At Kringsjå, more than half of the tenants are foreign, while the number is down to 8 per cent at Vestgrensa. The Student Parliament calls for integration.Kamilla Simonnes • Robin Røkke Johansen (photo) • Translated by Jana Kristensen På norsk
According to recent numbers from the housing division at the Foundation for Student Life in Oslo (SiO), there are 58.5 per cent international students at Kringsjå Student Village. At Bjerke, the percentage share is 45.2, while there are 34.6 per cent international students at Sogn. Student Parliament leader, Lina Johanne Strand, feels that the concentration of international students in one place makes it more difficult for the University of Oslo to reach the goal of increased integration.
- When all the international students live in one place, it becomes harder for them to become a natural part of the Norwegian student environment, says Strand.
She feels that SiO ought to try to change the situation, but emphasises that enforced integration is not the way to go.
Not enough information
SiO has a duty to reserve some of their flats for international students who take part-time studies in Norway. But only the cheapest flats are put aside for this purpose, which means Sogn, Bjerke and Kringsjå.
- A lot of international students come from countries where the economy is a lot different than here. They would like to rent as cheap as possible. We don’t want to risk a situation where we lose a lot of money because no one would like to rent expensive flats, says Tom Olstad, Director of SiO Housing.
Silje Winther, Chairman of the General Board of SiO, responds that it is understandable that the international students prefer to live with others in the same situation.
-We can’t say “We have reached the quota for Germans in this building so unfortunately, you have to move to Bjerke”. We try as hard as we can to make sure that everyone gets to live where they want to, she says.
Robin Sande, Executive for international affairs at the Student Parliament, feels that the international students don’t have a real choice, due to poor information about the alternative student villages.
- Generally speaking, UiO has a very large improvement potential when it comes to integration. In order to make UiO an attractive place to study, everyone must be given the chance to take part in a social environment, he says.
- Safety in community
Professor in social anthropology, Havard Vike, points out that the consequences of so many international students are gathered in one place don’t have to be all negative.
- In the US, foreign students are often urged to get an international network as this creates a sense of safety and solidarity, Vike says. He thinks that a sense of community can lead to a domino effect where it also becomes easier to reach out to the national environment.
- However, whether or not the “international” housing situation is a permanent solution or a temporal one is of great importance here. There is also a difference between choosing where you want to live, and being placed there on purpose. I hope that this isn’t the case at Kringsjå.
- If the segregation is permanent, this is a problem that must be solved, he adds.
Stine Winge Minde, leader of the student welfare body The Velferdsting, stresses that they have considered a number of measures in order to change the situation, but that they haven’t reached a solution yet. One such measure that has been up for discussion has been subsidised housing for international students.
However, Minde feels that the international students must come forwards and express what sort of housing situation they are after.
- I realise of course that this is a vicious circle, because as long as the international students aren’t integrated, it is hard for them to get involved in this debate, she adds.