When I found out I was going to the University of Oslo in Norway for exchange in semester 2 of 2019, everyone told me I would be in for a $20,000 exchange and a big headache. Why was this? Well, Norway is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive countries in the world. With just over a month of my exchange remaining, the reality has been far from this and there are a multitude of ways to make exchange in Scandinavia a reality for you if you are worried about the financial side of things.
1. Pick a cheap housing option
There are so many different types of accommodation offered by the University of Oslo so it can be a bit overwhelming to pick what you think would be best for you. I ended up first preferencing a furnished room with a shared bathroom with one other person rather than my own bathroom. The prospect of sharing a bathroom with another person didn’t phase me given I had been in a residential hall for 2.5 years sharing my bathroom with so many more people! In making this choice, my rent is less than $150 AUD a week, making it one of the cheapest rents at the University of Oslo! You might think that this means I have a terrible room and building but my room has lots of windows and is spacious! Sharing a bathroom hasn’t been a problem at all either.
2. Watch what you eat!
Eating out is just not an option in Norway with most meals costing $20 as a starting price for a small meal or something that you’d get for a fraction of the price in Canberra. Because of this, I’ve gone basically vegetarian and on top of this, I’ve learnt to meal prep and buy what I want to eat for the week wisely. Groceries are without a doubt, very expensive in Norway. Just some quick google searching will show you as such. Therefore, I only shop at the ‘cheapest supermarket’ in Norway, Kiwi, and try and keep what I buy to mainly fruits, vegetables, pastas and rice, yoghurts and the occasional loaf
of bread or breakfast muffin.
3. Make the most of airline under-26 deals
I was worried I wouldn’t be able to travel much given I would be based in Norway which, if you look at a map, is a bit far removed from the rest of Europe. I also knew that flights would likely be my biggest cost for any of my weekend trips. What I didn’t realise is that Norwegian air and SAS have coupon codes for people under the age of 26 that can halve the cost of flying! This has meant my flights have been $130 return for basically anywhere I have travelled in Scandinavia but also to places in central Europe like Berlin.
I also signed up to the ‘Erasmus Student Network (ESN)’ at the University of Oslo – it’s basically a student society – but they have a 15% discount off Ryan Air flights and free checked luggage meaning my flight from London to Oslo was only $40. Flights in Europe are considerably cheaper than Australia so don’t let the location of Norway or other Scandinavian countries deter you from considering them for exchange!
4. Make friends and split costs
Shortly after arriving in Norway and realising that groceries were expensive, a few of the people I met and I started scheduling a weekly dinner where we could easily split costs and then enjoy leftovers the next day. Not only is this very social and helps in the friend-making process but it also means you can eat a variety of food and save money whilst doing it!
5. Plan and be selective
My final tip would be make sure that you plan your exchange. I’ve managed to do 10 or so trips just on my weekends or mid-week over my exchange. I couldn’t have done this if I hadn’t prioritised places I wanted to visit and just booked them in whether it be by myself or with a group of friends. I recommend planning and being selective in where you want to go because while you probably want to go everywhere (like I did!) there just won’t be the time to be able to do that and keep on top of uni or actually enjoy living in the city that you’ve moved to. In saying this, it’s a different situation if you’re planning to travel for an extended period at the beginning or end of your exchange. Whilst I travelled before the beginning of the semester, I wasn’t able to at the end and that’s partly why I had so many trips during the semester.