Why do international students choose to stay in Norway?

Why do international students choose to stay in Norway?
Photo: Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash
Studying in Norway has its benefits, but also reasons to stay after graduating.

Norway offers tuition-free education at public universities, no matter what your country of origin is. There are also a number of degree programmes offered in English and the living standards are high. 

These make for obvious reasons for foreigners to choose to study in Norway. According to Study in Norway, there are currently over 12,000 foreign students studying in Norway. We asked four why they ended up staying.

Alena Bakkan, Russia

Alena chose Norway because her former school in Russia, Arkhangelsk State Technical University, had a partnership with a school in Narvik.

“It was kind of random,” she explains about her choice, “but it was one of the few programs my university had.”

Bakkan spent her first two years studying up in the north of Norway and recalls her first impressions.

“I knew absolutely nothing about Norway before I arrived. Not even about the mountains and nature. I arrived in high heels,” she laughs. “So there was a lot of culture shock. But I remember the nature being crazy beautiful and everything was so small and cozy.”

After two years in Narvik, Bakkan moved to Trondheim in 2007 to pursue her Masters in Structural Engineering. She shares that she had three job offers lined up before graduation.

“I originally wanted to move to Spain,” she says. “This was a dream of mine. But it was the middle of the financial crisis and I had three offers and I just felt so lucky I couldn’t leave.”

Bakkan says that in order for her to stay in the country legally after studying she needed a job or study offer. 

When asked if she is happy she stayed, she replies with a confident “Yes, I feel Norwegian. I still want to move to Spain. But maybe when I retire.”

Ymkje Haverkamp, Netherlands 

Ymkje Haverkamp first moved to Norway to study on the Erasmus grant in 2016. She moved from Leiden to Trondheim for a semester abroad while studying for her undergraduate degree in psychology.

“I was debating between studying in England or Norway,” she says, “but Norway won because of the nature.”

Shortly before moving back to the Netherlands to finish her degree, she met someone special.

“In my last weeks in Trondheim I also met a Norwegian, we kept it super vague, everyone around me was very annoyed. I was on the phone all the time,” she laughs. “I had intended on going back to study in Trondheim but he got a job opportunity in Oslo and I felt confident enough that there would be enough in Oslo for myself, and applied for a Master’s in Statistics there.” 

Haverkamp shares that in order for her to stay in the country after studying she had to register her move and was given a social security number and is now seen as a permanent resident. Officially, she must be studying or have a job in order to stay. 

When asked what made her stay in Norway she answers, “I’m in a relationship, but I would have stayed anyway. It just feels right here and feels like I have a complete life here.” 

She credits this feeling to having made effort of making an independent life for herself, away from her partner’s, from the very beginning: “I was afraid I would put too much of staying in Norway just on one person, and I did not want that pressure. And it paid off.”

Anonymous, China

“I came to Norway to study in 2003 because my mom married a Chinese man who was a professor in Narvik, Norway,” said a Chinese national living in Norway, who asked to comment anonymously.

“I came on a student visa and spent the first year learning the language and at the time I chose to study IT because there wasn’t too much offered at that time. In Beijing I studied art. I learned how to draw for four years.”


“Norway is more independent. There was more group work and presentations but it was way easier. My first mathematics class I took here I quickly realised I had learned this already in middle school,” she recalls.

She said she stayed in Norway after finishing her studies at the behest of her mother.

“Oh, because my mom wanted me to. If it were up to me I would have gone back to China. I stayed in Narvik for nine years before moving to Oslo,” she says.

“I feel like I wasted my youth up there in the north. I would have moved back to China, but at the time I was 28. I was too old. I feel like there are way more opportunities in China for the young,” she added. 

“If I could choose my life over again, I wouldn’t stay in Norway. But I have a family now and I wouldn’t want my kid to be raised in China. I want my kid to have more freedom,” she also said. 

She is allowed to remain resident in Norway provided she is in employment, she told The Local.

Lisa Husanovic, Malaysia

Husanovic arrived in Ålesund back in 1984 to study Norwegian.

“In Malaysia, the studies are much more difficult than in Norway, it’s much more relaxed here,” she explains.

“After I had graduated, I began to work with refugees and had made a great group of international friends. I actually tried to move back to Malaysia for a year before I decided to come back to Norway again,” she says of her transition from international student to more permanent resident.

According to Husanovic, attaining permanent residency in the 1980s and 1990s was easier than it is now.

“The police working with UDI would actually call me and ask me if I wanted to apply for permanent residency or citizenship in Norway,” she shares.

“I said no way. I want to keep my Malaysian citizenship. Still to this day I have to go in and apply to renew my residency every other year.” 

Husanovic said she is happy she stayed.

“Yeah, yeah I am. I learn a lot here. I am more independent here and there is more opportunity. Of course, I still ask myself if I would have done things differently if I could do it again but yeah, I am happy,” she says.


If you are considering studying in Norway, here are a few tips to remember.

Applications and admissions to higher education in Norway are handled by each institution. Different institutions may have different requirements and deadlines. So double check the university's website to see their prerequisites. 

While public universities offer a tuition-free education, there are costs to obtaining a study permit. The application fees for a study permit for students over the age of 18 is 4.900 kroner, according to the UDI. Note that you will be asked to prove you have enough money in your account to live on, and you must reapply every year if your study programme lasts longer than 12 months. 

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