Meet Belinda Z, an international student from China studying at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL). Belinda's love of language-learning lured her to Bergen. But she has also learned she loves more about Norway and studying in Bergen than just “norsk”.
Belinda arrived in Bergen in August, 2017. She studies Norwegian (norsk) at HVL. Before coming to Norway, Belinda studied teaching Chinese as a second language in Beijing, China. Belinda is quite an aficionado of languages, and she choose to study in Bergen because Norwegian is on her list of languages to master. She was also interested in the opportunity to try something different - studying in Europe. It was convenient that her university programme offered an exchange programme in Bergen to study and intern. In the future Belinda plans to take a master’s degree, hopefully in the UK, and ultimately wants to return to China to start a Language Teaching Institute teaching Chinese, English and maybe Japanese.
Adjusting to Bergen
Before she arrived, Belinda didn’t know much about Bergen. Her strongest impression of Norway was that people here adore salmon. She was excited for her first time studying abroad, but she was also worried about her first experience of western culture. She thought perhaps she would be overwhelmed by the differences between western culture and her own culture. After arriving, she was pleasantly surprised that she has found Norway and its culture peaceful and pleasant. She has been glad to discover that, whether with Norwegians or international students from other countries, first and foremost, “We’re all people, we’re not that much different, some behaviours might be different on the outside, but inside we’re mostly the same.She is excited to have made friends from other countries, including Spain and Norway.
It’s not hard to make friends with people from different cultures, and I’m really glad I found that out.”
She finds the differences between her studies in Bergen and her studies in Beijing enormous. Here she enjoys open studies, without many compulsory courses. She has delighted in choosing what she wants to do. She finds the pace more relaxed and peaceful compared to the intense competition with large numbers of classmates to which she is accustomed. “It’s really great, less stressful.”
She wants to master as much Norwegian as possible as soon as she can, though, so she sets a challenging schedule for herself. She wakes up at 7:30 to start her day with self-study, working on online Norwegian courses. She studies in her student residence in Fantoft or at the HVL library in Kronstad. On Tuesdays and Thursdays she has in-person Norwegian classes. After class she heads to Klub Fantoft to see her friends and other international students. She also cooks regularly, as she and her flatmate have made an agreement to take turns cooking for each other.
So far Belinda has traveled to Voss and other areas in Sogndal. She’s also gone to Osterøy (an island in the vicinity of Bergen) with some Chinese volunteers from the institute where she interns, but as she was mostly working she didn’t get to explore much of the island. She’s enjoyed her Norwegian adventures so far, especially Sogndal and Voss. She spent three days with a friend and her family, hiking, exploring, and eating out. She thought Sogndal’s landscape was beautiful. There, she had her first opportunity to visit a glacier, and she would very much like to repeat that experience someday.
In her spare time, she enjoys wandering around downtown. Byparken (“The City Park”) is her favourite place in Bergen so far. She loves to walk there when there are a lot of people out. She also enjoys hiking in the mountains, especially if the weather is agreeable.
One thing she especially appreciates while hiking in Bergen is that when you are on the mountain people greet each other and say hi. She appreciates the air and the water quality compared to where she is from. And, she appreciates how connected the people are to the nature that surrounds Bergen. She savors ability to drink from a mountain stream so close to the city. And the weather? “ The weather is actually kind of familiar to me, it rains a lot, but I’m also from a Northern city, it kind of suits me, I think it is alright.”
Belinda has noticed a few seemingly simple things that she finds special about Norway:
She appreciates that automobile traffic respects and gives way to pedestrians here.
She thinks the Norwegian style of eating very special. She notes that compared to China and her expectations, Norwegians eat lightly and have a more casual approach to meals, even taking out and eating a carrot during class, “Any time works for lunch, they don’t care: 11am, 12pm, 2pm.”
She also finds the Norway work-life balance remarkable. She remarks that she doesn’t see Norwegians working overtime, and she sees that they value vacation and free time. She appreciates their dedication to work-life balance, although she says, "Don’t bother emailing a business on a Friday, they won’t answer till Monday!".
Anticipating missing Bergen
What will Belinda miss when she returns to China? She thinks it might be weird to admit it, but she’ll miss the transportation. Specifically she thinks Bybanen (Bergen’s light rail) is pleasant and convenient. She loves taking in the city’s sights through Bybanen’s huge windows, “It’s like sightseeing everyday!”.
Recommendations and Advice
Would Belinda recommend Bergen? “It’s a brilliant place,” she says, “ It’s really safe, you just enjoy life here. It is really peaceful and pleasant.” She is actually already recommending Bergen to other students in her programme. She knows that the study-abroad programme she is attending is ongoing so she’s been telling freshmen to work hard so they can come to Bergen as well. She is suggesting that students to try for a single room, though, rather than room with someone from their home country, so they can more easily integrate. Belinda’s number one piece of advice for students who want to study in Bergen is to prepare a rain suit and a study plan! She’s found her experience so relaxing and pleasant that she also advises students to be self-disciplined. From her early mornings, it sounds like she is taking her own advice!