- Where are you from and what are you studying in Norway/Nord?
From Norway. Went on exchange during my Bachelors in Biology at Nord.
- Which university did you choose for exchange and why?
I chose the University of Bremen for exchange. The opportunity to learn more German was my biggest motivation for applying precisely to Germany. A stay here requires some German knowledge. There are few English-language offers (at least not in biology), and almost all of my lectures are held in German.
- What was the process of preparing for exchange like?
Before I started my studies, I had built up a hunger for adventure after a year of military deployment followed by backpacking, a journey which eventually landed me in Germany. I would spend a full year there attending a school to learn German, and completely falling in love with the country, the language, and the people – not to mention the beer. So much so, that when I started my studies after returning from Germany, the first thing I did when I arrived on campus in Bodø was to go to the International Office and inquire about exchange programs, and my possibilities for returning to the city I had lived the year before, Marburg.
Sadly, Marburg was not one of the options of the current Erasmus-program, which offered exchange to the University of Bremen, a city which I didn’t really know much about. This is when I was informed of the free-mover option, which is an exchange in which you have to organise pretty much everything yourself, and you have to make sure the subjects you take will correspond to equivalent courses given at Nord so that they count towards your degree.
This is a very complicated procedure steeped in bureaucracy, which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. After more than half a year of countless emails, proposed and subsequently scratched study plans, I came to realize that doing my exchange as a free-mover to the University of Marburg would not be viable, and that I should try with Erasmus instead, and therefore landed on going to the University of Bremen.
The advantage of the Erasmus-program is that the subjects is already outlined and approved in advance (they still have to be relevant to your degree, unless you take them as electible courses), and it cuts back a lot on the bureaucracy. In addition to this, you also get a grant per month, which when combined with the Norwegian student loans makes you quite rich by student standards, especially considering that you get higher student loans when exchanging abroad (this never made any sense to me but who says no to more money?). The extra money also makes finding accommodation a much more forgiving process, which might be a challenge when exchanging; not every University offers housing on par with Studentinord, and I had to turn to the private market, which required language skills that I luckily had already acquired.
With the Erasmus-plan approved and housing in order, all that was left to do was to book my tickets, and off I went. In conclusion I would recommend not wasting time and energy on attempting to organise the exchange yourself, and go with the Erasmus-program, which was one of the best experiences of my life.
- What are the highlights of your exchange experience?
In Germany, they have a brilliant concept called “Semesterticket”: you get a ticket for all public transport within the state and close proximity when paying the semester fee (about 200€). With it you can take buses, trams and trains for free throughout the academic year. Genius!
The interesting thing here is that there is a far more practical focus, and there are more lab exercises than at Nord. I think this is very good, because you get a deeper and better understanding of what you learn in the lectures by practical implementations.
What is your recommendation for students thinking about going on exchange?
If I can give one piece of advice, it would be to talk to students who have been on exchange before you. As I said, it was a reasonably chaotic process to get subjects and credits to go up. I am genuinely concerned that there is so much focus on obtaining enough credits, not on what knowledge one acquires.
- Did you face anything particularly challenging?
The studies here are arranged in a completely different way than at the North. It has been difficult to get the schedule to go up – so that I get both enough credits and enough knowledge. This has probably been the biggest challenge of going to a university where the subjects are so differently organized.
Anything else you would like to add?
Start the process as soon as possible and send e-mail to institutions you are interested in if you have any questions about the programs they offer. I started the process as early as September, and contacted several universities before deciding on the University of Bremen in February.