“‘Here’ is the place for me”: Innes’ time in Bergen

Emma Gatrell
Friday 24 November 2023

Innes studies Geography and in the second semester of 2022-3, studied abroad in Bergen. Here is what he had to say about his experience.

HER!” “HER!”

This is one of the few Norwegian (Bokmål) words I know, and I’m bellowing it out across the pitch. The word is not even a particularly tricky one: “her” means “here” (which you could probably have guessed without spending six months on exchange in Bergen). I’m not shouting because of an ill-placed self-satisfaction in my own 10-word bilingualism. No, we’re playing football and I’m on the right-wing, screaming for the ball as though I were Erling Haaland. I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but it’s freezing. The warm-up involved simply kicking the ice of the artificial pitch, and I can’t help but take a bit of Scottish pride in the fact that even my Norwegian team-mates are looking at my bare knees in disbelief.  This is great.

Maybe there’s another reason the word “her sticks. In this moment “here” is the place for me.

I was lucky enough to go to Norway on exchange for six months to study at Universitet i Bergen through the Geography School Abroad Programme. I should get it out of the way first: the academic side was brilliant. I was surrounded by the subject which fascinates me most, woodland ecology, and having only a few classes per week freed me to study what I’m really interested in, more so than in St Andrews. By exploring my local hills, I was able to learn about the kind of natural treelines which are absent from Scottish hills. This led me to design a dissertation project based on the stark contrast between Scottish and Norwegian uplands, for which I roped in my partner to help complete the fieldwork shortly after finishing my term in Bergen.

To be honest, though, I’m already an insufferable nerd. The academic side, therefore, was merely one positive in the overall experience. During my placement I was able to join a student football team (an excellent opportunity to converse in broken Norwegian/ gloat about Scotland and Norway’s Euro qualification group), take my first clumsy and faltering steps on skis (an act most Norwegians would consider 17 years too late), and consume more kyllingsboller (Bergen’s signature cinnamon roll) than a man can comfortably admit to. I encountered new perspectives and issues, and I grew fascinated by the contradictions of a country which prides itself on both its environmental values and buoyant oil-driven economy. As part of a large international student community, I befriended folk from exotic places, from Leipzig to Glasgow.

There are obvious and less obvious challenges of study abroad. Despite taking an introductory course in Norwegian, I struggled to learn much of the language while living with international students and studying in English. The hardest part for me, however, was being a year into a relationship and then disappearing abroad for six months. The second hardest part was discovering the existence of a cuisine which (at least for vegans) is probably just as chronically devoid of colour and flavour as that of Scotland.

All the same, I’m very grateful to have had such a fantastic opportunity, and I would recommend study abroad to anyone. It gives you a chance to go out there, find a new here and, if even just for a little while, scream it. I’m glad I did.


Thank you to Innes for sharing his experience abroad. Head to the Global Education section of the Global Office blog to read more study abroad experiences.

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