Fell in love with Bergen through volunteering
New student in Bergen? Getting engaged in the student community is a good way to get to know the local culture. Natalie Unger (25) is part of Erasmus Student Network (ESN) Bergen, a student organisation that integrates international students in Bergen.
Being involved in the student community is a great way to make new friends and get to know the local culture. There are many different student organisations in Bergen, and the majority of them are open to international students. Some of those organisations are especially targeted toward students on exchange, one of them being Erasmus Student Network (ESN) Bergen.
Fell in love through the buddy-programme
Natalie Unger first came to Bergen in August 2014 on an exchange from Germany. At the time she was studying sociology and politics at the University of Konstanz, and had the intention of staying only one semester abroad. However, her plans changed after being introduced to ESN.
– At the introduction week, ESN was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. There were so many people promoting their organisation, but for me, the ESN people were outstandingly friendly, funny and interested in me as an international student, Unger recalls.
Unger decided to go to their information meeting to learn about becoming a member. At the same time, she joined their Buddy program, a project that aims to pair a local student with an international student. There, she met a local student who would change her life completely.
– Not only did I fall in love with the beautiful city and the seven mountains, but also with my ESN assigned buddy, which is why I extended my stay to one year and am now living, studying and working in Bergen permanently, Unger says happily.
Europe’s largest student organisation
ESN Bergen is part of the largest student network in Europe, Erasmus Student Network. Every semester, the student organisation welcomes new international students through an array of social events.
– ESN’s aim is to provide opportunities for cultural exchange and understanding. In ESN Bergen, we try to connect the international and local student community with each other, to provide a basis for this cultural exchange, Unger says.
Some of the past activities organized include BBQ-hikes, quizzes, cat-cuddling, student trips to Lapland or the Lofoten islands, Language Cafe and Hansafest. Through events, ESN Bergen aims to provide a safe, fun and open place for community and growth.
– Both local and international students can become members of our different committees, and help with organizing or promoting events. And there’s also the opportunity to become part of the board, where you get the opportunity to develop your leadership and organisational skills, says Unger.
An opportunity to give back
Unger is currently studying for a master’s degree in Bergen. Since her exchange in 2014, she has been part of several committees in ESN Bergen and even became president one year. Today she is part of the Buddy committee, helping out in the same buddy programme that made her fall in love in the first place.
– ESN Bergen has given me the chance to meet like-minded people who are passionate about internationalisation, and also, in a way, to give something back to Norway as my host country, says Unger.
– I believe that also local students benefit from the exchange with people from all over the world, and the experience might get them to go on exchange as well.
«You do you! Don’t feel pressured by the fear of missing out.»
Beside ESN Bergen, there are several other student organisations targeted on international students. Among them are the International Students’ Union (ISU) of Bergen and MEBA Council at NHH. However, while there are many social activities and opportunities in Bergen, Unger advises new students to take them at their own pace.
– You do you! Don’t feel pressured by the fear of missing out. It can be great to miss out on one or the other event that all the other people seem to go to, because that's the time that you can spend on yourself and your thoughts, reflecting over all the new and maybe overwhelming experiences that you’re constantly making and appreciating all of them.