Recipient of the Joshua and James Haglund Memorial Peace Scholarship
The University of Oslo was the epitome of the study abroad experience I had always dreamt for myself, combining an amazing academic program with a variety of challenging courses, and an opportunity to reconnect with the rich culture and history of the country of my ancestors.
My semester studying abroad at the University of Oslo, Norway, exposed me to new opportunities and challenges I would have never otherwise experienced. This time abroad allowed me the space to really think about myself and what I want, gain confidence and independence, and develop new perspectives, friendships, and leadership skills.
The Exchange in Oslo study abroad program was perfect for my academic goals, as well as my personal aspirations. The University of Oslo’s diverse and stimulating classes allowed me to continue to pursue my undergraduate education in biology and not only fulfill requirements for my program, but also enrich my learning through a different cultural perspective. I was able to complete my semester online following my return to the U.S. due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
One of my original goals I hoped to accomplish by the end of my international experience was interacting with, and adapting to Norwegian culture. It has always been very important for me to broaden my perspective, and experience different ideas about the world. However, once I adjusted to my surroundings in my new home, I came to the realization that as an American citizen, assimilation to a foreign culture is not a realistic goal. It is important to acknowledge that international education entails navigating the social, historical, and political realities of what it means to be American overseas. My goal shifted to learning more about the Norwegian culture, rather than assimilating to it. I believe that I did accomplish this goal. Living in Norway and making new friends from different backgrounds allowed me to learn more about cultures that differ from my own. My new friends shared their world perspectives with me, and discussed how our home countries have addressed issues differently, such as healthcare access, environmental policies, and even the response to the outbreak of the current pandemic.
My time abroad also allowed me to reflect on my personal values. Some of my deeply held personal values are equality and growth. Equality is a cultural value that interactions should not be based on differences, but that all people should be treated with respect despite individual differences. My experience abroad increased the importance of this value for me. I learned more about the benefits of the welfare state in Norway, and how the quality of life for Norwegians has improved as a result. This experience strengthened some political beliefs of mine that will continue to influence my vote now that I have returned home to Minnesota. I now have a more balanced view of my home country, and can put both home and the overseas experience into perspective.
As for my personal aspirations, I intend to meet with distant relatives residing in Norway. My father’s grandparents immigrated to Minnesota from Norway, and I have recently reconnected with my Norwegian relatives online. I plan on visiting the family farm, still standing in the Norwegian countryside, to gain a deeper appreciation for the home my great grandparents left behind.