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Why do international students choose to stay in Norway?

Studying in Norway has its benefits, but also reasons to stay after graduating.

Why do international students choose to stay in Norway?
Photo: Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash

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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For members


How and where to get the cheapest fuel in Norway

Norway is leading the pack when it comes to the sales of new electric vehicles. In fact, nearly 60 percent of all new car sales in this country are electric. But for petrol and diesel car owners who have yet to make the switch, knowing when and where to find the cheapest fuel can end up saving you thousands of kroner.

A petrol station in Norway in 2021. Refuelling your car is a pricey business in the Nordic country, but there are ways to limit costs.
A petrol station in Norway in 2021. Refuelling your car is a pricey business in the Nordic country, but there are ways to limit costs. Photo by Malik Skydsgaard on Unsplash

Why is it so expensive to fuel up?

Fuel – gasoline, petrol and diesel — is an expensive monthly bill for many. Norway typically has some of the highest fuel prices in Europe. The at-times sky high prices are mainly due to taxes on fuel imposed by the government, as well as the usual international market factors.

The Norwegian Competition Authority or Konkurransetilsynet recently stated that it is perhaps now more important than ever before to be aware of the ever changing fuel prices.

We have registered price differences of 2-3 kroner in the same local area. There is undoubtedly money to be saved by following along,” said Marita Skjæveland, deputy leader of the Norwegian Competition Authority’s energy section to broadcaster TV2.

The average price to fuel up between the months of July to October this year was 18.8 kroner per litre (2.26 dollars or 1.94 euros). 

READ ALSO: Five things that are becoming more expensive in Norway (and why)

Does it matter which day you fuel up?

As of writing, routinely fueling your vehicle on a specific day of the week will likely no longer save you money. 

“We see that the players in the market still raise prices two to three times a week, but that it happens on different days from week to week,” Skjæveland told TV2. The competition analyst added that by the end of the year, fixed price increases may also happen over the weekend. As such, it’s important to stay updated not only on the weekdays, but on the weekends as well.

Previously, Sunday evenings and early on Monday mornings used to be known as the cheapest time to fill your vehicle’s tank with petrol or diesel.  This is now a practice of the past. 

Where can I find cheap petrol prices online?

Hunting for the cheapest fuel prices in Norway is quite common. It’s also a normal discussion to have with your neighbours and colleagues. So don’t be worried about appearing ‘cheap’ if you want to talk about the high price of fuel. Or share which local petrol stations you have noticed to be less expensive. 

You can check Facebook for groups that are committed to informing the public on where to find the cheapest petrol stations. 

For Oslo and its surrounding areas, you can try here, and if you live in or are driving through the south of Norway, check here.

Drivestoff is an app designed to compare prices of petrol stations you will drive by on your journey so you can plan ahead to get the cheapest fuel. You can find more information and download the app here.

You can also save money by looking for a queue of cars at a petrol station. Yes, it may be just busy. But oftentimes, a queue is a signal for cheaper petrol prices. 

Memberships and credit cards can save you money on fuel

If you’re in the market for a credit card, look for one that might save you money on fuel. Credit cards such as 365 Direct and Flexi VISA will give you good discount options at all petrol stations. If you have a particular station you always fill up at, such as a YX, you can sign up for the company’s credit card to receive discounts on fuel. 

There are also benefits to be had if you sign up for a credit card or a drivstoffkort or “fuel card”.

A drivstoffkort is a special credit card which you use to pay when refuelling your vehicle. The cards generally only work at the stations run by the company to which the card belongs. Different deals and types of card are available, depending on the company.

Specific deals on credit card and drivstoffkort discounts can be found (in Norwegian) here

You can sometimes use membership cards with grocery stores or real estate organisations to give you discounts on fuel. For example, the Coop Medlemskort will save you 45 øre when filling up at Circle K petrol stations. Trumf kortet, which is associated with the chains Kiwi, Meny, Joker and Spar, gives you bonuses when you fill up at Shell stations. OBOS members receive a 27 øre discount on petrol and diesel at both Statoil and 1-2-3-Automat stations. 

Where can I get the lowest priced petrol?

Petrol stations in Norway are extremely competitive. There is no one company that is known to sell gasoline or diesel cheaper than the others

Like many other goods, fuel prices around Norway will rise and fall with demand. Typically, fuel stations located in mountainous towns or areas that heavily rely on tourism will have more expensive fuel. If you’re on holiday in such a town or area, and can wait to fuel up when you get to a more trafficked motorway, it will likely save you money. 

Petrol stations that don’t have employees on location tend to be slower at increasing their prices to match the competition. So if you know you’ll be passing by an ubemannet or “unstaffed” petrol station on your trip, it may be cost-effective to wait and fill up there. 

Consider how much time you want to invest

Joining the hunt for cheaper fuel may not be for everyone. It is time consuming, and admittedly hard to achieve due to the ever-changing prices. If you are not dependent on your vehicle for your daily commute and don’t often drive long distances, fueling up at your local gas station may be the best choice.