When people find out that I studied for a time in Norway, they are amazed. They think that I suddenly speak Norwegian and that I am super traveled. But that is only half of it. I do speak some Norwegian, as in your standard yes, no, thank you, please, which make a surprising number of usful combinations. But in general I wouldn’t suggest it for everyone.
But the colleges in Norway are free.
Uhm, yeah, but only if you look at the tuition aspect. And that isn’t entirely true.
This is an attempt to clear up some of those misconceptions that people have when they ask questions about studying in Norway. This is more of an attempt at collecting useful information than anything else and it will not be up to date. Though I won’t say that it is outdated either. Like everywhere else in the world things change and while they might be minor the criteria may be different. Though I have tried to keep the information general enough that it should still give you some places to get a good footing if you choose to explore this option. This also isn’t for people that want to study for a semester or two, in most cases you can learn everything you need via your own university.
I had initially decided to go for my masters, which it is possible to study for your whole master”s degree in Norway (in English).
If you see mistakes here or I have left a point out you can correct me in a comment and I will try and fix it (after I cross check it of course). Also if you have any suggestions that I left out, again let me know.
Master’s programs in English
You may have noticed that I talked about master’s programs in English. There are plenty of them. And the Norwegian colleges are known for their quality. But it doesn’t mean that it is feasible for everyone.
If you are interested in seeing what is offered her are the English language master’s programs in Norway.
Of course there are even more master’s programs where you need to learn Norwegian to attend them. You can find them here if you know Norwegian.
As with programs her in the States you need to research what is being offered, its quality, reputation and relevance to you in the job market for your field. Just like with your current University you need to research the programs, schools, and faculty before you decide to invest your study time there. Contact the faculty and talk with them. While they are busy they will in most instances speak with you and almost all Norwegians speak English. It will be British English so though so pay attention.
Some of the other students that I was with wanted to stay in Norway after their studies were completed. This makes things more dificult since you really need to start intagrating into Norwegian society right away. Some of them didn’t speak Norwegian yet, they were too busy studying, which seemed like an odd way to mix with the population once they entered the job market. That means that if you intend to search for a job in Norway once you have finished your master’s degree, spend time researching the job market, see what you have avialable and what skills you need to get a job. Norwegians are very big on education and you need to be very proficient in your course of study to land a job in some fields. As a word of warning degrees in humanities or social sciences are one thing that will be difficult to find a position for in Norway.
Norwegians aren’t snooty about their language. But if you have a weak understanding of the language they will quickly switch to English to be polite. Do you want to work their? Then being fluent in Norwegian is an almost must to find a job. To help you many of the countries universities have Norwegian classes you can attend while studying there.
Another big help to finding your place in Norwegian culture is through networking and summer/part time jobs/internships relevant for your studies cannot be recommended enough.
I think that we have covered some of the main aspects you will encounter when studying in Norway, but now for some more general information.
Instead of putting it all down here I thought that I would link you to some resources that were very helpful for me when I was making my plans. The Norwegian government and education system have a lot of material for people, both native Norwegians and students from abroad. You can find lots of general information on studyinnorway.no.
Another thing that helped me when I was planning was this fantastic overview of Norwegian Educational System.
Like with every country in the world you will need to file the right paperwork. There are rules for student permits (we call them student visas here) which you will need to adhere to. To learn what you need choose your country and the appropriate information will be displayed for you.
The Big One, Money
This is why I ended up cutting my plans short. It was hard, but I made some mistakes, and over estimated certain aspects. It was mostly because I was almost certain that things would work out. This was wishful thinking on my part. But I am glad that I still made the effort to try. It was a valuable experience in life.
Tuition here in the US can be high. Especially if you want to attend a more reputable school. And perhaps you have read that you can get a degree for free in Norway? Nothing in life is free. Even if it only cost time (the most valuable asset that we have) the cost is there. So yes, Norway offers free educations even into master’s programs (this is extended to foreign students as well), but this is only partially true since as you know tuition is only part of your expense.
As I said before universities and state owned colleges charge no tuition making them essentially free. And no, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are from they do not make a distinction based on citizenship(s). You are still required to pay a small mandatory fee per semester (usually NOK 500-1000, divide this by about 10 to see how much it is in USD. Or just convert the sum here. This small fee goes to the student organizations which are plentiful and quite good.
If you don’t attend a government sponsored university and opt for the various private colleges you will be charge tuition.
As I said money plays a big role. Even if you are not charged a college tuition you have other expenses. You will need to pay for rent, food, local public transport (forget owning a car), transportation to and from your home country (prices weren’t high but they can add up if you visit home), health insurance, course books, clothes and anything else that you might need. Beer is very expensive in Norway so don’t expect to have a wild party life.
Did I say beer was expensive? Actually, depending on where you are from expect to be shocked at the cost of living in Norway. Here is a hint, it is high. The good news is that under most circumstances you are probably eligible to rent housing from the student welfare organization (Remember this name: “studentsamskipnad” they are a huge help and generally very pleasant people, oddly enough). The studentsamskipnad can help you find a place to stay that is a bit cheaper than the general housing market (I am speaking of apartments here, don’t even dream of owning a house).
As I learned it can be very difficult to get a part time job in Norway. Though that isn’t the same here for a student there you need to overcome several hurdles the main one being that you should be fluent in Norwegian and you do not’t know anyone there so networking a position is also out. With that said, do not expect to find a job quickly or even at all. This means you need to take your financial situation into account and see if you really have enough money to live on.
Unlike the Norwegian students who get loans and scholarships from Lånekassen (Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund) you will not be so lucky. I didn’t meet any any foreign students who were eligible for such loans, but you can check on the Lånekassen website just in case.
One of the exception that I know about is that they offer certain students from developing countries access to a quota program. I wasn’t eligible but here is more info on how it works. Also if you intend to stay in Norway you are not eligible since the quota program is for students who go back home to their countries of origin after they have completed their education.
I was also told recently by a friend that is still there that you can now apply for scholarships on studyinnorway.no as well as on the Norwegian embassy in your home country.
I hope that helps.