- Student Life
By Amanda Kowalski. November 9, 2016 - 11:47 pm
Hawaii Pacific University is known for its diversity of students. From Japan to Australia and Germany to Mexico, students from all over the world gather together at HPU with the same goal of getting an education. But if there is one group that sticks out among all the others, it would be the Scandinavians, specifically, the Norwegians.
According to the HPU admissions office, there have been a total of 324 Norwegian students since the Fall 2014 semester. Those numbers have remained quite high throughout the years. One reason that there is such a high number of Norwegians at HPU is because public education in Norway is paid for by the country’s government. Those who wish to study abroad have the funding to do so.
Norwegian student Dorthea Åsnes explained how she afforded coming to Hawaii for school.
“We have this thing called Lånekassen in Norway. It’s a loan and scholarship we get from the government. And I also worked all summer before I got here.”
As far as hearing about the university, HPU partners up with many Norwegian universities to get its name out there.
Hanne Vølstad, 21, is a Norwegian study abroad student majoring in Marketing and Leadership at her home university, Universitetet i Agder, in the city of Kristiansand. She came to HPU for the semester along with her two friends Marte Egeland, 23, and Heidi Ellingsen, 22, who are also from the same university.
Ellingsen said that she and her friends didn’t hear about HPU before they came over.
“We looked at the net page of our university (and) we (had) a lot of different choices and we wanted to go to the states. So we just looked at the options and Hawaii was one of them”.
To add to Ellingsen’s comment, Vølstad explained:
“We were actually applying to a college in California, but many were also applying there so we wanted to go somewhere else. And we wanted to go somewhere where the climate is better all year. And I think of Hawaii as a place to go when you have four months to study abroad. Because you aren’t going to travel to Hawaii for two weeks since it is so far away.”
The girls weren’t the only ones that agreed with Vølstad.
Stian Kronborg, 21, started at HPU in Fall 2014. He is seeking a degree in Hospitality, Tourism and Management and plans on graduating from HPU in May of 2018. Originally from a small town just outside the capital of Norway, Kronborg explains that his reason for coming to HPU was quite a coincidence.
“I remember sitting in high school and a guy in front of me were looking at a website called Kilroy. So I was curious because the website looked cool so I went to that website and it said ‘oh you want to study abroad?’. Sure, why not, so I clicked further in. I saw all these universities was listed and Hawaii Pacific University was one of them. So I clicked there, and I saw international business because that used to be my major. So I went in there, I looked, and I contacted them, and I got in touch with their councilor that helped me apply.”
Kronborg was offered a scholarship for his academic achievements at his high school in Norway. It was a big contributor in helping him make his decision to pursue all of his studies at HPU.
But his reasoning to come to Hawaii was a bit different compared to some of the other Norwegians that he has spoken to. When asked why he believes why so many Scandinavians come here, he said:
“I think [the] answer is the name of the state, basically: Hawai’i. I ask students that are here just for one semester and they say ‘well it’s Hawai’i’. I also try to get them involved in clubs that I am involved in, like the entrepreneur club. But when I ask them if they would like to join they say, ‘no I want to explore’. So I don’t think it’s more the educational part, I think it’s more to explore Hawai’i. I think it’s more of a vacation than studying.”
In contrast, Vølstad, Egeland, and Ellingsen find it difficult to attend classes, do all their homework, and find some time for fun.
“[W]e didn’t know that it was so much school. We were thinking that we could be on the beach every day” said Vølstad.
Although when they do find time to go to the beach, Vølstad said: “we try to bring some [homework] with us.”
Another Norwegian student, Anne Sigrid Urstad, agreed with Vølstad’s assessment.
“There is a lot of homework, but that’s the only negative thing I can think of,” she said.
Another challenge that many Norwegian students face is having to use English as their primary language. One of Åsnes’ goals for the year is to improve her English.
“[I]n the beginning I got so tired of all the English all the time, but after awhile it suddenly got easier,” she said.
Vølstad also shared how difficult it was for her to constantly speak English.
“When people are asking us, or a teacher, we have to translate what she is asking us and then have to translate what we are going to answer, but then somebody else has already answered,” said Vølstad.
Marte added: “[O]r it just comes out so wrong. So it’s better not to say something.”
In regards to their plans for after college, Vølstad, Ellingsen, Egeland, and Kronborg are like many other students that are not sure about what they want to do or where they want to settle down. Some of them want to stay in Norway, while others will see where their career opportunities take them.
As far as Norwegian students at HPU, the numbers have been decreasing since Fall 2014, but they still outnumber all the other foreign students from other countries.
Interviews conducted by Malene Rønnest Nielsen and Amanda Kowalski.
Photos courtesy of Stian Kronborg, Hanne Vølstad, and Anne Sigrid Urstad.