Bergen is both an international and a student city. According to Sondre Mandelid Kleppe, a Norwegian student in Bergen, who met international students in class and in group works, Bergen could welcome its international students in a better way.
– International students are interesting. They bring diversity and different perspectives in the lectures and it’s a good thing.
Don’t mingle together
Students in Norway participate to a limited extent in academic and social activities with international students, according to the 2017 Student Survey «Studiebarometeret» by NOKUT, the National Organization for the Quality of Higher Education.
A crushing 80 per cent of Norwegian respondents say that they never or almost never participate in professional or social activities with international students. Also 34 per cent of international students responded that they never or almost never participate in professional or social activities with Norwegian students.
– Language is a barrier
According to Kleppe, international students don’t have the chance to mingle with Norwegian students while they are in Bergen and it is mainly because of the Norwegian language.
– It’s a barrier that keeps international students from the student society.
To him, this is a huge problem for international students.
International students are very open
– Public arrangements could be made in English to bring more international students. They want to take part in normal student activities and not be labelled as «international students».
Kleppe explains that he has been an international student himself in Australia for three months. He knows how it feels to be an outsider in a foreign country. He made a lot of friends though. Norwegian friends, because he ended up surrounding himself with fellow Norwegians. He understands how hard it can be and how overwhelmed international students can become.
– Staying in our bubble is easier than getting out of it, says Kleppe.
However, he thinks it is Norwegians’ job to make international students feel more comfortable in Bergen.
Fantoft, the international students’ lair
– I am Norwegian and I live at Fantoft, says Maria Eriksen, a Norwegian student.
This is not heard everyday. Fantoft is known to lodge a big amount of international students.
– I am a part of a band in Fantoft and I get to meet a lot of international students throughout music and concerts, she continues.
She likes Fantoft’s atmosphere, created by a multitude of different cultures brought there by international students.
– International students are very open, but the problem for the people living at Fantoft is that they don’t get to meet Norwegians.
Eriksen says music is a good way to get to know people, and suggests that Sammen or ESN could create more events that would mingle international and Norwegian students together.
ESN Bergen agrees
Øystein Breiteig, Erasmus Student Network (ESN) Bergen’s President, agrees with her.
– It would be better not to put all the international students into the same housing, says Breiteig.
According to him, a better mixing of nationalities into student housings would clearly mean a better integration for international students into Bergen student society and they would get to know Norwegians.
– We try to balance the housing allocation between Norwegian and International students, but the reason why International students end up at Fantoft, Hatleberg or Alrek is due partly to their own choice, says Stein Ove Halhjem, the director of Sammen Housing.
He attributes this to these housing options being some of the most affordable alternatives for international students and also where there are the most available rooms.