Pre-departure meeting at Bjørknes

July 31, 2012 § 1 Comment

Today Skjalg and I attended an information meeting at Bjørknes. The meeting included representatives from ANSA (Associated Norwegian Students Abroad), a priest from the Norwegian Seamens Church, and students from Semmelweis and Pécs. The meeting’s attendants were a mix of students headed to Semmelweis and Pécs and the veterinary school in Budapest, Szent Istvan. I was really surprised that there were no students that were headed to Szeged. There was a period of time where we had considered that our first choice school, but I’ve noticed that it isn’t as popular as the other two among Norwegian students. The reason that we decided against Szeged was because it is not an accredited medical school in California – and I’m not going to get a degree that isn’t recognized in my home state.


ANSA was started in 1956 and has grown to include over 13,000 members in over 90 countries. This organization essentially “takes care” of Norwegian students studying abroad. After the 2011 Japan tsunami, they were responsible for flying home all members studying there. They offer insurance, student bank accounts, scholarships and loans, and deals on flights through Kilroy. They are also available to answer pretty much any question a student should have, including: issues with the school, student aid, personal problems, and illnesses. The ANSA representative even joked at one point that some of the Norwegian embassies have admitted that ANSA has a better overview of students in foreign countries than they do.

ANSA Hungary has charity project called “Students help students” where members travel to Transylvania to help build student homes for orphans cared for by the Saint Francis Foundation. The majority of orphans complete high school and are accepted to universities, but are dependent on a place to live. By giving them a place to live, they are given a chance to complete their university education, and thus become a beneficial resource for Romania’s future. The first student home was built in August 2009. There are now two homes housing 50+ students. The Saint Francis Foundation cares for some 2,000 children and there are increasingly more that need somewhere to live. The plan is to build a large student home –  800-1,600 sq. meters (8,600-17,200 sq. feet) – with room for 50-100 students to live and for facilities such as a library and common area. This is something that I am VERY interested in participating in.

ANSA Calendar 2012-2013

  • September
    • 3rd-8th: Introduction week in Pécs
    • 8th: Treasure hunt and start of Introduction week in Budapest
    • 10th-14th: Introduction week in Budapest
    • 15th: Sports day and concert in Budapest
    • 21st: First pub quiz in Budapest (of which there will be one every other week for as long as possible)
    • 28th: First pub quiz in Pécs
  • October
    • 4th-7th: Romania Charity Trip
    • 28th: Pub quiz in Pécs
  • November
    • 30th: Christmas porridge in Pécs
  • December
    • 2nd: Christmas porridge and service with ANSA priest Tim Georg in Budapest
  • February
    • 3rd-9th: Ski trip in Austria
    • ?: Medicine Seminar
  • March
    • 2nd: Charity Ball
    • 14th-16th: Kick-off/organization course
  • April
    • 27th: Volleyball tournament
  • May
    • 17th: Norwegian Independence Day celebration

Checklist before leaving for Hungary:

  • Passport
  • Order health insurance card at
  • Order insurance
  • Apply for student loan and aid through Lånekassen
  • Change of address
  • Pay tuition
  • Have back-ups of bankcards – it takes a long time to send new cards to Hungary in case you lose yours

Priest from Norwegian Seamens Church

His number one tip was to enjoy yourself. He said that many make the mistake of locking themselves up in their rooms with their books and cut themselves off from other people. This is something that is natural when facing such a challenging study load. The only problem is that, when you hit a wall – which you will – you won’t have the support you need to overcome it. The ANSA-Priest acts as a sort of commissioner. He comes running when help is needed and is in a position to drop everything at the last minute. He stays neutral and is available to anyone in need of someone to talk to. He told of an instance two years ago in which a Norwegian student was murdered by her Chinese ex-boyfriend. Together with ANSA, he offered invaluable support and counsel for friends and family of the girl.

Advice from current students

For this portion, we were split into Semmelweis and Pécs groups, so I cannot account for the advice given to students heading to Pécs – though some of it may still apply. There were two guys, one studying medicine at Semmelweis and the other studying architecture – both are heading into their 5th year. Their advice included:

  • General

    • DO NOT procrastinate. Exam topics are available from the beginning of the semester. Print them out now so that you know what to study.
    • Be prepared for the fact that you are not going to feel like a medical student for the first two years. You will when you start clinical training in year 3, but before that it is all theory.
    • You can get all the books you need at the bookstores in Hungary – and they are usually much cheaper than in Norway.
    • The teaching style is much more formal, more old-school and strict than in Norway. In Norway it is almost impossible to fail. In fact, it is actually easier to succeed than to fail – and this is not the case in Hungary.
    • Keep in mind that you may come from a country that is financially better off. The money you get as a student may not be far off from the wage of some of your professors. Show respect.
  • Exams

    • Everyone will fail at least 1 exam – so be prepared for it. Failing one exam does not mean that you will never pass the class. You can fail the exam one week and then ace it the next.
    • The exams vary in their style. Some are verbal, where you pick a card and answer all questions regarding that topic. Some are multiple choice. Others, like physics, include essays.
  • Apartments

    • Avoid Tower Rentals agency like the plague. Some have had luck with them, but the majority of students have either neutral or horrible experiences with this agency.
    • Make sure you see the apartment for yourself first. Take time to experience the area.
    • Public transportation is amazing in Budapest, so you don’t have to look for places right next to the school. A student card costs only 100,- (about $17) a month for unlimited use.
  • Taxis

    • ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS pre-order a taxi over picking one on the street. This is the number one way to get tricked out of your money. There are many unregistered taxis that will charge 3 times as much. I head read numerous horror stories on various blogs.

To close out this post, I want to share a funny story told by one of the students in regards to one of his verbal exams. It was an anatomy exam and he chose a card concerning the back of the calf. The teacher point to a nerve and asked the student to name this nerve. The student mistakenly thought it was a tendon and proceeded to identify it as such, to which the professor replied:

“Jan Erik, Jan Erik. I think I know streets of Oslo better than you know anatomy. Please leave and return when you have studied.”

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