NOT NORWEGIAN: One of the challenges international students face when trying to volunteer in Trondheim, is the language barrier.
NOT NORWEGIAN: One of the challenges international students face when trying to volunteer in Trondheim, is the language barrier.

Volunteering in Trondheim as an international student: 

Be our guest!

– I had no idea of what I was getting myself into, but am glad I did, says Marco Christian Parluhutan Panjaitan when asked about volunteering in Trondheim as a foreign student.

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He is currently doing the masters program in European studies. 

Panjaitan used to volunteer for the Eureka linjeforening and tried to volunteer for Samfundet. Most of his friends in Trondheim are Norwegian. 

Panjaitan is one of the few international students that are part of what could be called the Norwegian student bubble at NTNU. 

Increased interest 

Other international students are not as lucky as to be part of that bubble. This, according to representative Kristian Wiulsrød for international students at the student council, is something they have noticed. 

INCREASED INTEREST: Kristian Wiulsrød is noticing that more international students are interested than before.
INCREASED INTEREST: Kristian Wiulsrød is noticing that more international students are interested than before.

– This year, the line for joining Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and other international student organizations at the info night meet-up, was just as long as the line for joining to volunteer at Samfundet. 

According to Wiulsrød, there are not that many organizations working for international students at the moment. 

ESN, Samfundet and NTNUI are some possibilities, but the latter two organizations can be difficult to join for international students as well. 

– Language barriers and duration of stay are the most common reasons as to why international students are excluded. It is sad that they are not able to volunteer, because they show an incredible interest in volunteering. 

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Not easy 

The «fadderuke» (freshers week) is arranged by the different linjeforeninger. Standard linjeforening guidelines tend to dictate that international students are not allowed to join the linjeforening. 

As a consequence, they are not normally included in what most Norwegian students would refer to as the longest meet and greet party of the year.

INCLUSION: Alvaro Doval was able to be a
part of the Norwegian bubble. FOTO: Privat
INCLUSION: Alvaro Doval was able to be a part of the Norwegian bubble. FOTO: Privat

Panjaitan is one of the few international students that reached out to join the fadderuke. 

– I came to Trondheim two weeks before my course started. There was really nothing to do, and I remember the first two weeks as depressing. A Norwegian friend I made in Japan, told me to reach out to the linjeforening for my course on Instagram to see if anything was happening. 

He then expresses that it was not easy to get involved. 

– I had to ask everyone around me to speak English because I did not speak Norwegian very well. 

Panjaitan says that most were really nice, but some encounters were uncomfortable. 

– I remember that I tried to volunteer for Lyche at Samfundet, and even though I kept asking for people to speak English, there were some who continued to speak Norwegian around me. 

One incident was particularly difficult, and Panjaitan soon decided to quit his position. 

– One of my superiors at Lyche held all his quizzes in Norwegian. It was impossible for me to understand and join in.

According to Panjaitan, he had told everyone that it would be nice to speak English, but the superior persisted in Norwegian. 

– Even though most were kind and understanding, I think volunteering there became a bit too much for me. 

Happy accidents 

International student Alvaro Doval, however, says that he was able to join freshers week and volunteer at Samfundet. 

FORMER VOLUNTEER: Marco Panjaitan used to volunteer at Lyche.
FORMER VOLUNTEER: Marco Panjaitan used to volunteer at Lyche.

– I actually do not know how I joined fadderuka. I got an email from someone and I did not know who. It happened to be Omega, the linjeforening, so I joined, and it was just super nice. 

According to Doval, he was the only international student in his course that received an email invite. 

He jokingly goes by the name Hallvard on social media and has been active in his linjeforening, Omega, since last year as well as Akademisk Radioklubb at Samfundet.

– I am very happy with the way that I have been included at Samfundet and Omega, and I understand how we are not able to fit all volunteering positions. 

He explains that things like budgeting or politics tend to be written in Norwegian and have a Norwegian system. 

– Those volunteering positions tend to take a certain amount of time that international students are not able to give because of the length of their stays. 

When asked if he thinks that international student are being included properly, he reflects: 

– I think you have a certain responsibility for your own happiness and the way you should expect to be greeted in a different culture. I have seen a lot of Erasmus students, for example, volunteering and engaging in more short-term positions at the NTNUI or at UKA, where they can work within their limits.

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