“Let it Go” While Studying Abroad in One of These Nordic Countries

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What’s that you say? The cold never bothered you anyway? Or nothing bothers you at all, ever? Either way, you’ll fit right into the cool climate and cheery population of the Nordic countries, making any one of them perfect for your study abroad adventure.

Let it Go While Studying Abroad in One of These Nordic Countries

Here’s your chance to bundle up in a thick winter jacket for a midnight trek to see the northern lights, followed by a fire in the wee morning hours to warm up with hot chocolate. Umm, AMAZING! Don’t let monikers like “Iceland” and “polar night” fool you though – you won’t have to wear thermal underwear year round. There will still be plenty of sunshine, warm(er) days, and rain that doesn’t freeze over.

From historical tales of vikings to modern-day advancements in sustainability and technology, with vast mountains and lakes to quaint towns and big cities, the Nordic countries offer a range of experiences and explorations to choose from. Combine that with the high quality of education, excellent Nordic universities, top-notch and accessible professors, and a progressive learning environment, and you have a region to study abroad in that makes many say “yes, please!”

So, how do you choose between Norway and Finland? Or, even Sweden or Denmark, for that matter? Read on to see what kind of study abroad programs are available in the Nordic countries and find out which one is the best Scandinavian country for you:

Denmark

The fact that Denmark is filled with some of the happiest people in the world may be reason enough to study abroad there (mom always said to surround yourself with positive people!), but there is also so much more to this land of future-forward thinking.

Nyhavn, Denmark, boats lit up on the water at night with colorful row houses in the background
Make your Denmark on the world studying abroad in this country right out of your favorite fairytales.

As the hub and capital of the country, Copenhagen is the most popular destination to study in Denmark for international students. The renowned Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) partners with top universities in Copenhagen to offer a wide-range of programs for students who wish to study in Denmark in English. Known for being socially progressive, super environmentally friendly, and high up on the business ladder, international students studying in denmark often choose courses in international business, sustainability, and political science. Art and history buffs will also enjoy studying in Denmark. Participate in the Art and Visual Culture program to meet European artists and directors.

The real world application of learning utilized in the Danish education system makes these areas of study literally come alive as students engage with current activists, researchers, and like-minded entrepreneurs through study tours and case work. It also allows students to gain experience in a very concentrated focus such as studying glaciers and ice sheets through Environmental Science of the Arctic.

Norway

While we can’t promise Elsa and Anna will be in your study group (major bummer), we CAN promise you will enjoy the enriching culture and picturesque landscape study abroad in Norway has to offer. With program options in Kristiansand in the South, the capital city Oslo in the East, Bergen in the West, and Trondheim toward the north, you will be able to find the right program fit for what you are looking for in the Nordic countries.

bright green of the northern lights against the night sky in Norway
Miss seeing the majesty of the Northern Lights? Norway Jose!

If the Scandinavian mountains, over 1,000 fjords, and spacious forests are what draw you to study abroad in the Nordic countries, pick a program in geography or geology to get a closer look at these awe-inspiring wonders. If you are more interested in politics or the effects of the migrant crisis in Europe, the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs partners with local officials to offer an in-depth program on immigration, identity, and belonging.

No matter what field of study, many of Norway’s study abroad programs allow students to learn more about the culture, history, and people of Norway, with full immersion both at school and through living with a host family or right in the center of a major city. The small, walkable Norwegian cities with friendly atmospheres make the opportunity to study in Norway for international students overly pleasant, as you can easily get to know the area and become a regular at your favorite local shops and cafes.

Sweden

If you value coffee, punctuality, and IKEA, you will fit right in if you study in Sweden! Even if you don’t, the thriving Swedish cities offer a little bit of everything no matter what your interests.

Sarek National Park, Jokkmokk, Sweden person in foreground standing on rock with arms outstretched, vast expanse of winter landscape around them
You’ll be living the Swede life during your semester abroad.

The success of Sweden’s social welfare system has people around the globe wondering what their secret is. As an international student majoring in economics, education, social work, or politic science, at one of many renowned Nordic universities, you will be able to learn a lot about the differences between your home country’s policies and the policies in place in Sweden by choosing DIS’s program on global economics or international relations.

A multitude of museums and galleries populate the capital city of Stockholm, enabling history and art students to supplement their classroom hours with time spent exploring the sites. While exploring, you’ll find yourself traipsing across the bridges and islands that hold Stockholm together (future architects take note!). Otherwise, free time will be well spent engaging in numerous outdoor activities, such as hiking, fishing, and winter sports.

Just an hour north of the city, the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) offers the chance to study abroad at the prestigious Uppsala University. Regional excursions will walk you through the transformation of the Swedish society from Paganism to Christianity and introduce you to local legends in art and science.

Finland

Is design your middle name? Then Finland is the best Scandinavian country for you to study abroad in.

Vaala, Finland, bold sunset in oranges, pinks, and purples leading into fjords
Find your own velveteen rabbit while studying in Finland.

The capital city, Helsinki, was named World Design Capital in 2012. No matter if your design interests lie in clothing, furniture, interior decor, accessories, or architecture, you will be able to find and fine-tune your niche while studying in Finland. In addition to design, environmental science, and technology are Finland’s strongest fields of study. Students are able to focus on practice and hands-on learning through Polytechnic Institutes.

