So You Want to Study in Scandinavia?

Coming to Scandinavia to go to school or study may be a great way to get under the skin of Scandinavia and Scandinavians. If you’re from outside the EU, it’s easier to get a student visa than a work permit or a residence visa but the main advantage of coming here to study is that it may be a perfect way to get to know Scandinavians.

Coming to Scandinavia to work can be a lonely affair as most Scandinavians head out the office (if your job is at an office) doors as soon as the clock strikes four because we have kids that need to be picked up and cabins that need to be visited. We might socialize for “Friday beer” or “pay-day beer” (for some reason our socializing always involves beer) but, in general, you might find it hard to find friends at work.

Not so if you come here to study.

Meet Scandinavians - go to school with them

Meet Scandinavians – go to school with them

Two main roads

Of you’re over 18 you can pick two main roads (if you’re under 18 you would probably need to go to high school and that’s quite a different topic) – University/college or Folk High Schools. Don’t let the name of the latter discourage you. Folk High School is a poor translation of Folkehøgskole (Norwegian), Folkhögskola (Swedish) and Højskole (Danish) and has absolutely nothing to do with high schools. Folk High Schools are a type of school that you’ll only find in the Nordic countries and they are a kind of free thinking boarding schools.

Folk High Schools

If you skipped the “free thinking” and only read “boarding schools”, you might expect the Folk High Schools to be something like this:

No uniforms in Folk High Schools

No uniforms in Folk High Schools

You would be very wrong. Not only are students at Folk High Schools over 18 years old (and some are over 90 – we have Folk High Schools for senior citizens as well) – you would never find a uniform at at a Folk High School.

So what are Folk High Schools? They are a type of school started by a Danish priest and philosopher named N.S.F. Grundtvig around 160 years ago. The Folk High Schools were in opposition to the traditional “Latin Schools” where you learned things only to pass exams. The idea behind the Folk High Schools is Learning for life.

Let your hair down at a Folk High School

Let your hair down at a Folk High School

You live at the school (at least in Denmark and Norway – in Sweden some of the schools allow students to live at home), you learn by doing, you decide with your fellow students and your teacher what direction you want the classes to take and you learn about who you are and how to form the rest of your life. No exams – no grades (except in Sweden – some of their Folk High Schools have exams and grades).

Does that sound a bit hippie to you? Well, it’s not. It’s actually a kind of school that a large part of Scandinavians attend. In Norway more than 10 percent of the population has attended a Folk High School for a full year or more. In Denmark the number is higher, but then they have a lot of classes that are shorter than a year. When Folk High Schools brag they claim that they are the backbone of Scandinavian democracy and the welfare state. I’m not so sure about that but that just goes to show that the schools are a vital part of the three Scandinavian countries.

A Norwegian Folk High School

A Norwegian Folk High School

But I don’t speak Scandinavian

You don’t speak Norwegian, Swedish or Danish, you say? Folk High Schools would be the perfect place to learn. You’ll have intensive language classes and a lot of Scandinavian friends who will teach you. Your new friends will probably teach you the swear words first, but hey – they’re good to know too, right?

Eat, study and live with your friends

Eat, study and live with your friends

Folk High Schools aren’t entirely free for the students even if education is free in Scandinavai. They are supported financially by the state but you have to pay for room, board and school trips – Scandinavian prices apply (and no, Scandinavia is not the cheapest place on earth). It might still be a good way for you to dip your toe into the scary world of Scandinavia.

Here is more information about Folk High Schools in Sweden

Here is more information about Folk High Schools in Norway

Here is more information about Folk High Schools in Denmark

I can really recommend the Instagram account of the Norwegian folk high schools. All the pictures are taken by students at the 75 schools 🙂

Find your way to a folk high school

Find your way to a folk high school

Universities and colleges

If you want a degree you need to go to a university or college. A lot of students do this after a year at a Folk High School but you can apply directly at the universities and colleges too. A lot of classes are taught in English so you might get along without learning any Danish, Swedish or Norwegian (that is not recommended if you want to make friends. We do speak English but our language skills are not improved when we’re drunk – though, we seem to think they are – and we’re so often drunk when we socialize).

University of Copenhagen

University of Copenhagen

Universities are free

With a few exceptions, education is free in Scandinavia. This means that all universities and colleges are free to anyone from the EU/EEA. Universities and colleges are also free for anyone participating in various exchange programs. Unfortunately, both Denmark and Sweden have these past years added a price on education if you come from the outside of EU and you’re not a part of an exchange program. You may apply for a scholarship and the Swedish state grants 500 of those each year. In Norway universities and colleges are still free for everyone – even citizens from outside the EU/EEA (hurray!).

