Let me start off by saying that I have this wonderful group of Norwegian friends. I tell you this because I want you to remember that the same cannot be said by most international students that I have met. I tell you this so while I talk about my integration into the social and academic environment, you will remember that my experience is not the rule, but the exception.
Norway is what I call an unicorn country. A country with the unique feature of tuition-free education for all. No matter where you’re from, no matter your background, financial status, or color of your skin. Norway offers endless opportunities to those who are willing to put in the effort.
When you’re an international student in Norway, the second question you always get asked is “Why Norway?”. The first one is “where are you from?”. The answer to “Why Norway?” can range from free education to country in crisis. For me, here’s more than one reason. Yes, my country is in crisis. Yes, free education was a big factor. The offer of a bachelor’s program taught in English was essential. The more I read about Norway and Norwegian society that made me finally decide to come here. Norway’s core values of openness, equality and diversity. Of democracy, justice and welfare. That is why I fell in love with this country.
But what has happened since I arrived in Norway in 2015 has weakened these values that I hold dear. The discontinuation of the Quota Scheme has affected diversity by decreasing applications from Quota Scheme countries. The student visa fee, paid yearly and the highest in the Nordic countries, recently increased by more than 60%, which is in sharp contrast to Norway’s aim of marketing itself as internationally friendly.
Institutions with an international student body become more attractive for all, both at a local and international level. In order to improve integration of international students, cultural backgrounds have to be taken into account. However, let’s put that aside for a moment. I’m going to tell you the best kept secret to improve integration and internationalization.
Stop saying those words. International, internationalization, integration. From the moment any student, Norwegian or International, hear those words, they are going to run away in the other direction. If you want to hold events for students in the hopes of integration, don’t call it that. The more you talk about it, the less it becomes a reality. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying stop talking about it altogether. I’m saying, don’t advertise it as such. Instead, find the things we have in common. Our love for pizza. Our interest in biology. Our need for hiking.
My name is Jose de Pool. I am JUST a student. Thank you.