Should I Study in Northern Europe? Tips and Facts About Viking Student Life

The Nordic countries – Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland – have altogether about 170 universities spread on a large geographical area in very northern (and cold) latitudes welcoming international students from all over the world.

What is special, on the global scale, in these countries, is the common lack of tuition fees for the majority of students in most universities and polytechnics. But, when it comes to student culture and life, there are a few things unique in the Nordic countries. Here’s a few of them:

The most popular Nordic universities

First of all, we should mention that, among so many institutions in Northern Europe, some of them managed to stand out. These are:

How do Nordic students live?

What is often remarked by foreign students is the differing meaning and value of personal space in the Nordic countries. Personal space in the North is more important and wider than in other parts of Europe, seeing how Scandinavian students are easily scared by other humans.

Also, the future professionals of Scandinavia tend to value their beloved privacy, when it comes to housing. They often live alone in spacious studios or apartments, instead of sharing a flat or a room with several people.

Yet, no worries if you want to get acquainted with the mysterious breed that is Nordic students!

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They might seem like a cold and reserved bunch at a first glance, but in their hearts they are still students – (generally) sociable, fun-loving, intellectually curious, and living the most care-free time of their lives.

Also, they are living a rather balanced and average-costing life. If you want to know more, you can always check out:

How to spot a Nordic student

Nordic students don’t wear a uniform to school, so what strikes an observer very quickly in Finland and Sweden is the usage of the so-called student overalls. They are typically covered with different kind of patches, that students can gain by purchasing or by participating in various events, often student parties.

The colour and the prints on the overalls give away the institution and the field of study of the student. Moreover, one can also conclude the relationship status of a student, as couples often swap one leg of their overalls by cutting it off from the knee down and then sewing it back to their darling’s overall.

If you’re a “discipline first” type of student, you should know that the most sought-after fields in the Northern European countries are:

As overalls and the students inside them are sometimes associated with heavy drinking, in some bars and nightclubs overalls are strictly forbidden. On the other hand, some places try to intentionally attract students, by giving away free patches.

Another curious accessory occasionally worn by Nordic students is the student cap, typically white and blue/black. Student caps represent the graduation from upper secondary school. However, they are often worn later for special occasions.

In Denmark, the custom of wearing the student cap in its various forms has probably been taken the furthest: for instance, young Danes fill the linings of their friends’ and classmates’ caps with greetings and cut their caps in personal manners.

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How do Nordic students pass the time?

Nordic students start their university life at 18 or 19 and quickly get absorbed into various student activities for the majority of the year. Annual rituals and traditions are sprinkled throughout the academic year, highlights being:

  • the freshman initiation
  • student sports events
  • the 1st of May
  • various semi-formal academic traditional student feasts ('sittning’ in Sweden, ‘sitsit’ in Finland)

As the Nordic countries are sparsely populated and possess some breath-taking landscape, outdoorsy activities and winter sports play a big part in the lives of Nordic students.

For instance, in Iceland, horseback riding is a popular sport, while Danish students get their kicks out of football.

Useful tips for international students in Nordic countries

The ‘academic quarter’ is a common practice in the Nordic countries, meaning that classes and lectures actually start 15 minutes past the announced time. This dates back to the times when the church bells were the way of telling students they should leave for their class – thus they would have 15 minutes to make it there. However, to be on the safe side, it may be advisable to check whether this practice is actually followed in your university before snoozing that alarm one more time.

Also, the best way of finding out about the student life in the Nordic countries is to eagerly take part in student activities with the natives. Language barrier shouldn’t be a problem, as students in these countries tend to be fluent in English.

If you want to be fluent in English, as well, you can always join a preparatory English course.

Find Masters in Nordic countries

If these new facts about Northers Europeans students flames your enthusiasm, then go and be free, and apply to that Nordic university you’ve been searching for. As always, good luck and have fun!

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