Soc in the spotlight: Association of Norwegian Students Abroad (ANSA)

“Rewrite if I’m not speaking English correctly!” It’s mid-July, and it’s been four months since the university closed. Eli-Anne Gjøs has been home in Sarpsborg, Norway since then. Usually, she would say she lives an hour outside of Oslo, because here in Edinburgh no one knows where that is.

She’s cleaning her kitchen and I’m drinking poorly made ice coffee in Sweden. Her day started late with fruit and chocolate in the bath and she has the kind of chill aura only a summer day with no responsibilities can bring.

There’s a bird on the porch and the sun is shining. Like any good Edinburgh student, she’s drinking out of a Lancaster University mug. “I feel like I’m comfortable where I’m at,” she says and explains how she’s adapted to the social life in Edinburgh and a demanding course.

To anyone who’s met Eli- Anne, it would seem like she makes friends easily, and she’s aware of that, but moving to a new country without knowing anyone there was challenging at the start.

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We talked about how intimidating going to freshers events and societies can be before you have found a close group of people to rely on, regardless of how talkative you are. And that with time, you realise that you need to be alone at times too. So at this point, going into the third and final year of her Architecture BA degree, she feels comfortable.

There are about four hundred Norwegians at the University of Edinburgh, something she found out when she arrived. A lot of them are members of ANSA, an international organisation for Norwegian students abroad. The organisation is involved in everything from student politics, career guidance, and social events (“talking about what Norwegians talk about, like the weather and chocolate”).

Eli-Anne is the newly elected Deputy Head of ANSA UK, which means that she’s the go-to person when other committee members need help. She’s also in charge of arranging the ANSA UK election 2021, which involves discussions of how to improve the organisation.

Part of why she wanted to join was the prospect of creating change for the better for other students, but it was the social aspect that led her to stand for election. “The main reason was to make other students feel as welcome as I did when I arrived,” she says, and that isn’t something she struggles to do. While it does not come naturally to everyone to be kind and including, Eli-Anne maintains: “Those people should not be in those positions either.” There is nothing to argue with there.

Kindness runs in her DNA. One of her biggest inspirations is her grandmother, who ran a successful business and had a teaching career despite not being allowed to go to university. “As well as being one of the kindest people I know,” she added.

As for herself, she has dreams of working for a larger architecture firm specialising in environmentally friendly buildings.

Why? “Because that is the future,” unequivocally, and she wants to do her part. She has already been successful because at this point in her life, she is where she wants to be and she’s happy.

What more could you ask? By the time we finish our call, it’s 5:30 pm and she is still not sure what to do today. Maybe play some piano and eat pizza, or finish a dress she’s working on.

During the summer, she’s taken up sewing and shows me a half-finished light blue dress. She explains some alterations she’s made to the pattern.

She turns it around and shows the attachment: “And here, it’s going to be like this with… knapper? Buttons! Yeah. I’m quite proud of myself.”

Image: Eli-Anne Gjos