Study abroad in Norway and you'll be surrounded by some of the most spectacular natural scenery the planet has to offer. From the ethereal tranquillity of the fjords, to the spectacular snow-peaked mountains of Jotunheimen National Park, and to the mysterious spectacle of the Northern Lights, Norway is a nation with an embarrassment of natural riches. What's more, with the vibrant capital Oslo joined by highly individual and laidback student cities such as Bergen and Trondheim, not to mention a welcoming and egalitarian culture and a policy of free university education for all - Norway is a country that ticks all of the boxes for international students.Top Universities has come up with the top ten things any undergraduate student should do to get the most out of your time studying abroad in Norway.
1. If you only visit one place in Norway, make it the fjords!
Nearest universities: University of BERGEN
The Norwegian fjords are the nation's most famous geographical feature and are renowned around the world for their beauty - but no matter what you have heard about these remote stretches of inland sea, the reality is likely to surpass your expectations. It is no exaggeration to say that the Norwegian fjords are some of the most beautiful places on earth. In fact, in 2008 the National Geographic Society named Norway's west fjords as the world's number-one natural heritage site.
Around one million people visit the west fjords every year, with the two major destinations being Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord. The majority of people visit the fjords aboard one of many organized cruise ships, though they are also accessible by car, train or on foot. Additional activities on offer in the area include fishing and hunting, cycling, hiking, canyoning and river-walking - all set against the most stunning natural scenery imaginable. More information can be found here. So don't miss out on this opportunity of a lifetime - make sure a visit to the fjords is right at the top of your list of things to do while studying abroad in Norway.
2. Hit the slopes; you're in the home of skiing
With a ski season that lasts for six months and resorts located all over the country, Norway is one of the world's top ski destinations, and offers opportunities for first-timers and seasoned professionals alike. As well as conventional skiing, take your pick of alpine pursuits including snowboarding, telemark skiing, cross country skiing, summer skiing and snowkiting. A list of Norway's best ski resorts can be found here.
3. Discover Norway's Viking history
Nearest universities: University of OSLO; BI Norwegian School of Management
Norway's history between 800 and 1066 is known as the Viking Age, during which a formidable sea-born army of Viking warriors from Norway, Denmark and Sweden plundered, pillaged and conquered much of Europe. Their civilization has left behind relics and artefacts throughout Norway that continue to fascinate visitors to the country, and offer a tantalizing glimpse into the past. The Viking History Museum in Oslo showcases thousand year-old historical treasures such as the Oseberg Ship, the Gokstad Ship and the Tune Ship - important archaeological remains for the experts, but for most of us just a great chance to imagine a time when Viking warriors used to rule the seas.
4. Visit the beautiful city of Bergen and ride the famous funicular
Nearest universities: University of BERGEN
Situated on a picturesque harbour front, hemmed in by dramatic mountains and world-famous fjords, the city of Bergen is seriously easy on the eye. However, in a country where natural beauty comes as standard, Bergen is also a cultural centre with a buzzing student community, top-notch nightlife and probably the most happening independent music scene in the country (Bergen-based bands to have made the limelight in recent years include Kings of Convenience, Ereland Oye and Royksopp). The annual Bergenfest attracts a host of international musical superstars to the city every spring, and if you're studying abroad in Bergen you'll be able to catch the many major acts from all over the world who regularly visit the city on tour.
To view Bergen in style, take the famous funicular car, which leaves from the city centre and transports you up Fløyen Mountain, 320 metres above sea level. One of Norway's major tourist attractions, the funicular offers spectacular panoramic views of Bergen and the surrounding landscape. Once you're at the top of the mountain, take your pick from one of several jaw-droppingly scenic hiking routes.
5. Get Arctic in Tromsø - see the famous Northern Lights in the winter, or party in 24-hour sunlight in the summer
Nearest universities: University of Tromso
Located almost 350km north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is known as the Gateway to the Arctic due to its having served as the launch point for many famous expeditions. It is also a city where seasons can be divided into colours: light and dark. In the summer from 18 May to 26 July, the sun never sets, and between April and midnight there is no real darkness. However, in winter the sun disappears for three months between November and January. So if you're studying abroad at the University of Tromsø (the world's northernmost university) be prepared for a truly polarized experience!
As you might expect, during the summer months Tromsø is a city that never sleeps - party the night away in unbroken sunlight in a city with more pubs per capita than any other in Norway. In the winter months take advantage of your proximity to one of nature's most mysteriously beautiful phenomena: Tromsø is one of the best places in the world to view the Northern Lights.
Did you know? The town of Trollesund, found in northern Norroway in the His Dark Materials series of books by Philip Pullman, is supposedly based on the city of Tromsø.
