I spent one year at Columbia University studying law. My year was highly enriching on many different levels. First of all, I got to spend a year in New York City, which I won’t complain about. Secondly, and more importantly, I learned so much and developed skills that will be useful in my line of work. For instance, the legal education at Columbia is much more practical than in Norway and taught me how to negotiate a deal and how to consider different aspects of such as both business and law considerations of a certain question. I also had the opportunity to participate in several internships and pro bono opportunities where I gained insight into how lawyers practice in the U.S.
Although living in New York was amazing, the transition from Oslo to New York wasn’t only easy. In the beginning I felt quite surrounded by the concrete jungle, and missed the ease of access to nature that we’re spoiled with in Norway. Therefore, I was happy that Columbia has its own big campus secluded from the craziness of New York. As I became accustomed to the pace of New York, I really enjoyed the fact that the subway runs 24/7, you can go out to dinner at 10:30 pm and explore a new restaurant or museum every day if you wish!
In terms of academics, I also had to adjust to the way the classes worked. Compared to Norway, there was a lot more ongoing evaluation. On my first day of “Contracts” class, the professor did not even introduce himself or the class before “cold-calling” a student – asking a random student questions about that day’s readings – luckily I wasn’t the first one picked! After the initial shock of the frequent use of the Socratic method settled, I was able to take advantage of the great offering of classes in my field of study. I took classes on entrepreneurship law, negotiations, and internet crime to mention some! There really was something for everyone available. I also participated in an internship at the New York City Law Department, which enabled me to learn more about New York City and its policies and people while also testing my knowledge of U.S. law and experiencing a U.S. workplace in action. Over spring break, I volunteered to work for a project in San Francisco called the California Appellate Project, which is a resource center for lawyers working on representing indigent persons sentenced to death sitting in California state prisons. Both of these opportunities really enriched my academic experiences and were unique opportunities that I never would have had in Norway.
Finally, all through my year I met incredible people from all over the world that enriched my New York experience more than anything else. I met so many great Fulbrighters through participation in the Fulbright Enrichment Seminar in Houston, where we also got to visit NASA! The end to a fantastic year was an amazing graduation ceremony where the only complaint was that the sun might actually have outshined some of the student’s smiles as it was about a hundred degrees hot that day! However, throughout the year I learned to appreciate that New York’s weather is even more unpredictable than the weather in Norway, as the weather ranged from what felt like a snow storm on top of a mountain to a humid subtropical rainforest. I never seized to enjoy telling Americans that in fact, New York in the winter is just as cold if not colder than Oslo! After experiencing New York in the summer time without an air conditioning, Oslo’s overcast and rainy summer seems oddly refreshing, and I can add to the list of things I learned over the last year that the best times to visit New York are in the spring and fall. After having spent one year in New York, there are still so many things and places I have yet to see and experience in that city and I leave knowing that I will definitely return, although preferably in the spring or fall.
I am so grateful for all of the opportunities that I had this last year thanks to Fulbright. Thank you Fulbright!