In Norway we got rules. We don’t talk to people we don’t know. We avoid eye contact with people we pass on the street. And we don’t sit next to others on the buss if we don’t have to.
We got both social and cultural codes that can be pretty hard to break.
So why does someone find it strange that international students aren’t better integrated in higher education? Nearly 30 percent of the international students have rarely or never had contact with a Norwegian student during their stay in Norway. From day one there is created a gap between international and Norwegian students, when they are separated during introduction week. Norwegian and international students got separate social activities and most information given is in Norwegian, and this is a trend that continues all semester.
Cultural impulses is one aspect of the exchange experience, which your get by hanging out with other international students. But why go to Norway where living expenses is so high when you could get the same experience by contacting international students at your home University?
The main student body do not have an exchange semester during their study. To get to know international student at your own University will give you contacts and friends for the future. It will give you that international experience even though you never set a foot outside the University of Agder. So this is for all the Norwegian students out there: Step out of your comfort zone! It might be scary to say the firs to words in English, which is a language you haven’t spoken since high school. But I know you can do it. And I know that you can learn so much about other cultures from other student. To interact across cultural differences is nothing but a win-win situation!
As vice rector Stephen Seiler once said: Norwegians are not the easiest people to get to know, but when you do, they are the most loyal friends you ever had.
So, the next time you pass a Norwegian student at the University, say hi! They do not bite, and the worst thing that could happen is that they smile at you like an insecure ten-year-old. And if they do, you have done something right.
Text: Helene Vedal, Vice President of the Student organization of Agder
Foto: Quyhn Le Nguyen