I came back, I applied for a degree in computer engineering. This is a field that is exploding now in Romania, and I can thank my experience in Norway for getting into the programme. Without that practical experience, without the know-how that the teachers and especially the other students have provided for me, I probably wouldn’t have considered this. So I can really say that studying in Norway was a life-changing experience.
How were you received when you came to Norway as an exchange student?
It was really great. They had this “buddy” system; Norwegian student representatives picked me up at the airport, we stopped somewhere to eat, and they gave me all the information I needed to check into the dorms. They were very helpful. It was an A+ experience.
Did something surprise you about living in Norway?
Well, I have to mention that it was shockingly expensive. When I was buying food I always calculated how much that would be in Romanian currency. And it was a bit shocking, to be honest.
The other thing that surprised me was that almost everyone was playing an instrument. Some were really good at what they were doing. There were pianos in the hallways in the university, and sometimes people would just sit down and start playing. I almost felt like being at the opera.
Do you have some advice to other students who are considering going on exchange?
First off, get informed. Be eager to communicate with the people at the receiving institution, and meet deadlines. One of the mistakes I made was that I treated this a bit superficially, and I didn’t know everything I needed to know beforehand. So be proactive and finish what you have to before you get there.
This goes further than just being informed about the country, the language and the study programme. You should get informed about transport possibilities and costs, for example, so that you know what to expect. And you should get informed about the laws and regulations, and understand that in Norway, a rule is a rule. You have to obey, otherwise you’ll have problems.
What would you highlight as a personal outcome of being an international student?
Many people in Norway have really nice hobbies and are passionate about them, and you can have really long and interesting conversations and learn a lot from them.
I think the best part is that you get to experience other people’s mindset – even for five minutes, even for an afternoon – and it broadens your perspectives incredibly. It makes you understand their positions and their way of thinking and living. I think that’s the best part of being an exchange student.