Photo: artic pj

Ellyne Dudkowski shares how to earn your degree tuition-free by studying abroad.

I WAS IN SEARCH of a new career and wanted to go back to school, but I didn’t want to be financially burdened with additional student loan debt.

I looked around my cubicle thinking that all I wanted was to do something more interesting, a career that would give me the freedom to travel. I day-dreamed of seeing Europe and the rest of the world. I was still paying my college loans and I knew that taking on more debt would be overwhelming.

I heard about study abroad programs in Norway through a friend. Looking at the website motivated me to think seriously about applying.

Study abroad programs in Scandinavia had tuition-free programs until 2010. The only remaining tuition-free universities for international students are located in Norway. They offer Bachelors (a limited amount of degrees offered in English), Masters (many English degree options), and Ph.D programs through English instruction. Acceptance is not scholarship-based and all accepted students study tuition free.

About Norway

Norway was ranked first by the U.N. list of best places in the world to live in November 2010. The United States was ranked as fourth place behind Australia and New Zealand.

Located west of Sweden, Norway is a country composed of many beautiful coastlines and fjords. The population is estimated at 4.9 million people. The capital Oslo, is home to 1.4 million people and is considered the fasting growing city in Europe. Most of the population lives in the southern region of the country typically near the cities. Norway’s main industries are oil, fish, and lumber. It is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas per capita apart from the Middle East.

Norway has a Scandinavian welfare model with universal health-care, subsidized higher education, and a social security system. Students studying in Norway for more than one year are insured under the health care system called The National Insurance Scheme.

Some Norwegian universities are accredited by the U.S. Department of Education, and this enables students to apply for financial support from the American student loan program (FFELP).

Norway’s cost of living is typically more expensive than the United States and many other countries. The country uses the Norwegian Kroner (NOK). Many discounts around town help out towards food, activities, and travel for students. My current rent is almost half that of something equivalent to Southern California market rent for a student; student housing may be subsidized.

A small semester fee is the only payment required, and it totals around NOK 300-600 ($55- $110 US) each semester. Room, board, books, and transportation are the student’s responsibility. Some Norwegian universities are accredited by the U.S. Department of Education, and this enables students to apply for financial support from the American student loan program (FFELP). Scholarships are also listed on studyinnorway.no. Students from developing countries may apply for full scholarships. Scholarship applies to travel and accommodations; see the Quota Scheme on the website for a list of eligible countries.

A student Study Visa allows for students to work part-time for up to 20 hours per week during school sessions and full-time during school breaks. Norwegian wages per hour are among the highest in the world.

University of Nordland library, Photo: author

How to Find a Degree Program

1. Explore studyinnorway.no

Research what programs are offered in your field of study. You can search by university or by subject area. For example: Law, Business, Art and Design, Natural Science, Economics, and more.

2. See Country Specific Pages

Check out your specific country page on the left side (United States, France, Canada, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile) to see tailored information for your own country. You can apply from any country, the specific country pages are geared to any questions students from those countries may have. The page contains many helpful answers to frequently asked questions. A practical information guide about living in Norway and a section for parents is also included.

3. Select a Study Program

Contact the international office or school department for additional information. Ask questions about your selected program’s faculty, potential research opportunities, the university, or requirements of the program.

4. Get Your Prerequisites in Order

Make sure to check the program’s prerequisites. Some may require credits in a certain discipline like Economics or require a specific type of Bachelor`s Degree if applying to a graduate program.

5. Take any Required Exams

Check to see if any exam scores are necessary to apply. Most of the Masters level programs do not require the GRE. If English is your second language, the TOEFL or IELTS may be required. The SAT/ACT is usually not required.

How to Apply to a Norwegian University Program

1. Gather the typical documents needed.

These include: program application, a photocopy of your passport, high school or college transcripts, a one-page motivational letter, CV or resume, and recommendation letters.

No application fees are required. Not all programs require all the documents listed above; check with your program to see what is needed.

2. Mail-in the required materials.

Certain universities may offer a screening where you apply online with a brief application, and if you are selected you’ll proceed with the remaining documents requested. Note deadlines are earlier for the screenings.

What to Do After Acceptance

1. Confirm your acceptance.

2. Apply for a student visa.

Submit your visa application to the Norwegian Embassy in your country to get your student visa. If your student visa doesn’t come in time, students with a Bachelors Degree may enter Norway as a skilled worker.

3. Plan your travel.

Purchase your flights early. Check with your airline, they may require a visa for travel dates longer than three months due to travel policies. This applies to many American airline companies.

The university’s student welfare organization will arrange your accommodation if you apply for student housing. My university had a welcome committee that picked me up from the airport, drove me to my new apartment, and gave all of the international students a bag of food to start off with! Becoming an international student has been one of the best decisions in my life and my career.

4. Don’t forget to pack some wool socks!

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