As three Erasmus students who have survived the first week here we know that it can be a daunting prospect. That's why we're here to guide you through every step of the way - from getting off the plane to your first Hansa.
In this section we're going to be getting you to your apartment, but remember to use this site in conjunction with the instructions you received from SIB for the best results.
So you probably want to know how to actually get to your swanky new apartment, right? Well, we're right here with you, buddy. To get to Fantoft you need to ride the Bybanen (tram) to the stop called Fantoft (duh?). For Alrek just get off at the stop Kronstad.
The Bybanen is run by a company called Skyss. You should buy a Skyss Card which gives you unlimited travel on the tram; student prices are 415NOK for a 1 month pass and 2075NOK for a 6 month pass. Remember to take your letter of acceptance or semester card with you when purchasing the ticket and at all times when riding the tram.
There are two offices in the city centre which are the most useful: one is on the street just opposite the final stop of the Bybanen, Byparken. The opening hours are 10:00 to 18:00. The other one is in Shopping Centre Bergen Bustasun next to the bus station and train station. The opening hours are 9:00 to 16:00.
Some people try to ride public transport without paying, however this is very risky business given that there is a 750NOK fine. You have been warned. Not only this, but you're just being a bad citizen.
SIB is an organisation run for students by the Universities in Bergen which provides sports facilities, accommodation and other services. Unless you found accommodation privately (the chances are this is outside of your price range), you'll be renting from SIB. The more common accommodation blocks for international students to be in are Fantoft and Alrek.
First job upon arrival in Bergen is to find your keys.
Easy! we hear you cry - not so fast.
You need to go up a massive hill to the Student Centre which is by the Museum. Don't worry about dragging your luggage up the hill; it's an initiation which we all have to endure, so just grit your teeth and get on with it.
The opening hours are: Monday to Friday 8:00 to 15:00. If you're arriving in Bergen outside of these hours you need to talk to SIB about having your keys brought to you.
Remember to confirm you have the correct keys when leaving SIB as otherwise you'll be coming right back with your suitcases again! Don't laugh, this has happened to too many people.
You should also ensure that they gave you your laundry card.
When first arriving you should definitely report any existing problems with your apartment in a SIB Damage Report, as otherwise this could come back to bite you when it comes to leaving the room and trying to get your deposit back. Damage reports will also be useful to you in future if/when your toilet breaks or you punch a hole through the wall (don't laugh - these things happen). All the details are self-explanatory so we won't go into them here.
The chances are you will be wanting to go out for a night on the town; this is where we can help you, with our complete guide to nightlife in Bergen. Whether you're looking for the perfect bar to take the future love of your life on a date or just looking to find somewhere to dance your troubles away, we have all of the answers for you right here.
An almost mythical place of pilgrimage for rock lovers the world over, this place is a true rock venue which attracts Norwegian and International acts alike.
A record shop-cum-bar this place has a great atmosphere and is great to go for a coffee during the day or a few drinks during the early evening. Browse the records and music on offer or sit at one of their tables, this place has a great vibe and is by Garage.
The place to go for the cheapest beer in Bergen - 29NOK on weekdays! This small place coupled with the cheap prices means that it can get quite crowded, but this gives the place a real buzz almost every day.
If you're looking for quality and not quantity this is the place for you as it has some of the finest cocktails Bergen has to offer. Not only does it have famous cocktails, but also some of the most famous and friendly bartenders in Norway. This place is a must when you are willing to spend a little more for special occasions.
The Norwegian word for 'cave' as this actually is one - an old converted bomb shelter. As with Hulen, this place is the stuff of legend, but catering for more of the Indie Rock side of things with their nights; look out for their Saturday night Indie Disco which is a big hit with students.
Nothing hugely special to offer here except a very standard student nightclub. Almost exclusively frequented by students both Norwegian and International with cheap prices to match. Tuesdays and Thursdays are typically the best student nights with the best prices. If you do go, ask if the 'Kongen i Tidi' is around.
Much like Tidi this is a typical student nightclub, however they cater for the Wednesday night crowd with buy-one-get-one-free on drinks. Located by the 'blue stone' in the main square the partying doesn't tend to stop when the music ends - it just moves out onto the street.
