5 tips for your first week in Bergen
Welcome to Norway! With your room, friends and family far away, you’re about to start a new, exciting life here in Bergen.
Many things might still be unfamiliar for you, and it can be a bit difficult to get orientated. This article will guide you through the first week so that you can get a great start and make the best out of your exchange!
1. Get the priorities out of the way!
While it’s tempting to immediately explore and attend the many fun activities the city has to offer, first thing first should be the necessities. On top of fixing accommodation and picking up keys for your apartment, make sure you look into registering for classes (as some classes get filled up quickly!), getting a sim-card for your phone, and register with the Norwegian Authorities. The latter will enable you to open a Norwegian bank account later if necessary. Other tips include familiarizing with the location of grocery stores nearby where you live, the bus and city train schedule, and other important spots in Bergen, such as the Student Center, where Sammen and Akademika (the bookstore for academic books) are located.
Depending on your arrival time, you might arrive earlier or in time for the official introduction week that aim to welcome all students to Bergen. There will be many activities such as Student Organizations day, International Day etc. and it’s highly recommended that you attend to make sure you are included from the get go. If you are a bit lost and need guidance, do not be afraid to reach out for support from the higher education institutions and specific organizations that offer psychological, economical and legal help. If you’re not sure where to start, there are several organizations that you can reach for help, including International Students Union of Bergen (ISU Bergen), Erasmus Student Network Bergen (ESN Bergen) and Fantoft Union.
2. Look into student discounts and student budget friendly offers
Being a student in Bergen comes with a lot of benefits. Why not take advantage of them? On top of the discounted student prices on the food and drinks at their cafeterias, Sammen offers a student deal where you buy a cup and get unlimited coffee and/or tea refill throughout the semester. If you are looking to keep up with your workout schedules, consider getting a Sammen semester card as well that gives you access to all of their gyms throughout the city.
For those living a bit far away from the university buildings, Skyss (public transport system) offers student discounts on their 7-days, 30-days and 180-days tickets. While grocery stores do not have student discounts, many students use the app Mattilbud (only in Norwegian) that shows what discounts are available in food stores around in Norway. ESN Bergen also sells ESN card that has both international and local discounts when combined with a student ID.
Another tip is to look into the many free membership offers in Bergen, including the ByVenn Kundeklubb app, where you access exclusive offers and benefits in the city center. A membership at IKEA is another student’s favorite, where you can also enjoy a relatively inexpensive dinner while you’re checking off your decoration- and furnishing list. For people living at Fantoft there is a Garage Sale the first weeks of the semester. Here they sell items from students of previous semester. If you study at NHH, look out for the starter pack.
3. Involve yourself in the student community
Depending on the university you are exchanging to, make sure to join their respective online communities such as UiB - International students, NHH - exchange students, etc. on Facebook. On these sites, you get to be updated on events and part of your school’s internal community. Additionally, there are a lot of student organizations across the institutions, from choirs to sustainability, from culture to sport. Some organizations are restricted to their school’s students, but many are open for all such as the sports and outdoor activity oriented Bergen Student Sport Alliances (BSI). Volunteering to work at those places is also a great way to include yourself in the student community.
If you like to be even more involved in international students’ rights and welfare in Norway, consider joining politically active groups like International Student Union and your school’s student parliament. If you just want to attend events, then you might take a look at our Student Cultural Calendar or keep an eye at Hulen and Det Akademiske Kvarter. They organize events on a regular basis.
4. Explore the city!
When you’ve finally gotten the necessities out of the way (or maybe even during your busy first-week schedule, if you’re efficient), you can start exploring the new, unfamiliar city you’ll stay in for the next six months or more. Bergen is a colorful city filled with so much diversity in architecture and recreations that there’s surely something for everyone. From modern, grand buildings like Grieghallen and Mathallen, to the more traditional and secluded Fantoft Stave Church, to local, humble favorites like the Blue Stone and Ole Bull’s fountain. On Study Bergen’s website you can also find lists of places to visit including tourist attractions, student-friendly budget places and activities. Additionally, the tourist information office VisitBergen also offers information for trips and activities in and outside of the Bergen region.
As Bergen is known for its surrounding mountains, you can also consider starting off the 7-mountain challenge by hiking up a mountain. The short and easy walk up Fløyen is a popular favorite, but you can also consider other mountain trails and maybe even hikes outside of Bergen (later)!
5. Get to know Norwegian culture
While on exchange,do not fall into the trap of staying inside the international student bubble. Going abroad is an excellent opportunity for you to grow and learn a new culture and make sure you have this mindset when you start your semester! While it can be intimidating and difficult to maneuver in a new city and practice a new language, know that by the end of the exchange, you will pride yourself for having gone outside your comfort bubble.
A perfect opportunity for a culture exchange and getting new friends is signing up to buddy programmes at your university. If you’d like to be involved outside of your school’s programs, then the international student organization ESN Bergen has an open Buddy Bergen program that matches international students with local students according to study direction and interests, and organizes fun and creative buddy events throughout the year for the buddy participants. If you’re staying for more than one semester, you can apply to become a local buddy yourself the semester afterward.
Another program to consider joining is the Tandem language program, which is more focused on language exchange between students. Learning the native language is the most efficient way to immerse into the Norwegian community. If you want to learn more about the different aspects of Norwegian culture, you can try some local delicacies, read the Social Guidebook to Norway or get to know some Norwegian students!