The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

64° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    From Norway to Tucson: International student Olav Gregersen’s story


    Whether it be year-round sunshine or in-state tuition, students attend the UA for a variety of reasons. International student Olav Gregersen had a different incentive to travel over 5,000 miles from Oslo, Norway, to Tucson.

    “Of all the [universities] I got in, the UA was the only university that was recognized by the Norwegian government,” Gregersen said. “Because of this, I would get more scholarship from the government if I came to the UA than for the other ones.”

    Traveling to the U.S. to attend an American university isn’t uncommon for Norwegian students, according to Gregersen.

    RELATED: UA through the eyes of an international student

    “I think the U.S. is the most popular destination outside Norway for Norwegian students,” Gregersen said. “I think one of the reasons why people leave Norway to study somewhere else is because the top universities in Norway are really hard to get into and they are ranked nowhere near as good as many of the universities in the U.S., such as the UA.”

    After settling into this completely new culture, Gregersen found that acclimating to the differing social aspects within the U.S. was a notable challenge.

    “The biggest difference must be the social norms here—especially with people you don’t know,” he said. “In Norway, we don’t ever talk to strangers and our personal space is important. People would rather stand in the bus than to sit next to a stranger. Two other differences are tips and the drinking age. There is no tip in Norway, and the drinking age is 18.”

    Despite these differences, Gregersen has come to see cultural links between the U.S. and Norway.

    “The old people back in Norway always say that it has become too ‘Americanized,’ and I think is partly true,” Gregersen said. “We are influenced by the U.S. and I think that’s mostly because we only watch American movies and TV shows. So when I came here, the differences weren’t that big since we are so influenced by American society.”

    RELATED: Study a-broaden your horizons

    Freshman year brings an abundance of new experiences for all students, but adapting to a new culture in a foreign country is often not one of them. Gregersen said that adjusting to these changes has taken some time.

    “[I’m] still not so sure what to reply when random people ask, ‘whats up’ or ‘how is it going,’ so my answers are always weird and different every time. I still don’t know if you tip when you order takeout from a restaurant or if you tip Uber or Lyft drivers,” he said.

    Attending college so far from home can be emotional for international students, and Gregersen is no exception to that.

    “The feelings didn’t hit me until I was on the plane to Tucson from Norway,” he said. “On that flight, I went from being really nervous, to super excited, back to nervous and at one point questioning if I just should have stayed at home. But once I got here, it all settled down and I got more comfortable in my decision.”

    Moving across the Atlantic is no easy task, but Gregersen said he has come to realize what makes coming to college in the U.S.—and the UA in particular—such a special opportunity.

    “From the red cups to going to American football games to just walking around campus, my favorite part has been to get the college experience that I have watched so much on movies and TV.” 

    Follow Lindsey Otto on Twitter 

    More to Discover
    Activate Search