Finnish universities, on the other hand, focus on research and a theoretical approach to learning. With the world’s highest literacy rate (100 percent strong!), not only is it easy to study in Finland in English, but they continuously rank as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, so studying education or human rights could be quite fascinating in a Nordic country like this!

Cultural exchange is another reason to hop on a plane and study in Finland, especially if you are a teen. Youth For Understanding offers a summer, semester, or year-long program with full cultural immersion experiences of similar-aged youth in both the cities and the lush forests.

Iceland

With a small population (half the size of Washington D.C.) and the majority of the land covered by volcanoes, lava fields, hot springs, and glaciers, some may wonder if there are even study abroad options in Iceland, but there are. And, there are even tuition free universities in Iceland for international students!

waterfall at sunset in Iceland
If TLC had studied abroad in Iceland, they might have changed their tune– chase those waterfalls!

The phenomenal natural scenes of Iceland attract professors, researchers, and nature-lovers alike. For this reason, well-known institutions have set-up subject specific study abroad programs here, such as the Smithsonian University Travel Program for earth sciences, the Center for Ecological Living and Learning focused on sustainability, and the School for International Training’s opportunities to study renewable energy, just to name a few. Breathe in the clean air, feel good and green, and gain substantial experience through academic coursework and field-learning to prepare you for your future. 

Not only is Iceland one of the top countries in renewable energy, it’s also the top in gender equality. Iceland has successfully closed the gender gap in education and has made enormous strides in female political empowerment. If you’re a fierce female, you can study in Iceland (and really in any of the Nordic countries and universities within them) and experience a dynamic playing field for you to explore.

Quick Tips for Studying Abroad in Nordic Countries

Studying in a Nordic country is pretty, well, awesome. They have exceptional social programming, quality education, and glimpses of nature you won’t see anywhere else. You will get your hands dirty (literally) working in the field as well as expand your knowledge working in the classroom. But, we can’t let you out there on your own without preparing you with some tips (so if you arrive in shorts and a tank-top, we’ll only say we told you so!):

It’s Not All Scandinavia.

What’s the difference? Depends on who you ask, but the main point is that studying in the Nordic countries or deciding to study in Scandinavia aren’t interchangeable options. Scandinavian universities are widely known to be located in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, while Nordic countries include Scandinavia, plus Iceland and Finland. To play it safe, simply call the country by its name and don’t lump it into a vague geographic region and you’ll be good.

Pack Smart.

While all Nordic countries aren’t just like the arctic, as some may believe, this region is colder than what you’re probably used to (especially if you are from the southern U.S. or northern Australia). Plan for a long, cold winter and a short, comfortable summer if you choose any Nordic country for your study abroad adventure. Your best bet year-round will be layers, layers, and more layers, so you can adapt as you need to during the day and night. A rain jacket, umbrella, sweaters, walking shoes, waterproof boots, and a thick coat are all essentials that should be on your packing list for study abroad in the Nordic countries.

Bicycles!

Especially while living in big cities and towns within Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland, you will see everyone and their grandmother riding a bicycle to work, to the store, to visit friends, etc. If you plan to be there for a while, you’ll probably be jealous if you don’t go ahead and rent yourself a bike, too.

Where’s the Sun?

In the winter it hides, a lot, leading up to 24-hour darkness during the polar night. Don’t get discouraged – it shows its face quite often in the summer. Around June or July, head to the northernmost parts of Norway, Finland, and Sweden to have an all-night party with the midnight sun. 

Nordic landscape with blue waters and green forests
With all there is to gain during a semester abroad in any of these Nordic countries, you can’t a-fjord not to!

Mind Your Words.

While most study abroad classrooms can and will be taught in English, you will have a much easier time around town if you pick up some of the local language ahead of time. Don’t go there and expect everyone to cater to your mother-tongue. Locals will appreciate hearing you greet them, order a coffee, and say thank you in their language. Even if you pronounce it wrong. It’s the thought that counts.

About Those Benjamins.

They will go quickly. You can expect the general cost of living in Europe, rent, food, clothes, and basically everything to be a bit more expensive (or a lot more expensive) than it is back home. A homestay is actually a great option to help subsidize some of your costs.

Tuition and Fees.

Most of the world perceives Nordic countries and FREE education as one! Does that mean it’s also free for you? If you’re a resident of the EU, maybe. If you are a resident of a different country, probably not. Make sure you check with the institution you are applying to study at in the Nordic region. It is likely, especially with organized study abroad organizations, you will be paying a fee to cover accommodation, in-country support, excursions, etc.

Do Your Research.

No matter which program you apply to in the Nordic countries, make sure you look up your visa requirements! If you plan to be in a country for more than three months, chances are you might need one. It’s also important to look up the different study abroad programs available to you. Don’t just rely on this one article to base your decision. Read reviews, talk to program directors and alumni, and compare programs with MyGoAbroad.

At the end of the day, you could study abroad in the any one of these Nordic countries (or even a few). But, even if you don’t meet the prince of Denmark, you will still have quite a story to tell about your Nordic study abroad adventure.