University of Oslo

University of Oslo

Read more about universities in Sweden

Read more about universities in Norway

Read more about universities in Denmark

Dear Dane, Norwegian and Swede: What would you recommend?

This blog started out as a blog with almost exclusively non-Scandinavian readers but I know it has attracted quite a few Scandinavians as well. So I ask you, fellow Scandinavian: Which Scandinavian University, college and/or Folk High School would you recommend and why?

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25 responses to “So You Want to Study in Scandinavia?

  • Alison Griffiths

    I wish I was young again! Us Brits are already good at the payday beer, so I’d fit right in!

    • thyra10

      Payday beer is excellent!

      Remember that some Folk High Schools are for Senior Citizens – it’s never too late 😉
      And Scandinavians tend to to to university/college much later than people in other countries. We like to have a few gap years first before we start studying. And you’ll always find people who want to change directions later in life. When I went to university I had co-students at all ages. The oldest was a 72 year old lady 😀

  • Know-All

    I think this is just the post I was waiting for…i am at a stage in life where I am seriously pondering a “change in direction”, but of course there are many constraints…thank you…now I have something to research… 🙂

    • thyra10

      Good luck with your research! Let me know if I can help you further with links etc!

      • Know-All

        Oh wow!! That would be REALLY awesome!! I actually have been speaking to friends for ideas on how to take the next step..and options on further studies( they are also sadly, as clueless as I am)…but, I had never thought of Scandinavia, partly because I don’t know much about the region…would you mind if I write an email to you with some of my queries?

    • thyra10

      Sure. It might be better if you wrote your queries here because there might be other Scandinavians who know more who would be able to give you better replies but you’re welcome to send me an email as well 🙂

      • Know-All

        Sorry for the delayed response…am having a hectic time at work…Anyways I did sit down and penned my queries…and I am embarrassed to say that there are quite a few. And some of these are not just related to studying in Scandinavia, but general questions about what to do study. Here goes:

        • What to study? I want to change lines and get into photography (maybe Fashion) but have no clue if there are proper courses in college for these. And should go for PG or UG? University of Folks High School?
        • Where to study? Which would be the best places for the course I want to study. Which country or which college? Would it be better to go for the course taught in local language or are the courses in English equally good?
        • How much money do I need? Considering the exchange rate of Euro to Rupee, I would need to arrange for funds. Would it be easy to get scholarships? Or, any other method, which does not involve selling my house!! 🙂 🙂

        I know these are too many questions, but would be glad if you can give some idea where I should be looking for answers.

    • thyra10

      That’s fine. I am often slow in my response due to other factors in life 🙂

      I think the choice between University and Folk High School is really a personal one. Do you want a degree or do you want to learn more about the Scandinavian culture? Universities will give you a degree but not much of the culture – folk high schools will give you friendships and working close with Scandinavians. Both universities and folk high schools have photography and fashion classes.
      In folk high schools you’ll learn the local language pretty quickly since you’re so close to your fellow students. I would probably try to learn the local language even if I took the English classes because that might help you after school. Even if everyone speaks English, it’s nice to know what’s going on when they speak to one another, for instance.

      For photography I would really recommend Lofoten folkehøgskole (folk high school). They’re really good but you’ll also get the amazing nature of Lofoten and that’s worth the trip just that. I know they have several foreign students every year and that they welcome them because they think foreign students are great for the Norwegian students as well. http://lofotenfolkehogskole.no/

      Fashion is not my strength but in Norway I know Esmod has a great name but I also found you this English class in Stockholm: http://sisu.it.su.se/search/info/HMVMA/en It’s at the University of Stockholm.

      As far as I know, Mode og Designskolen in Copenhagen also has a great reputation: http://www.modeogdesignskolen.dk/index.aspx?id=20

      How much money you’ll need depends entirely on which country you choose, which school you choose and how luxurious living you’re planning on having. But generally Scandinavia is not cheap. On the folk high schools (at least in Denmark and Norway) most of your expenses will be dealt with when you start the school since you pay for room and board when you pay in advance. And as a foreign student you will most likely be able to get the cheaper student accomodations if you study at the university instead of having to rent an expensive apartment somewhere.

