This autumn semester, UiA welcomed over 400 international students from 62 countries.
“One of my favourite places is Jegersberg. I love to go swimming there and taking part in the Sunday trips organised by ESN. It's fantastic that we have such beautiful nature so close to campus,” says Flóki Hansteen from Germany, who is studying for a bachelor's degree in global development studies at UiA.
He is one of a total of 70 international full-degree students, at both master's and bachelor's levels, studying at UiA. In addition, there are 330 exchange students on both campuses this semester, from 62 different countries. New from this year is that there are students from New Zealand and Argentina.
“I've really enjoyed my time so far, and from what I can see, other international students feel the same way,” says Adam Zadawzki, a media student on exchange from York St John University in the UK.
There is a wide age range among the international students. Exchange students must have one year of prior study and are usually in their twenties. Those pursuing their entire degree here, or starting a new one, tend to be older.
“We also welcome mature students, aged over 40, who are seeking lifelong learning. They are resourceful and integrate well. Some also arrive with children,” says Grant.
Some students from the global south are on scholarships, where they have applied for funding for their projects. They can either be on exchange or complete an entire degree.
In addition, some students come through the Students at Risk programme, which offers foreign student activists, who are denied the opportunity to graduate in their home country, the chance to continue their studies at UiA. These students receive scholarships from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Tuition fees have now been introduced for students from outside the EU, which has had a significant impact on the number of such students in Norway and at UiA. The fees vary depending on the study programme, and students must pay between NOK 100,000 - NOK 500,000 for their education. They must also apply for a visa and demonstrate that they have NOK 140,000 to live on while here.
“Last year, we welcomed 68 international full-degree students from outside the EU and 36 from the EU. This year, the numbers have reversed, and only 12 students from outside the EU have arrived. Among these, only five are paying students, and the rest have received exemptions. In addition, we have welcomed 67 students from the EU,” says Grant.
Full-degree students from within the EU do not have to pay tuition fees, and exchange students come to UiA through an agreement and are also exempt from tuition fees.
The Global Lounge is the meeting place for international students. Exchange students are welcomed there by the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), while UiA Buddy along with Fadderstyret welcome full-degree students.
“My buddy group was welcoming, flexible and well-organised, partly thanks to the agreement that ESN has with UiA to carry out activities like sightseeing in town. And our buddies have been enthusiastic and more than willing to spend their time helping us find our way around campus and elsewhere,” says exchange student Zawadzki.
Those who welcome the students hand over keys and accompany them to their accommodations. Several students come from cultures where safety is not as assured as it is in Norway.
“These are talented students who come here, but it can be a bit scary to arrive in a new country. Some from the United States have never been outside their own state before. Then they should know that the Global Lounge is a good meeting place and that they will receive the help they need,” says Seljenes.
Seljenes and Gant believe that around 60 per cent of students choose Norway because it is a safe country with beautiful nature.
The International Office organises Orientation Day on both campuses the day after students arrive. Here, the Rector, STA and ESN welcome them to UiA and Norway.
They get some introduction to Norwegian culture, to ease the culture shock, and get a humorous presentation ‘Norwegian Survival’ by Clare Jortveit. In this presentation, she encourages them to take the first step in interacting with Norwegian students. Midt-Agder Friluftsråd (outdoor council) offers Survival Skills, where they explain how to dress, behave in nature, and provide general hiking tips.
ESN has Norwegian and international students on its board and as buddies, which contributes to easier integration of students into the student community.
“I am impressed with how well organised and how fast things move here, both at UiA and in Norway. I’ve felt very welcome since I arrived,” says full-degree student Hansteen from Germany.
Seljenes and Grant encourage Norwegian students to step out of their comfort zones and speak English. It is also a god idea for Norwegian students planning to go on exchange to get to know the international students.
“We see that Norwegian students who live with international students become very involved in the international student community and have a lot of fun. We want Norwegian students to join in more – this is for everyone,” Seljenes says.