International Student Blog

Building your Study Abroad Experience: Guide to settling into Bergen


A huge welcome to all the new international students this Fall! I hope you are getting settled, exploring Bergen, and not letting a little rain stop you from having fun so far. If you saw me at the Welcome Programme, you know I think the keys to building a great study abroad experience in Bergen are: integration, exploration, and (being prepared for… but heading outside despite) precipitation. In the interest of helping you, today I want to offer an expanded resource to getting settled-in as an international student in Bergen. It includes links to many other blog posts that may be of interest (although, not all of them may be entirely up-to-date, sorry!).


Summer time in Bergen. iPhone screenshot.


Volunteer and/or get involved:

Volunteering is an amazing way to take part in Norwegian culture, meet new friends, and have new adventures. Read more about volunteering in Norway here. You can volunteer for, or just join, many of the opportunities and activities below:


Student organizations:

There are so many student organizations to either join or volunteer with. Below are just a few to get you started. Read about getting involved in student organizations here.

Community Organizations:

  • Vitalitetssenteret Frivilligsentral (Vitality Center Volunteer Center), an entirely volunteer-run organization that offers a wide variety of services, classes, and activities.
  • Robin Hood Huset (The Robin Hood House), an organization designed to help people with financial issues expand their network.
  • Røde Kors (Red Cross), an international organization helping worldwide and here in Norway.

A sign that Beerfest is coming. Yep, that is a bad joke. Photo: Stand Hiestand

Learning Norsk:

There are many opportunities to learn Norwegian, both through the university and outside of it. Take a look at these Student Bergen pages (yes, I helped out with these) that offer information about resources for learning Norwegian that charge fees or that are offered for free. And, remember, Norwegian TV and movies are a great, and entertaining, way to ‘practice’ your norsk.

  • Norwegian TV is available online through and always has a Norwegian subtitle option (so get started watching SKAM if you haven’t already… you may even be able to google a not-necessarily-legal version that has homemade English subtitles… not that I would have personally ever done such a thing).
  • The Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek (Public Library) not only has opportunities to practice Norwegian in person, but also offers all sorts of books (I recommend children’s books and comic books) and even some Norwegian movies with English subtitles. Read more about the Bergen Public Library here. Personally, I like reading Natta Fortellinger for Rebelske Jenter (the Norwegian version of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls) as it covers my need to practice Norwegian along with my desire to read inspiring stories about amazing women that I missed out on as a child. And yes, I borrow the book from the library, and yes, I feel conflicted telling you guys because I feel that you’ll now be in competition with me to borrow it 😉



Photo: Grim Hiestand (yes, my amazing husband took my last name). Here I am reading Natta Fortellinger for Rebelske Jenter. My husband is kind and patient enough to let me read him one story per day as he tries (in vain??) to help my pronunciation and clarify translations. He’s the best!

Navigating Bergen online:

As you may remember if you saw me at the Introductory Programme, in Norway Facebook is very important for staying connected and knowing what’s going on around town. For other information about surfing Bergen online, take a look at this information on the Student Bergen website.


Exploring Bergen

Maybe you want to see some of the art, museums, historical buildings, or other features that make Bergen so beautiful. You could simply stroll around and discover Bergen on your own, or use a tourist website, or Student Bergen’s site as a guide.

Here are some places in Bergen I have written about exploring:

Still finding your way around Bergen? Some of the information from this post on familiarizing yourself with Bergen may be helpful.



View from Fløyen. Photo: Stand Hiestand


Check out Mt. Fløyen, and if you’re lucky, make a goat-friend. Photo: Stand Hiestand

Eat or Drink out

Cheap? Not necessarily, but occasionally, you may wish to frequent a local establishment of some kind.  I recently helped Student Bergen expand their Eating and Drinking in Bergen section so hopefully there are many good options there for getting started finding places to go out. Remember, getting take-out is almost always the cheaper option if you are craving food that you don’t want to cook yourself. My personal favorite places to get food or beer include:

  • Henrik Øl og Vinstove literally, “Henrik Beer and Wine Living Room”, named for Henrik Ibsen. A pub with an extensive beer selection and bartenders that really care about beer.
  • Biskopen “the Bishop”. A bar with a very charming atmosphere, especially when the fire is lit. It often also has great music. Usually it has good beers although the menu doesn’t rotate as much as I’d like.
  • Nirvana Kebab. Admittedly, it hard to find a really good kebab in Bergen. However, I think these ones are downright crave-able. My absolute favorite kebab in this city comes from Nirvana. It is the Kylling Rullekebab (chicken rolled kebab) with the hot pepper sauce. Yaaaas.
  • Gresk Pai. Tasty, savory and Greek – handheld pies.
  • Pasty World. My new favorite – Cornish pasties, these handheld pies are definitely delicious.

Cornish Pasty! Photo: Pastyworld

Exploring Beyond Bergen:

There are a great many other places to explore in Norway, in Scandinavia and beyond. Thinking about travels while you study abroad? Some of these blog posts might help inspire some Norwegian travel ideas:

While I’ve been here I’ve also traveled to France, Turkey, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Spain (although, sadly I’ve not made any blog posts for these travels). How do I decide where to go? Generally, I do a lot of searching for whatever plane tickets are the cheapest!


Hiking in Lofoten. Photo: Stand Hiestand

Precipitation: Get outdoors!

Don’t let the weather deter you from being outside (unless it is an epic downpour like yesterday)! But make sure you gear up, after all, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” (Click on this bad weather blog link above for information about gearing up, including where you might find reasonably priced outdoor clothes). Once you are prepared, get out there: go hiking, get on the water, or just stroll the streets.



Don’t miss the beauty of the nature all around you! Photo: Stand Hiestand, Damsgårdsfjellet.

There’s so much to get involved in, how do I get started?

Just a reminder to post your questions or suggestions for other ways to integrate or explore in Bergen below!

2 comments for “Building your Study Abroad Experience: Guide to settling into Bergen

  1. Ines
    27. September 2017 at 13:47

    Hi, I will be an erasmus student at the University of Bergen in the spring semester. I’ve got a stupid question. Do you know the different dates of the school holidays and public holidays for Bergen (to be able to plan some road trips and to come back to see my family) ? I just can’t find these informations.

    Thank you in advance, and your blog has a wealth of informations it’s great!

    • Stand Hiestand
      30. September 2017 at 12:25

      Hi there, glad you like the blog 🙂 You may be having trouble with semester dates especially because it may depend on the courses you take. The general semester dates are here, and general public holidays are listed on this site. But if you know what classes you’re taking I recommend checking their schedules individually (each class page has a place where you can click on the schedule, it may be that schedules aren’t finished yet for Spring semester, though, for example. Also on the class page you may have to choose the semester before you can look at the schedule). Hope that helps! Hope you have a great time in Bergen 😀

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