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