Students from all over the world arrived last week at UiA. For many, this is their first time not only in Norway, but also in Europe.
Creating a welcoming atmosphere for students who are far from home is at the essence of the Erasmus Student Network’s (ESN) work, which is celebrating 15 years this year. On Thursday, fellow students with purple t-shirts received hundreds of new international students at the Global Lounge until late hours of the night.
“ESN has once again done a fantastic job in receiving the students here at the University. The work they do for us is extraordinary”, says Mette Høgbråt Pedersen, international coordinator at UiA.
Ieva Burbaite, an exchange student from Lithuania who is taking her bachelor degree in Norwegian and English language, was tired from her bus trip when she arrived on Thursday, but feeling happy and positive about the experience.
“People are so friendly and very, very polite. I feel very welcome here”, says Burbaite.
Gabriel Kalinowski, an exchange student from Poland, says he came here to study Norwegian. Kalinowski finds the country “absolutely stunning”, and he is looking forward to making new friends, experiencing new things, and travelling around Norway. UiA was his first choice.
The orientation programme kicked off on Friday. Over 250 new international graduate and exchange students received practical information on how to navigate through their first weeks at the University.
Rector Sunniva Whittaker was also present to welcome them to UiA.
“This is a great opportunity for you to learn a new culture. It will also make you reflect on the things you appreciate about your own culture, as well as question some aspects of it”, said Whittaker.
At the end of her speech, Whittaker encouraged students address her by her first name and approach her when they see her walking around campus.
“I am very interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas about our University”, she said.
Among the large group of new international students, are those who are staying here for the long run. The number of degree-seeking students that have been accepted this year has doubled in comparison to 2018.
According to Tonje Kløkstad, international coordinator for degree-seeking students at UiA, the difference in the numbers can be, but not exclusively, explained by the introduction of the first English-taught bachelor's programme at UiA.
Justin Freund, from Canada, is one the international students who has come to study at the Bachelor in Development Studies. His interest in the subject, combined with the fieldwork opportunities included in the study programme, were what led him to apply.
Sevan Khoygane, from Iran, is a student in the Master of Coastal Ecology. He arrived two weeks ago with his wife. They are both very happy to be here.
“Everything has been perfect so far. The nature, buildings and streets are so beautiful”, says Khoygane.
Given that the autumn semester marks the beginning of a new academic year, there will be a lot happening in both campuses during the first weeks. This is why UiA’s own buddy group, the “Fadder” scheme, and ESN, are closely collaborating to ensure that all students feel welcome and included.
International graduate students will be meeting their fellow colleagues with whom they will be studying for the next two or three years and be distributed into “fadder” (buddy) groups linked to their study programme.
“The goal is to integrate them with their closest colleagues right from the start”, says Kløkstad.
There are many events and activities planned in which international students and domestic students can take part, not only during semester start, but also throughout the entire semester.
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