Greetings from Little Italy in New York! As I am writing this, the dust has yet to settle from yesterday’s tragic storming of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. Needless to say, the past year as a Norwegian student at Columbia University turned out to be, well, slightly more eventful than I had originally imagined. Luckily, things are gradually getting better, although progress does not seem to be linear these days.
Pursuing graduate studies virtually during a pandemic is not ideal. I miss those small moments of campus life, such as exchanging ideas over coffee with someone outside of your program, discovering a fascinating guest lecture on campus by coincidence, or grabbing a celebratory beer with friends after a dreadful exam. However, it is not all bad. Constraints foster creativity, and adversity creates unity, of which New York is living proof. The city is still very much alive, and since the ban on indoor dining, bars and restaurants have become almost too creative, with some curbside tables starting to resemble heated mansions. As Jerry Seinfeld argued in a widely shared article back in August, New York is not dead and will endure as “energy, attitude and personality cannot be “remoted”.
For me, the past year has been a deeply rewarding experience. The constraints and adversity imposed by the pandemic have left me with truly great friendships and unique memories, one of which is spending the Christmas holiday “corona-stuck” in New York in the spirit of Home Alone 2 (the 2020 edition). The highlight of the holiday was introducing the Norwegian concept of “Little Christmas Eve” and the related annual must-watch comedy sketch “Grevinnen and hovmesteren” (also known as “Dinner for One”) for my international friends. The sketch was not exactly a huge hit, but the subsequent porridge contest with a marzipan pig as the prize made up for it.
Despite 2020 being 2020, I do not regret the slightest bit spending the year as a Fulbrighter in New York, and I am tremendously grateful to Fulbright Norway for making journeys like mine possible.
Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs
Master of International Affairs Candidate 2019-2021