So you're over the initial euphoria of arriving in a new country, working out exactly where you live and finding some friends on a night out. Now what? How about working out how you can make the most of the extra-curricular opportunities available to you here?
Life as an exchange student meeting other exchange students is great, but it can sometimes be a bit difficult to meet Norwegian students, especially after Mentor Week. This is where Buddy Bergen comes in! Buddy Bergen matches International students up to Norwegian students on a 1:1 basis. A lot of information can be found on their website, but the most important thing is that you sign up in the first half of August as the pairing up is typically done in the second half. We talked to Maren from Norway and Luke from the UK who are Bergen Buddies to find out what they've made of their Buddy relationship so far.
To kick us off: why did you sign up to Buddy Bergen?
Maren: After doing an Erasmus in Leeds, England and knowing what it was like to be a stranger in a foreign country I wanted to help out international students coming here. Also, English people are cool!
Luke: It's been great living in Fantoft, but you're constantly surrounded by people from everywhere except Norway! I wanted to meet some Norwegian people and be shown what students do for fun around here.
So did you choose to be together?
M: No, they asked for our preferences and as I'd done my Erasmus in England I asked to be put with an English person.
L: Yeah on the application form they asked us what kind of things we're in to so I think they try to match you up with similar people which seems to be a pretty good idea.
Where did you go for your first meeting?
L: We met up at the 'blue stone' of course! We then walked to Nordnesparken to take in the sunshine while it was still here in August and just talked to get to know each other better.
M: Yeah and I showed Luke Café Opera.
L: Yeah true - it's a really cool place. Another of the perks of having a Buddy is they can take you to places other than the normal student nightclubs.
What have you learned from the experience?
M: Hmm, tough one. I'm enjoying being around an English person again and using my English skills that I picked up on Erasmus there. I just want to go back there again now!
L: Like I said before, for me it's the best thing to be able to meet actual Norwegian people, which definitely doesn't happen as much I was expecting to when I came to Norway. I'm also trying to use some of my Norwegian, but it's pretty bad right now as I never do my homework. Oh and also that Norwegian people can be really friendly even when they're not drunk!
So you're real friends now!?
L:Haha, of course.
M:Yeah, he's alright.
ESN (Erasmus Student Network) is, you guessed it, a student run organisation which operates across most of Europe, with a hub in most cities. Lucky for you, there is a group right here in Bergen! They offer trips and different fun activities such as hiking, cruises and even a winter holiday. Don't worry if your friends come along to visit you though as they can participate too.
ESN offer a card which can give you some pretty sweet discounts on shops and transport. It costs 80kr, but given that you save more money than that over your time in Bergen we'd definitely recommend buying it. The card can also get you some discounts in most European cities, which is great for your Erasmus vagabonding. We've personally used the card in Latvia, Denmark and Poland. Not to mention the kudos that comes with being able to prove your membership to the elite Erasmus community. The card also offers you priority and discounts to the ESN events.
ESN runs many events each semester at home and away. This semester they have been to the Fjord Camp at Lærdal, as well as going to see the Brann vs Haugesund football match and even going on a trip to Lapland! Their first major event of the year is the ESN Sea Battle cruise from Stockholm to Tallin. Remember to check their website to keep updated on their upcoming events.
You've probably noticed how beautiful the mountains are around Bergen - if you haven't then there's something wrong with you! Unless you live around mountains normally... Anyway, here we'll share with you our favourite hikes around Bergen.
Our personal favourite when it comes to the seven peaks around Bergen.
The hike starts at a parking lot at end of Gronnestolsveien, not far from Danmarksplass.
The trail begins next to a small stream. Not too far from this stream, you pass the ruins of an old cabin. Head straight into the forest and join the north-south trail that runs on the ridge between Gullsteinen and Løvstakken. Try to remember all of this on the way there, as it is easy to lose your way when coming back. As soon as you reach the the ridge, you will see the summit of Løvstakken. Try to find the handrails as they will support your way up. Once you see the masts on the summit the trail will lead up to your right to the summit plateau.
