Jonathan van Haaster and Samantha Frace met as exchange students in 2014. Now they are back - as a couple. Photo: Ketil Blom
Jonathan van Haaster and Samantha Frace met as exchange students in 2014. Now they are back - as a couple. Photo: Ketil Blom

Found each other in Norway

Samantha Frace, American, and Jonathan van Haaster, Dutch, met when they were both exchange students in Norway in 2014. Since then they have become a couple, and now they are back in Oslo.

Publisert Oppdatert

They both arrived in Norway in January of 2014, and took parts of their bachelor’s degrees at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences.

The American and the Netherlander first met on an arranged ferry outing to Copenhagen.

Jonathan van Haaster (24), the Dutchman, mentions something about first talking together on a short bus ride. But it apparently did not do it for his now girlfriend, Samantha Frace (25).

Impressed by him

— No, wait, Frace corrects:

I found it impressive that he was so sure of what he wanted to do. We were only
22 then.

Samantha Frace

There is no larger contrast than between a sober Norwegian, and the same after a couple of drinks.

Jonathan van Haaster

— The first week, the orientation week, she says.

Frace remembers that in one of the activities the international students were supposed to do drawings of things that represented their identity. Frace found it cute that Van Haaster drew a football to represent his ambitions as a sports journalist:

— And I found it impressive that he was so sure of what he wanted to do. We were only 22 then.

And that made Frace remember him from the bus ride.


While Frace came to Norway in 2014 to do part of her bachelor’s in economics and administration, Van Haaster was here as part of his bachelor’s in journalism. The latter chose Norway more due to convenience, and even considered exchanging to the USA. But Frace had been determined for a decade.

— I have this rather random, but deep fascination for Norway, she says.

When Frace was a kid she saw pictures of Norwegian fjords and mountains in a magazine. When her family got a computer she researched Norway, and even met some Norwegians. At around 12 years old she decided that she wanted to study here:

— I have a journal entry from when I was 13 as evidence, she says.

And ten years later she was studying in Oslo, Norway.

Ironic international master’s degree

Van Haaster, from Haarlem in the Netherlands, has hit a bump on his way to the master’s degree: His bachelor’s was not completed in time to start the master program last August.

— Hopefully I will start the master’s degree in Nordic Media at the University of Oslo next August. In the meantime I am learning Norwegian and soliciting jobs, he says.

Frace is now taking a master’s degree in Multicultural and International Education at HiOA. But she is not sure whether she will continue on the program:

— The master’s program splits into two courses and the one I am interested in is only offered in Norwegian, she says.

Frace wants to write her thesis on multicultural education in the north, while «multicultural education in the global south» is the one offered in English and would require her to do 2-3 months of field work.

— I really want to focus on and stay in Norway instead.

Tried not to become a couple

Samantha Frace is from Bridgewater, New Jersey, USA. Incidentally Khrono meets the couple at the northern bridge in the Kuba Park, crossing the Aker river.

It is where they in March of 2014 had their first kiss.

When they left Norway after their semester they decided that they were not interested in something serious, and that they did not want to do the long distance thing.

— But when we had kept in touch continuously for 6 months after leaving Oslo, we decided that it was stupid, obviously we wanted this, says Van Haaster.

On December 22nd it was two years since he asked her, on a terrible videochat-connection, to become his girlfriend. And she said yes.

— So we were in a long distance relationship until last August, when we returned to Norway and we are finally living in the same city again, adds Van Haaster.

— So do you guys want to stay in Norway long term, become Norwegians?

As a European it is easier for Van Haaster. For Frace, on the other hand, it is more complicated, but:

— I love it here and would like to stay and become a Norwegian, she says.

The internationalization factor

Rector at the University of Oslo, Ole Petter Ottersen, wrote (in Norwegian) that exchange students bring new perspectives and insights, strengthen quality and connect us to other great universities abroad.

— I remember from when we had exchange students in our class at my bachelor’s degree at HiOA, that the exchange students to a large extent hung out with each other. From your side, do you feel that what Ottersen says is true?

— It is tempting and easier to stay together, as we live together in the same housing, says Van Haaster.

— The number of Norwegian friends I made I can count on one hand, says Frace.

— It could be because Norwegians are more introverted, suggests Van Haaster.

— But alcohol helps for that?

— Definitely. There is no larger contrast than between a sober Norwegian, and the same after a couple of drinks, states Van Haaster.

Bought and disappeared

They continue saying that even within the international students, people tend to socialize with people from their own country. And that it makes sense because it is easier to just stick with what you know.

— We were assigned Norwegian study buddies, says Frace, continuing:

— They got Akademika gift certificates for joining, and after that most of us never saw them again.

But at least the programs connect international students:

— We made friends for life, says Van Haaster.

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