The Norwegian dream?

For international students, a job may be necessary. Finding one can be hard.

JOB? Muhammad Ali moved to Bergen from Pakistan to do his masters degree at UiB.
JOB? Muhammad Ali moved to Bergen from Pakistan to do his masters degree at UiB.
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24-year-old Muhammad Ali moved to Bergen from Pakistan in August this year to study a master’s degree in System Dynamics at the University of Bergen (UiB). He has a background in software development and hoped to find a job in his field in Norway.

– When I moved to Bergen, I applied for 30-40 jobs in my field but was interviewed for only four interviews. I didn’t get any of the positions.

He thinks the biggest reason is that most employers expect professionally experienced people, something he not yet is.

Ali does not speak Norwegian, but he hoped that English would be enough in his industry.

Sigrid Isdal, a career counselor at Sammen, pointed out that «the job market is very good now, so the biggest challenge can be the language» when asked if there are any typical obstacles for international students looking for relevant jobs in Norway.

– It is not expected that you can speak Norwegian when you first arrive, but if you learn Norwegian it opens the possibilities in the job market. If you have no Norwegian skills, it is more realistic with non-qualified jobs, Isdal says.

Speaking the language

But even for those who speak Norwegian, finding a job in Norway may be difficult. Olga Kalinovskaia is a 30-year-old Russian student who moved to Bergen in August 2020 to study for a bachelor’s degree in Old Norse Philology at UiB.

She graduated with a BA in Linguistics from the Pyatigorsk State Linguistical University in Russia in 2015. Like Ali, Kalinovskaia started her search for jobs with offers in her industry. However, unlike Ali, she was already fluent in Norwegian.

– I was looking for something more relevant to my field, which is linguistics. When I arrived in Norway I could speak Norwegian at the B2 level.

Olga Kalinovskaia moved to Norway from Russia to do her bachelor’s degree at UiB.
Olga Kalinovskaia moved to Norway from Russia to do her bachelor’s degree at UiB.

She has applied for three relevant jobs since arriving in Norway but was rejected for both of them.

Unexpected stress

Ali chose to study in Norway because education is free here. But at the same time, it can be difficult to make ends meet in one of the most expensive countries in Europe.

– I didn’t think this way before I moved here. I was quite rich in Pakistan, earning 2000 dollars a month. So I didn’t worry, I was sure that my savings would be enough to survive here, says Ali.

But the reality surprised him. After moving to Bergen, Ali noticed a glaring difference between the cost of living in Norway and Pakistan.

 – I even joked to my friend: «You know, my room rent in Bergen is 100 000 Pakistani rupee. For this amount of money, in my country, I could get a 250 square meter house with two employees.»

Moreover, international students face legal restrictions on earning in Norway.

– If you come from a non-European country, you normally cannot work more than 20 hours per week when you are a student, reminds Isdal.

When Kalinovskaia moved to Bergen, she was financially stable and had no pressure to find a job.

– Students from outside the European Union must document that they have enough money in the account. And luckily, my parents supported me.

Muhammad Ali has a background in software development and is doing his master’s degree in System Dynamics at UiB.
Muhammad Ali has a background in software development and is doing his master’s degree in System Dynamics at UiB.

But the war changed the situation for Kalinovskaia. Due to the sanctions imposed on Russia, her parents are no longer able to transfer money to her account. Now, Olga really needs to find a stable job.

Possibilities in the public sector

In the end, Ali found a job as a food supplier. It gives him a feeling of stability, but at the same time, it presents new challenges.

In the spring of 2022, Kalinovskaia got a relevant job position at a project led by UiB. At the same time, she started working in a museum.

When Studvest asked for tips for other international students who dream about getting a job in their field, she said:

– I noticed it might be easier to search for a job in public institutions.

Sigrid Isdal from Sammen Career confirms Kalinovskaia’s observations:

She advices international students who are new in Norway to remember that there can be relevant jobs at the institution where you study.

Isdal adds that learning Norwegian, building a network, or contacting companies directly, are the most efficient ways of finding a relevant job in Norway.

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