Approximately 2 years before my exchange abroad I started the planning and the Fulbright scholarship was a pivotal part of the process. It encouraged me to start my college applications early, the people in Oslo guided me throughout my visa process, and did a great job following me up when I was in the US.
My American experience starting even before I landed in the US, more precisely on the plane trip from Oslo to Boston. I got in a very pleasant conversation with the lady from the North East sitting next to me on the flight and by the time we landed she had offered to drive me home from the airport. By the time I passed immigration she had gotten the car around and took me to my new home, the Number Six Club located on the MIT campus. I was quite baffled by this random act of kindness, but it was really something that made an imprint on me and set the tone for my entire stay.
After arriving at the house I got a great welcome from the students living there. About 40 people, both men and women all the way from freshmen to M.Eng.-candidates, and they were all very happy to get to know me. They all became my good friends and were the most critical factors for my wellbeing and success at MIT. My year truly would not have been the same without them and we celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and even graduation together. We also studied together, worked together, hosted charity events together, played sports together, and discussed literature together.
Academically I was challenged greatly, but with hard work and motivation was also able to thrive and perform in my classes. The first semester I took several subject in mostly economics and earth sciences, and enjoyed them all. The professors were great, the course material was challenging, and the problem sets were relevant to topical, real world problems. The people I got to know through my courses were very likeminded as me, and became my good friends. I learned a lot from them both about my field and also about different cultures, and I like to think I taught them some things as well, at least about Norwegians. The second semester I took classes in finance, IT and more earth science. The classes I took in the second semester in particular really allowed me to learn things I wouldn’t have been able to in Norway and has given me knowledge I would try to share now that I am back. I have undoubtedly gained experience and competence in my field that I could have never imagined when I left 1 year ago, and am really grateful for the guidance I got and the classes I ended up taking.
Outside of my classes I participated in a research group as a visiting researcher. I was given a lot of responsibility and, despite only being a graduate student, I felt like my opinion was valued and heard. I made some working relationships that I have maintained up until today and am working on integrating some of the work done in the group with researchers at my home university. I even plan on writing my Master’s thesis with the guidance of a professor at my home university, as well as with guidance from one of the professors in the group from MIT.
In my free time I became very active in my living group and became the intramural chair of the house. I organized teams for soccer, volleyball and tennis, and participated in all of the above. I also played a lot of pick-up basketball, and occasionally water polo with my graduate student team when I could find the time. I spent some time discovering Boston, both during the daytime and nighttime, and I went to concerts, local sea food houses, and events like St. Patricks day and the SuperBowl celebration(Go Pats).
For the January holidays I traveled to visit some other exchange students both in California and Oklahoma. This allowed me to see a different part of America and do things I wouldn’t be able to in Boston. Among other things I got to ride a cable car in San Francisco as well as go to a Rodeo in Oklahoma City. What stood out to me was how well we had all been received and how much we had gotten back from participating in the local culture, be it in Palo Alto, California or Norman, Oklahoma.
Over spring break I saw the nation’s capital, traversed the grand canyon and went to Las Vegas. It wxas fitting that I would see the great museums of Washington D.C., the spectacular Colorado River digging through the Nevada desert, and the flashing lights of Las Vegas in about a week as my stay was coming to an end. It was truly a testament to how multifaceted America can be, and how lucky I had been to experience the many aspects of it, all great in their own way.
When looking back at my stay it was truly a life affirming experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything and I owe the Fulbright Foundation a great debt of gratitude for granting me the money and giving me the opportunity to pursue it.