Gurvir is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Geohazards at University of Oslo. He found the programme and enrolled via StudyPortals. We asked Gurvir about his experience of searching and applying to a university abroad.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?
My name is Gurvir, I am 24 years old and I am from Canada.
Where are/were you studying and what programme? What degree and how long is your programme?
I completed my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Ottawa - four-year degree in which I specialised in Geology. I am currently at the University of Oslo pursuing a Master of Science in Geohazards (two-year programme).
Why did you want to study abroad?
During my Bachelor’s degree, I did an exchange to the University of Southern Denmark and really enjoyed the experience. I also enjoyed the atmosphere, the people, the culture in Denmark and made lots of Nordic friends. The experience of living in a new country was a big draw for studying abroad, what better way to experience a new country than while studying/researching there? I just had to find a programme I was interested in and apply.
Deciding for a university
What were your main priorities when choosing your university and your programme (e.g. academics, accommodation, university services & facilities, personal & professional development, city & culture, cost & funding, practicalities, social life)?
My main priorities were city/culture, which was the Nordic region and academics, not in the terms of research but actually coursework. I wanted to take courses in subjects that were not available to me during my Bachelor’s degree. Costs and funding were also a concern, though I had worked for a year and saved up money, it was probably only worthwhile going to a university without tuition fee or with a full scholarship.
Was this your first study choice? What other universities did you consider? What was the main reason for your final choice?
This was probably my second study choice, I considered one other university in Norway, one in Sweden and my top choice was in Denmark but I did not get a full scholarship there so I decided against it. Norway has free tuition for international students, however, you need to meet the resident/student permit requirements which involves transferring a large sum of money to a Norwegian bank account before applying for your permit.
Did you know from the start that you wanted to study in that particular country and city? Why did you choose this particular location?
I chose between fairly similar cities, Oslo, Copenhagen, Uppsala (smaller and outside Stockholm). The Nordic countries are well respected, have high-standard of life and good social benefits (of course which don’t apply to me as a foreigner). My favourite thing is the amazing public transportation, quality and quantity of public greenspace and the pedestrian-friendly aspects of the city! This is all relative to a couple of the large urban centres in Ontario, Canada that I lived in.
Did you find your study programme on StudyPortals? How did StudyPortals help you in your decision process?
I did not find my current study programme on StudyPortals as I had already heard about the programmes offered at University of Oslo through Norwegian students who were on exchange at the University of Ottawa, but I did find information on other geoscience programmes in the Nordic countries through StudyPortals.
What would be your advice for students from your country that consider studying abroad?
Remember that even if you exceled as a student back home, there is always an adjustment period in a new country. It may be difficult getting used to the new style of teaching and other administrative details at your new place of study. You may not speak the language and getting a part-time job can be difficult. My best advice is to do a lot of research beforehand, about the culture, cost, school, programme etc. Try to find points of contact on websites, send a lot of emails, consult online forums/Facebook groups to ask questions.
How did you finance your stay abroad and what financial advice would you give to future students?
I personally do not like to carry debt, there are differences between good and bad debt, and student loans can be seen as a good debt. I, however, do not feel comfortable spending in excess and enjoy saving money by penny pinching to the extreme. I am actually living on less here in Oslo (one of the most expensive cities in the world) than when I lived in Toronto. I also spent a year working, after my Bachelor degree, to save up money while deciding on if I should go back to school. I was lucky enough to get a job in my field but still made the decision to leave. Do a cost-benefit analysis to see if it’s worth studying abroad, I would always assume that you won’t be able to find a part-time job and can’t get a teaching assistant position at university, as you may not speak the local language when calculating source of funds. Specifically for Oslo, never eat out, always make food at home or buy at a grocery store, I also never order alcohol at bars, except for some student-run establishments!
Why would you (not) recommend this particular city / university? How would you rate your experience on a scale from zero to ten (0 – It was a total disaster, 10 – I had the time of my life)?
My experience at this university has been quite positive so far, it has only been a few months so it is hard to rate the experience. I would give it an 8 out of 10. The services provided by the university/student services are great (counselling, health, career, international office etc.). There are 100+ student clubs you can join on campus and sports teams you can get involved with. I wish the university had intra-university sports leagues instead of just a club team where you have to pay steep membership fees. At the University of Ottawa, I could join a football, basketball or dodgeball league and play once a week for 3 months for only 30 Canadian USD, which is impossible in Oslo.
Is there anything that you would do differently if you could do it over again?
I probably would have continued working and considered going back to school after I gained more job experience. A work opportunity can’t wait but you can always go back and get an education.
What was the biggest surprise in your study abroad adventure?
The high cost of eating at a restaurant and getting a haircut.
Were you inspired by Gurvir's story?