50 Shades of NHH International

Over the last few months I have been the photo editor for the school’s newspaper, and given that I’m in the photo group I’ve also taken a few pictures for other articles that were published. However, lately I wondered why I never actually decided to write an article and figured that it’s better late than never, so here it is: my very first published article in a Norwegian student newspaper 🙂

“It feels weird to think that I’ve been living in Norway for more than half a year and that like all other full time international students at NHH and other Norwegian universities, Norway is slowly becoming some kind of home for me: I have my own little dorm room, my group of friends, my Norwegian identification number and bank account, my gym membership & my Statoil coffee cup. What else do you need to develop a daily routine somewhere?

Most of the time it seems like me and the rest of my international classmates fit right in to NHH and Bergen; we all attend classes and participate in group work, we all try to be involved as much as possible in NHHS and extracurricular activities, and we’re all attempting to learn Norwegian. And most of the time that is the case, but once in a while something happens or someone asks a question, and we realize that some people do not really understand us; they do not understand who we are or what we’re doing at NHH.

A NHH full time international student is different from an exchange student. A full time international student is as the name implies; someone international who decided to pursue their Master’s degree at NHH and spend at least two years in Bergen. On the other hand, an exchange student could either be a Bachelor or a Master’s student who is in Bergen for a semester or a full year. That’s basically it! A lot of students understand that distinction and are immediately interested in knowing more about you, your background and your reasons for coming to Bergen when you tell them that you’re a full time international student.

Unfortunately, a lot of others do not care; they assume that you’re only here for a short time and that you only care about having fun with the other international students at Hatleberg. This couldn’t be further from the truth though. I can guarantee you that 99% of the full time international students moved to Bergen hoping to learn the language, integrate with Norwegian students and feel like they belong here. It’s the reason why during the Fall Welcome Week you find the 50+ international students running around like crazy trying to join as many clubs as they can but sadly being rejected in a lot of them because they’re not fluent in Norwegian.

It’s also the reason why the same international students who have been rejected from some clubs join others and attempt to make friends with those Norwegians who are willing to lend a helping hand. It’s the reason why they end up showing up to some NHHS meetings and events to talk and mingle knowing full well that when it’s time for speeches, they will not understand most of what’s being said.

As one of those international students I know the pain we all feel at some point or another. NHH encourages more and more international students to apply for its Masters’ programs, which is great. The school is even working on adding more courses and profiles in English, but if most of the student body and clubs continue to fully function in Norwegian, I honestly do not know if it makes sense to keep encouraging more international students to apply.

The main reason for not speaking English in most of the NHHS meetings or events is that people say they are not comfortable speaking English (since it’s not their mother tongue). They call us “the English speakers”, which I personally think is pretty hilarious given that I learned English as a second foreign language. If we do a quick survey among the rest of us “English speakers”, you will see that there is only a handful who are actually “English speakers” and that the rest just like you learned English later in life and just like you might not be as comfortable speaking it. We just do it because it’s the only way to integrate ourselves into NHH, NHHS, Bergen and Norway while we’re slowly attempting to learn Norwegian with its å, æ and ø.”

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