6. Visit Norway's stunning national parks - Jotunheimen and Jostedalsbreen
Simply put, for nature-lovers Jotunheimen National Park is as good as it gets. Situated in a 3,500 km mountainous region in southern Norway, the park is a dizzying expanse of spectacular mountains, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, glaciers and valleys. With some of the most stunning hiking trails in Europe, the park is also a haven for flora and fauna, and still contains reindeer, elk, deer, wolves, lynx and golden eagles. As well as hiking and trekking, popular activities for visitors include glacier walking, rafting, caving, canyoning and cycling.
To experience another of Norway's most stunning natural features, don't miss out on the Jostedalsbreen National Park, home to the largest glacier in continental Europe. Jostedalsbreen covers over 487 sq metres, and at certain points, is a mindboggling 600 metres thick. That's a whole lot of ice!
7. Experience the best of both worlds in Oslo, Norway's leafy capital
Oslo is a city with an identity crisis. On the one hand it's the fastest-growing capital in Europe and one of its largest in terms of area; but on the other hand it's one of the most sparsely populated cities in the world, with its 550,000 inhabitants spread out over a downright antisocial 453 square kilometres. It's the administrative, economic and political capital of the country, but with much of the city area covered by woodland, large parts of Oslo seem to think they are in the countryside! However, if you're an undergraduate student studying abroad in Oslo this split personality means you can enjoy the best of both worlds - all the urban action of a major capital city, and all of the outdoor pursuits and natural beauty for which Norway is so famous.
Major attractions include the stunning new Opera House, the Royal Palace, and the spectacular City Hall, most famous as the venue for the annual announcement of the year's Nobel Prize winners. Art-lovers should be sure to visit the Munch Museum, featuring the works of Norwegian modernist painter Edvard Munch (including the iconic, The Scream), while bookworms should make a beeline for the Henrik Ibsen Museum, dedicated to the nation's most celebrated playwright. However, with opportunities for such pursuits as skiing, hiking and fresh water swimming, not to mention nearby islands, beaches and forests to explore, much of your time in Norway's capital may end up being spent outdoors.
8. Hang out in the student city of Trondheim
Nearest universities: NORWEGIAN University of Science And Technology
Historic, colourful and laidback, Trondheim is a city of many attractions; above all, however, it is a great place to be a student. In fact, the students make up nearly one in seven of the city's population, meaning that if you choose to study abroad here you will be in good company. If you're looking for a fun place to party and make friends, Trondheim could be the place for you. Bustling with bars, restaurants, pubs and clubs, the high student population (not to mention high prices and early closing times) means a lot of the fun takes place at 'vorspiels' (pre-parties) and 'nachspiels' (after-parties) held in student houses - what better way to make friends with your new course-mates?
9. Stand on the tip of Europe at the North Cape
Nearest universities: University of Tromso
A jagged cliff face rising 1,000 metres out of the seawater below, Norway's North Cape is the northernmost tip of Europe - go any further up and you're in the North Pole. Spectacular and remote, the North Cape stands at the edge of the region of Finnmark, and is northern Scandinavia's most visited travel destination. Popular activities around the North Cape and Finnmark include hiking and trekking, driving tours and boat cruises around the dramatic jagged coastline. If you're checking out the North Cape, make sure you have time to explore the rest of Finnmark - a wild northern region on the same longitude as Alaska and Greenland, it includes six stunning national parks.
10. Check out Scandinavia's craziest sport at Holmenkollen ski jump
To many people the idea of launching yourself 150 metres in the air off the edge of a ramp, at speeds of up to 90mph, with only a pair of skis to protect you, might sound a little unhinged. But ski jumping was invented in Norway, and the Holmenkollen ski jump near Oslo still hosts the world's premier annual competition. The ultimate adrenaline-junkie sport, ski jumping is not for amateurs (don't even think about trying this at home, kids). However, going to see a ski jump competition at either Holmenkollen or ski flying (an even more extreme version where competitors travel up to 250 metres in the air) in Vikersund, will be a spectacular, breathtaking and, for most people, completely novel experience - a great addition to your time spent studying abroad in Norway.
Once you've finished those:
1) Experience the traditional Changing of the Royal Guard in Oslo
2) Not had enough of the great outdoors? Get active at Lillehammer
3) Relax in Videland Park, Oslo's most picturesque green space
4) Chill out at the Snow Hotel in Kirkenes
5) Norway isn't all about snow! Hit the beaches at Stavanger
Norway's top universities by city
2) Bergen University of BERGEN
3) Trondheim NORWEGIAN University of Science And Technology
4) Tromso University of Tromso