Foto: Luidmila Gils

7 Reasons to Become an International Student

Have you ever thought of leaving your university and spending at least one semester studying abroad? Maybe now is the time!

Text: Luidmila Gils

The Arctic University of Norway (UiT) hosts several hundred international students from all over the world every semester. I was lucky to be one of them autumn semester. I can’t say that studying pedagogy (geography and English) in Petrozavodsk State University, Russia is something that I don’t like. On the contrary, I really love my studies, enjoy my professors, and I have many good friends there. Why have I decided to apply for one semester at the Arctic Norway Studies Program at UiT, you ask? Here are 7 answers to this question, which I hope will inspire YOU to become an exchange student.

  1. New places – new perspectives

I guess a lot of people like to travel and visit new places. I am not an exception. In my twenties I have been in Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Sweden, Finland and Israel. Visiting a new place inevitably gives you new emotions and strong feelings as you encounter people from diverse countries, speaking different languages and representing various cultures. I believe that this experience leads to personal transformation. When you come back home you are not the person you were before. Approaching new people and seeing how diverse we are broadens your mind and understanding of the world. Artic Norway is a special place, peculiar with its northern climate and beautiful nature. That’s why I chose to come here. Which part of the world would you chose to go to?

  1. New knowledge and experience in the educational system

Studying about Arctic Norway was extremely important for me because it allowed me the rare opportunity to acquire first-hand knowledge about the historical and cultural background of this region. I study geography at my home university, which is why this knowledge and experience was very important for me.

In addition, I found that approaches to education vary greatly from country to country. For example, the autumn semester in Norway begins in August, while in Russia it starts on the 1st of September, and there’s more. It was fascinating to learn about the differences between the educational systems and take some useful methods back home with me.

  1. New challenges and adaptation to a new place

When was the last time you had to use a map to find a street, a shop or a bus routes for the first time? Being a new student in a foreign country is exactly the kind of experience that requires you to get out of your perfectly shaped comfort zone and step over what is known and safe. I have to pinpoint that UiT is very good at providing new students the necessary adaptation tools. During the Introductory Week (which was also by the way full of entertainment such as picnics and hiking trips) we were told all we need to “survive” in the new environment and got the opportunity to meet many new friends from other countries.

  1. New friends, who can become your friends-for-life.

Arriving to a new place one always tries to make friends, and guess what: in the universities hosting exchange students you most likely will have a chance to meet people from all over the world! Where else will you get this fantastic opportunity? Trust me, even 4 months is enough to do a lot of crazy things together, starting from getting lost late at night in the snowy forest to climbing up a mountain to take a selfie. Tromsø was generous and gave me a lot of new friends. We continue our friendship via Internet, and who knows, may be one day we can meet again!

  1. Improving your language skills

Studying abroad very often implies studying in English, which is a foreign language for many people. However, you can choose programs where the teaching will be provided in the language of the country you are visiting. Imagine having classes in Italian? Would that not be a great practice? You will write essays, speak in class, and use the foreign language in informal communication on an everyday basis. I promise that this will increase your language skills significantly.

  1. Teaching your culture

When you are in another country you are a representative of your country. It is a rule, so be prepared to tolerate some jokes about Polar bears on the streets if you are from Norway, and frogs for dinner if you are from France. On the other side, it is your Hour of Glory, when you can teach people something about your culture. For example, you can cook a traditional meal from your own country and share it with your friends or neighbors at the student hostel.

  1. Hobby

I can assure you that there is no better time for finding out what you are truly interested in, than when you are an international student. Being in a new and foreign environment you naturally become more open to new experiences. Always been interested in scuba diving, but thought it would never happen to you? Studying in Hawaii will give you a perfect chance! I am keen on photography and collecting coins. In my free time I walked around Tromsø and took photos. Also I got many new coins from different countries. My new friends gave them to me. I have coins nearly from 40 countries in my collection now. That’s my memory about my student experience in Tromsø.