For an intermediate hiker the hike is around a 3 hour return journey.
The tallest peak in Bergen.
The hike starts at Montana Youth Hostel.
Follow the forest track upwards and pass a gate. Go left at the first fork (approx. 600m from the gate). On top of the following hill, you will see two benches - the forest track ends here. Continue straight up the wide forest trail and follow this until it makes a sharp right turn. The Lægdene trail begins at this turn and is marked "Ulriken". The wide forest road continues to the right, also leading to Ulriken. Long parts of the route have handrails. The trail is actually a long rock field, and after heavy rain, this trail is a creek. From the Ulriken tower, you see the 642m summit cairn 300m towards the east. The easiest way to see it is from the south. When the wind is strong, this route gives some shelter from the wind, but is more cumbersome than Langrinden and Korketrekkeren.
For intermediate hiker it takes around 1 - 1.5 hours.
A fantastic hike with a beautiful view from the top.
Stolzekleiven starts at Fjellveien at a small wooden building and goes up to the top of Sandviksfjellet.
From Fjellveien the way up is a mix of hills and stairs. The tour is a total ascent of 313m and more than 800 steps. You can take a rest during the hike, but it is best for those at better fitness levels - some locals run up it for exercise each week! On top of Sandviksfjellet (417 meters from sea level) there is a small lake; this was Bergen's first drinkable water source, but today it is possible to swim in it as it is no longer used as a reservoir - definitely remember to bring your own water! It's not recommend to take the same way back to Fjellveien as you cam up as it can become very slippery, so go down via Skredderdale - you will see it to the right from the top.
Going at a comfortable pace makes the tour around 25 minutes (to the top without pauses). If you're in good shape it takes 18-20 minutes.
If it wasn't clear to you before, after living in Bergen for a few days you may be beginning to realise that Norway is a very expensive place. This is why many students opt to find a job; not only does it make living in Bergen a little more comfortable financially, but integrating more and meeting new friends can be extremely rewarding. Here we give our tips for finding those Norwegian wages.
Finding a job is not easy for international students, however it is certainly possible given a little bit of effort. Much information on the paperwork and technicalities can be found here, however we will be providing you with our hints and tips as to how the authors of this site got their jobs and what they think will make you stand out.
The most effective way of finding a job is by talking to your fellow students here in Bergen, with your Norwegian friends being the most useful. Don't just walk around asking your friends to recommend you, but let it be known to them that you are looking for a job and you never know what great information they might share with you!
You can use the job searching services online, however typically your CV will go to potential employers with hundreds of others, so it's challenging to make yours stand out. When looking for a job, actually go in and talk to the manager yourself to give them your CV personally - if they like you, they might hardly even read your CV!
Think about what it is you are good at, then sell yourself based on these qualities. Yes, poor Norwegian language skills can make you less employable, but fluency in your native language can make you stand out in a good way too. For example, working in the tourist office or a hotel where their guests are mostly international would be perfect places for you to use your own language.
If you go job hunting and get told that the manager is not in do not take this as a rejection; ask when the manager will be back again and come back then. This persistence will prove that you really do want the job and have the drive to get it - qualities that the employer will highly value.
This is something which we're sure you have bags of, given you made the big step of coming to a different country, however always remember to keep eye contact, speak clearly and smile! For customer service jobs such as working in a bar these qualities are absolutely essential and can be the difference between you and the chump next to you.
So now you have the high wages paid to the Norwegian workforce, why not give something back to the student community and try volunteering somewhere? As we've said before: you get out of your exchange what you put in. By volunteering, not only are you helping out but you also stand to gain a lot from the experience of meeting new people and trying new things in a different country. We've had a lot of fun volunteering and we think you will too!
Klubb Fantoft can cater for pretty much any of your leisure needs; you can grab a drink, play some pool or even play some board games. They also host event nights such as movies, salsa and the classic Friday party night! Here we discuss volunteering at the Klubb with Luisa.
J: Why did you want to volunteer at Klubb Fantoft?
L: I wanted to meet people and generally help out. I have to admit that I actually thought we'd get paid (laughs), but I think it was a really good decision after all.
