Hei alle sammen! Unfortunately, this is the extent of my knowledge of Norwegian so far… My name’s Selena, and on August 2nd I’ll be setting off for the Universitetet i Bergen. I’ll be studying as a third year law student and, quite honestly, I couldn’t be more excited! So, with just two weeks left until I leave for my Erasmus year, I thought now would be as good a time as any to share my preparation (but which feels like lack of) up until this point. I was lucky enough to find cheap flights at the end of March, so headed over for two days to try and get a feel for the place before my arrival. I know that not everyone will have the time or opportunity to do this before heading off, so in my blog I’ll try and help as much as I can, and cram in as much information about Bergen as possible to prepare future Erasmus students! From my visit, there were two things I learned about my new Norwegian home: it’s expensive, and it rains a lot. So while I’m watching my course mates head off for a year in the sun in Australia, I’m currently trying to make my luggage allowance accommodate 3000 sweatshirts and an umbrella. Despite the questionable weather (which, to someone from Glasgow, seems scarily familiar) I’ve only heard amazing things about Norway, and I could see why. Bergen is often called the “gateway to the fjords”, and I think the rain is a small price to pay to be able to live in what looks like a postcard setting.
As I said earlier, I do feel slightly paranoid that I’ve missed out a crucial part of my preparation, however the checklist provided by Glasgow promises otherwise, so here’s hoping it’s right! Applying for Erasmus can be quite daunting at first, as there is a lot of research and paperwork to get through, however once your place has been allocated I promise it gets a bit easier. I made up a condensed list of most of the things you’ll need to do before your departure to make life a wee bit easier:
- Flights – I booked my flights in April in an attempt to get reasonable prices. I quickly realised that there aren’t (yet) any direct flights from Glasgow, so I’m flying via Heathrow. However, other people who are going to Bergen are flying direct from Aberdeen, so this is always something to consider! I booked through BA, and most one-way tickets in August were somewhere in the range of £100 – £160.
- Accommodation – I’ll be staying in Fantoft Studentboliger, which is where most international students stay. Accommodation is arranged by an organisation called SiB, and the application process is surprisingly simple. I won’t be assigned a specific room until I arrive to pick up my keys, however my tenancy contract assures me that I’ll have a single room (with a communal kitchen area). Single rooms in Fantoft cost about 3000NOK (roughly 250GBP).
- Currency – Many people opt to open a foreign bank account in their host country, as British banks usually charge interest on transactions abroad. I found that Halifax have what they call a “Clarity” credit card, and while it’s operated by MasterCard the terms are pretty reasonable. It’s free to lift cash abroad, and while interest is charged at a daily rate, if it’s paid off immediately it shouldn’t be a problem! Of course, this won’t work for everyone, so it’s important to look into all the options.
- Insurance – I’ve organised insurance with Endsleigh, as they have plans specifically tailored to students that include travel, health and contents. It’s recommended that you apply for an EHIC card, however they don’t cover you for every ailment/injury, so it’s probably best to get additional insurance too. I recently realised that Bergen is only an hour away from Voss ski resort, which is apparently a must, even for amateurs like me! I added the winter sports package to my insurance (given my luck it would be daft not to!) and overall my plan came to £346.
- Packing – Anyone who’s ever travelled with me before will quickly testify that “packing light” isn’t exactly my forte, but I like to tell myself that taking some home comforts will make the four enormous suitcases worth it. A trip round the supermarket here ensured that I’ve got everything from Twining’s teabags to washing capsules which will tide me over until I get used to the prices abroad. Be prepared – I realised that Scandinavian prices apply to the strangest items… like cheddar cheese. I know. Having picked the brains of plenty who have gone abroad before me, it became clear that taking some of your favourite items from home is a lifesaver.
I appreciate that this post probably seems a bit chaotic to read, but at least you now have an accurate insight into my mind while trying to get ready! My next post will most likely be from Bergen, so until then, if you have any questions please feel free to fire them in my direction to 2069152J@student.gla.ac.uk. Wish me luck! Selena x