At the moment it is not a given that students can go on their planned exchanges.
The University of Bergen has made it possible for exchange students to stay in Bergen, even in these challenging times. Entering Norway, you are now required to stay at one of the quarantine hotels after your arrival if you do not have a suitable place for quarantine.
For students who start their exchange this semester, the University paid for the ten-day-stay at the quarantine hotel.
Thankful for the opportunity
Sofia Cestonaro arrived at the beginning of January from Italy. She is extremely thankful that she could go on her planned exchange. For her, the quarantine is such a minor minus factor in comparison to the opportunity she has gotten, despite the pandemic.
– I always dreamed of going on exchange. The quarantine period was actually fine, much better than I expected since we were also allowed to go outside.
Roman Slonskyi agrees.
– I was quite impressed by how the university organized everything, he says.
Inside the quarantine hotel
Pavlina Koulouridi has come to study at the faculty of Law. She says her stay at the hotel felt more like a small holiday, than a quarantine.
– The room was so comfy and luxurious, it was perfect. The staff at the hotel was very helpful as well and the food was quite decent.
Koulouridi points out that it was sad that they weren’t allowed to use the shared areas of the hotel. She had to go outside to meet some other exchange students since all of them were in quarantine and not allowed to meet inside.
Despite seeing other students in the hallways, Slonskyi says he did not talk to any of them, since they were required to keep a distance from each other at all times.
For Cestonaro, despite not being allowed to meet in big groups or enter shops, it was a nice opportunity to walk outside with others.
– So every day I reserved a bit of time with the new friends I made, just to ease my mind from studying. I felt it was helping me a lot to make my quarantine less boring and more exciting. Actually I made more friends during the quarantine than now in Fantoft.
Sigita Razmute had to take her exams at her home university in Lithuania in her hotel room, which made the time pass very quickly.
– I was so busy, that I didn’t even feel like I was in quarantine.
She also celebrated her birthday on her second day of quarantine and therefore got a lot of greetings. This helped her not to feel isolated or alone.
More freedom in Norway
Marie-Luise Pietsch from Germany has spent her last months in Slovenia without being able to explore the country at all. Even though she had to quarantine she is happy to be in Bergen now.
– I have way more freedom now, here in Norway.
Anne-Mette Hougaard Rasmussen, who usually studies in Copenhagen says she has already experienced so much more here in the last two weeks than she would have at home.
Cestonaro explains that she was a bit afraid of the quarantine beforehand.
– I assumed the quarantine would be as strict as the one I had to do in Italy, meaning that we could not go outside for ten days straight. Soon I realized it was nothing like that in Norway.
Time to calm down
Moving to a new country can be very challenging in itself, with a lot of things to keep in mind. Especially the corona situation caused a lot of stress due to the uncertainty.
Rasmussen applied for the exchange before the first lockdown last year and was in doubt if she should actually do it now or not.
– It was actually nice to have a relaxing start to begin the time in Bergen. It was a good time to calm down, fix all the practical stuff, and not have the stress of so many new impressions all at once, explains Rasmussen.
For her, the quarantine period at the hotel had a very comforting aspect.
A typical daily routine for Cestonaro was a good balance between studying for her exams in Italy and exploring new areas in Bergen.
– Nothing super special but extremely healthy for my mind, says Cestonaro.
Having to quarantine at a hotel does not seem to have a negative influence on exchange students’ first impressions of Bergen. Not just the beauty of the city has left a very good first feeling for the newly arrived exchange, but as Rasmussen puts it, also the really kind people here.