J: So when you arrived before applying for the job, what kind of information did you get?
L: The first time I went down here was because of the instruction meeting from SIB at the very beginning.
People started talking about the Klubb
opening in a couple of weeks and I knew it was basically like the living room for Fantoft.
They asked if anyone wanted to help out for a couple of 5 hour shifts per month, so I signed up. I almost forgot: you also get money off at the bar!
J: Why Klubb Fantoft, why not any other of the bars you can volunteer at?
L: For me it is not really a club, its more like a living room atmosphere - at least on weekdays. People can gather here together and play Ping-Pong or hang out in an environment where the staff are more their friends than staff of the club - it has a really informal atmosphere.
J: You mentioned that it changes at weekends somehow - what changes?
L: At the weekend the Klubb becomes a proper club basically. Especially on Friday night, the party night in Klubb Fantoft. It changes from a cosy atmosphere to a party atmosphere. Always a good thing!
J: How many times do you need to work at the Klubb? How is it decided?
L: We're scheduled for two or three shifts per month, but it hardly feels like work anyway. It's mostly hanging out with friends whilst doing the job when you need to. Also, if other volunteers are around we tend to all help each other out anyway.
J: Is there a hierarchy?
L: Technically yes, but it's not scary or anything! There are a few people who know more than others about how we function so you can always ask them questions. There are a group of people named Shift Leaders who have more responsibility than others, but again, they're more friends than your superiors - they just have a few more things to do.
J: How would you explain the Klubb to new people here?
L: Klubb Fantoft is a place to hang out with people and meet new friends - if you volunteer here you feel even more a part of it and have a lot to gain.
So maybe you're not all about the money? If you're looking to contribute to the student atmosphere here in Bergen, we've put together these interviews so you can gauge where and to what extent you'd like to get involved. You can thank us later. Here Jakob speaks to Greta about volunteering at Studentkvarteret.
J: Why did you volunteer at Kvarteret?
G: Before I came to Bergen I read in some brochures and on the internet that a lot of festivals and clubs here are mainly run by volunteers. I went to Kvarteret on my first night out in Bergen and I really loved the place, so I decided to volunteer and went to Kvarteret's Information stand in the gym during the introductory Programme to sign up. My trial shift was great fun so I never looked back. Volunteering at Kvarteret or some other place is a great opportunity to meet Norwegians, which I really appreciate because I don't only want to hang out with other international students during my time in Bergen [Editor's note: this seems to be a recurring theme!].
J: What makes Kvarteret a special place for you?
G: To my mind Kvarteret is the best place for students in Bergen. You can do everything there: do some studying in a nicer atmosphere than the library, meet up with friends just to have a coffee or food, go to concerts or to parties or just have a relaxed evening drink there. There's so much to do there, no matter what mood you're in. And of course it is full of other students so you will always meet someone to have a nice chat with. I go almost every day, either to work, study or just enjoy my time with some friends. The prices are also very kind to your wallet!
J: How many hours do you need to work in generally?
G:In general the day and evening shifts are 5,5 hours and the night shifts are 5 hours. As a volunteer you have one shift per week and at least one night shift every month. When you work in the "Skjenkegruppe" (bar group), as I do, it varies as to what you have to do during the shifts. For example in the first and last shift you also spend time on preparation like cleaning stuff, while on the evening shift you mainly work at the bar and serve food.
J: How would you describe the atmosphere of the working team at Kvarteret?
G: Really friendly and cooperative. You always find someone to help you if you have a problem, questions about things or just somebody to have a nice chat with. If the shifts aren't that busy you have time to get to know the people you're working with. There are also several events like parties or trips, which means everyone can get to know eachother a little better. To sum it up, working at Kvarteret means working in a super nice, helpful, team of volunteers whilst having a bit of fun. Sign up!
We have been right there with you for the ups and downs for your first week in Bergen, but as any good mentor knows, eventually the student has to go it alone. You need to rest - it's been a busy week! As our parting gift we've left you this lovely gallery of the scenery in Bergen to help you relax and give you an idea of the beauty in store.