The students are quarantined at hotels in Kristiansand. The University of Agder (UiA) and Kristiansand municipality are funding the quarantine period.
“Traveling and moving to another country in the middle of a pandemic is challenging. But we have been receiving the support we need, and I am looking forward to starting my studies at UiA”, says Adam Chimmanee, music business student from Thailand.
Chimmanee is one of the international students who arrived in Agder to study at UiA this semester. Most of them are exchange students, but there is also a handful of degree-seeking students who had postponed their start-up from August 2020 to now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The students are from twenty-four different countries, mostly from Europe, and also from South Korea, USA, Canada, Thailand and Taiwan.
Because of travel restrictions, students have arrived on different dates and by various means of transport. The first group came on 29 December, but most are expected to arrive within the second week of January.
“We were able to meet most students at the airport, which was very positive. They seemed very happy to have arrived and it was fantastic to finally greet them”, says Elisabeth Balchen Grant, international coordinator at the International Education Office at UiA.
UiA also organised buses to drive students directly from the airport to designated quarantine hotels, Comfort Hotel and Clarion Ernst, where they will be staying for ten days.
“For those arriving at other times, we have provided them with information on local buses and how to purchase tickets through the bus app”, says Balchen Grant.
During the quarantine period, students are not allowed to meet up, but can go for walks around the city and in nature, and must follow local guidelines given by Kristiansand municipality.
After ten days, the students will be given keys to their accommodation, where they will be staying during their studies at UiA.
“We have provided the students with information to help them find their accommodation and making arrangements to further assist them in safely moving their belongings”, says Alisha Mahtani-Williams, administrative assistant at the International Education Office at UiA.
With quarantine rules and new infection control guidelines implemented by UiA and the Norwegian government on 4 January, all meetings, gatherings and teaching will be taking place on digital platforms at least until 19 January.
On 6 January, students attended a digital welcome on Zoom with the rector. Most teaching also started online on this day.
The International Education Office at UiA, along with organisations such as the International Student Union Agder (ISU), the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), the student chaplain and the faculties, have also arranged other digital events such as coffee-meet ups, virtual museum tours, concerts, quizzes, that will take place at least during the first two weeks of the semester.
Given the current situation and the large number of international students who arrived, UiA and other organisations are in constant dialogue with the students, hotels and Kristiansand municipality, to provide individual support.
“We have a Facebook group which has proven to be very useful and a great way to communicate with them. We also keep them updated via WhatsApp and email to make sure we reach everyone. We also receive many calls, because many of the challenges need to be quickly resolved”, says Grant.