      Here is information on scholarships in Norway: http://www.studyinnorway.no/Tuition-Scholarships/Scholarships

      Here are some scholarships in Sweden: http://www.scholars4dev.com/6599/scholarships-in-sweden-for-international-students/

      I know that several of the folk high schools in all three countries offer some kind of scholarship to international students – mainly international students who wouldn’t be able to pay out of their own pocket but who can contribute somehow (culturally, for instance). You should check the folk high schools you’re interested in.

      • Know-All

        I really don’t know how to thank you! This is such a wonderfully detailed reply!! I don’t know if I will get to overcome the huge challenges and take a different course in life, but if I do manage to pull it of…this post of yours, and your subsequent feedback, would have played a major role in that! Thank you! 🙂

  • alena

    I would like to know something about studying after you get to Norway in 15. Thanks.

    • thyra10

      I’m not entirely sure I know what you’re asking. If you’re 15 years old? Because that would be the three-year high school (gymnasium/videregående are the local names).

      Please get back to me if that wasn’t what you were asking!

  • alena

    Thanks for your reply. We should move to Norway this summer and it is my son in that age, even he will be 16 in october. So would like to know what it takes if he would like to start studying in his age there.

    • thyra10

      If he has at least nine years of basic education (primary school and lower secondary school) on the same level as the Norwegian schools, he should apply for “videregående skole”. If he does not have the nine years of basic education, he’ll be enrolled into the local “ungdomsskole”, which is 7th to 10th grade.

      Videregående skole is the same as high school but it’s also so much more. All secondary education in Norway is gathered under this umbrella so if he wants to become a carpenter, a hair dresser or an artist, he’ll still have to apply for videregående skole. The two main directions of videregående skole is “studieforberedende” if you want to go on to university or college and “yrkesfaglig” which is the vocational part of videregående skole.

      If your son does not speak Norwegian the schools will provide him with extra classes in Norwegian. He might want to enroll in some summer classes in English to get a good start. Some classes are taught in English – check out the IB-classes. https://www.ibo.org/country/NO/

      If you know where you’re going to stay it might be a good idea to enroll him now. Contact the local schools in the area where you’re going to live and learn what kind of documentation they need from you. That way you can make sure everything is in order when you arrive.

      Good luck!
      (and let me know if you want me to find some additional information for you)

  • Eric Swanson

    My favorite fkhs is Svalov fkhs, not far from Lund in Skåne. I like it because there is not much to do in the surrounding countryside, so the students at the school entertain themselves. The school has a fantastic atmosphere.

    • thyra10

      Many folk high schools are far from larger cities which might sound boring but is really great because you get close to your fellow students. And nature :-9

  • Dunja

    I would recommend Klarävldalens folkhögskola in northern Värmland (Sweden) as I was there for 4 months (I’m not Scandinavian, but I do study Swedish in Serbia). I loved the surroundings – forests, forests, lakes, forests and rivers (did I mention forests?). There are 2 nature oriented courses and even if you are attending the 3rd one – a so called “general one” – the school organizes many outdoor activities for all the students. I felt unbelievably welcome, everyone had patience to teach me to speak better and to understand their society.

  • Eric Swanson

    For some people, the best way to improve academic skills or to learn a trade is to go to a folk high school. The atmosphere at the folk high schools is fantastic. The learning environment is very supportive and teachers take a personal interest in students. Students feel free and are encouraged to just be themselves. The students and staff become almost like family. I made life long connections even staying at summer folk high school courses. I have graduated from several universities, but I only truly miss the folk high schools I attended (Kuggom, Finland, Sweden: Svalov, Fårusund and Grebbestad).

  • Janet Nunez

    Hello, I think your blog is really interesting and now I’m considering an Scandinavian country to go to study. I’m 26 years old and I’m an Architect. I’d like to take some Business management courses and learn about the culture, what do you recommend?

    • thyra10

      I may offend a lot of business schools in Scandinavia now but, as far as I know, Copenhagen Business School is considered the be the best business school in Scandinavia. It might be rivaled by the business schools in Bergen, Norway and Lund, Sweden. Good luck!

  • ranny

    thank you for great information..I have a question. Is that right I apply for swedish college with 500 krona in each year? 🙂

  • K F

    Do you know of any colleges that would be good for studying linguistics and music?

    • thyra10

      I’m not entirely sure about linguistics but all the Scandinavian countries have very well renowned musical conservaties/universities.

      Oslo
      Copenhagen
      Stockholm

      They are all well known and have a great reputation.
      When it comes to linguistics I only know the one at the University of Oslo very well and it’s very good. There may be others that are equally good but this is the only one I know is good 🙂

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