EXCHANGE DIARY: BERGEN

 EXCHANGE DIARY: BERGEN

Maike is a 21-year old student at the University of Aberdeen. She studied Psychology at the Universitetet i Bergen (University of Bergen) in Bergen, Norway. 

When I was choosing where to study, my host university had a very limited number of options for me to go to. Luckily I always wanted to go to Norway and Bergen was one of the three options I had!

ABOUT THE CITY
Bergen is an absolutely beautiful city! It's small enough to walk everywhere and has lots of nice, cute cafés. Its disadvantages are that it's very expensive to go out in Bergen and to generally live here and also that the weather can be grey and rainy. Bergen is a very student-friendly city. Because it's so expensive to live here, there are student discounts everywhere and there's lots of nice bars and cafés to hang out in. The student centre also has a gym and a swimming pool in it!

My favourite part of the city is a small park close to the Aquarium which has a promenade where you can see the whole Fjord. My other favourite part of the city would have to be the top of Mount Fløyen. It's usually quite busy but the view of the whole city at night is lovely!

 - Park at the Aquarium


- View from the Top of Mount Fløyen

The inner-city transport in Bergen is really good. Most of the exchange students tend to live outside of the city centre but the Bybanen (tram service) takes around 25 minutes to get to the city centre and leaves every 5-10 minutes. Once you're in the city centre, there's also a great bus service which will take you to every part of the city. Although I was prepared for Norway to be expensive, I am still surprised sometimes. Alcohol is especially expensive and food is usually 50p-£1 more expensive than in the UK so it all adds up very quickly.

If someone was to visit Bergen for the day, i'd recommend they take a stroll around Byrggen, which is a UNESCO World-Heritage site, and also walk up to the top of Mount Fløyen to see the whole city from above. Bergen isn't a very touristy city - occasionally a cruise ship will come into town and there will be a lot of tourists, but mainly it's a mix of international students and Norwegians. 

- View of Byrggen

 - Byrggen

 - View from the top of Mount Fløyen

ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY

I studied at the University of Bergen. One of the main differences I found between my home university and my host university is that the University of Bergen is spread across the city, whereas the University of Aberdeen is located on one campus. The University of Bergen also has lots of smaller libraries determined by the faculty, as opposed to the big main library of the University of Aberdeen. 

I took various classes within the faculty of Psychology. The classes in Bergen were a lot smaller than the ones in Aberdeen and required a lot of reading, however the exams and assignments didn't require as much reading. Some classes were more challenging but as exchange students we were graded more favourably than the Norwegian students. The University as a whole was quite welcoming to Exchange students. The Erasmus team organised a few introductory lectures but unfortunately the Norwegian students tend to keep to themselves and some lecturers didn't seem to care too much that we were there.

If I was to give advice to future Exchange students coming to Bergen, it would be that I found the lectures quite unhelpful. They tend to be quite boring as they last for 3-4 hours, but if you do the reading (which is a lot) you'll be fine. One of my favourite classes was "Medical Health Psychology" - one of the lecturers was a director of the only hypochondriac clinic in Norway and another lecturer did an extensive study on the terror attacks on a Norwegian island and the response of the relatives so it was really interesting!

ACCOMMODATION
For accommodation I stayed in a student house where most exchange students end up staying, Fantoft. Everyone knows about it, even the Norwegians. It is like one big cement block. They have 3 main room types available: a studio apartment, a 2-bedroom flat or a hallway with 7 other people and a big shared kitchen (but your own bathroom). I chose the last option but I was unlucky with my kitchen as it was filthy when I arrived. The kitchen has a couch, two tables and an oven. Everyone has their own cupboard but the kitchen gets very crowded if more than 2 people decide to cook at the same time. The fridge space is also quite limited. Nevertheless living in Fantoft made it so easy to get to know people and the noise wasn't too bad.

Fantoft has its own Bybanen stop which makes it easy to get around the city. On the way home there are lots of grocery stores and the student organisation has a gym in front of Fantoft which has a climbing wall and squash courts too. I would say that it is nice to live here because it makes it easy to meet other students who are in the same position as you trying to make friends. It's also easily accessible and has nice areas to walk around, but the Fantoft building itself is not that nice. The rooms are old and the kitchens need some renovation, but apparently they're renovating it at the moment so it could look different by next year.

To look for accommodation, i'd recommend the SIB (Students in Bergen) who have different flats around the city. Although most Exchange students end up living in Fantoft, I know some people who opted for private flats in the city centre which tend to be more expensive.

SOCIAL LIFE
I found living in Fantoft really helpful for making friends as they have their own club which organise events. I also met other international students in my classes through group work. I tried to get to know some Norwegians through a buddy scheme and an outdoor organisation, but it was difficult because generally Norwegians are very closed people. ESN Bergen also organised events for Exchange students but sadly I didn't get to go to a lot of them.

I did some travelling during my time here. My friends and I travelled to Tromso in the Northern part of Norway, which is where most exchange students tend to go. We saw the Northern Lights there and it was great! We also went skiing in the mountains and will be going to Lofoten Islands and London in the coming months. We mainly used planes to travel, because there are some cheap flight deals, and also trains when we went through the mountains. 

- Tromso

- Skiing in the mountains

OTHER INFO
There's no specific areas in Bergen that are particularly dangerous so I felt safe most of the time. Norwegians have a high living standard, so I never felt as if anyone would steal my stuff. However, Norwegians get seriously drunk on the weekends and some of the guys are very, very pushy. If I could have changed one thing about my experience, I would have saved up more money so I could do all the traveling I want to do and I would have learned more Norwegian before I got here to get to know more Norwegians.

Overall I have loved living in Bergen. It's a great experience and i'm so glad I went abroad. I'd recommend people to come here because the Norwegian nature is truly irresistible and beautiful. 


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